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DIY Natural Fabric Paint with Earth Pigments

DIY Natural Fabric Paint with Earth Pigments

Jun 28th 2019

There currently aren't any natural and non-toxic fabric paints on the market that are permanent and water-proof. BUT you can now make your own! Earth pigments are not dyes: they do not dissolve in solution, nor do they form molecular bonds with cloth fibres. To work with textiles the pigment is suspended in a medium (gum tragacanth) and the medium bonds with the soy milk soaked cloth. The protein in soymilk binds the earth pigments to the fibre. Voila!

Ingredients: 

- 1/4 cup dry soybeans
Natural Earth Pigment
- Gum Tragacanth

Materials Needed:

- any cotton fabric
- Jar
- Blender
- Muslin Fabric / Cheesecloth
- Bowls & spoon
- Paint brushes
- Detergent

Part 1: Making Soy Milk

1. Put 1/4 cup of soybeans and water into a jar and let the beans soak overnight.

2. Strain the soybeans and place them into a blender with three cups of warm water. Blend for a good four minutes.

3. Place the muslin fabric over a bowl and strain the blended liquid through the fabric.

4. Repeat the blending and straining step one more time using the left over residue in the muslin and two cups of water instead of three. After blending and straining again, throw away the soybean residue.

5. Thin your liquid with a little water until it looks like the color of skim milk.

6. Soak your cotton canvas/fabric into the liquid completely. Allow your canvas to air dry completely.

7. Store the remaining liquid in an air-tight jar and refrigerate it.

Part 2: Making the Paint

1. Combine 1 teaspoon of natural earth pigment with 1 Tbsp. soy milk (you can add more soy milk if needed but only to wet the pigment). Important: make sure they are REALLY mixed well.

2. To thicken add a small amount of gum tragacanth. Start with 1/2 tsp. and increase until desired thickness. If it gets too thick just add a little more soy milk to desired consistency. Every pigment behaves differently so there's no set amounts.

3. Store your paint in an air-tight container and place it in the fridge until you're ready to use.

Part 3: Painting

1. Gather your pre-treated fabric and your paint and brushes.

2. Paint your own designs and inspirations on the fabrics.

3. When you're done, let your masterpiece air-dry for up to two days minimum.

4. Optional: If you want to leave a certain part of the design unpainted, you can use a "resist" like Nori paste or even Elmer’s washable school glue (blue is best so you can see where you applied it), to create a resist to wash out later.

Part 4: Washing Out & Displaying

1. After a few days, take your painted fabrics and hand wash them in water with detergent. Be gentle. Let your fabric air dry on again.

In the end, you'll have beautifully done, hand-painted, permanent fabric, yours truly.