Marigold Ink Diary

7 November 2021

Two methods for making natural ink from marigolds

I was so energized by making my own acorn ink, I searched for other local materials I could use to create additional inks.

I used marigold petals from fresh and past-their-prime flowers.
In the spirit of my quest, I didn’t want to buy something new to make art material. (For example, I’m not going to purchase blueberries to make berry ink.) Cold weather had arrived, so my end-of-the-season marigolds fit the bill. I decided to test two recipes to determine which ink-making method I preferred.

Method 1: Stew flowers in water

I started with this simple recipe to make marigold ink. (It will also work for other flower petal ink.) It looked easy and I could produce marigold ink the same day.

Here’s the recipe for my first batch of marigold ink:

1. Collect and prep marigolds

I collected marigold fresh and past-their-prime blossoms. Both petals have ample color. Then, I removed the petals from the base.

2. Add marigold petals to pot

I placed the marigold petals into a small pot and just covered them with water. I also added a small amount of white vinegar and a dash of salt. Vinegar helps set and enhance the color. (Recommended ratio is 1tsp vinegar for every cup water.)

3. Stew for 1–2 hours

I steeped the concoction in steamy — but not boiling water — for an hour on the stovetop. After an hour, the water was very lightly golden orange. I cooked for another hour. Longer cooking makes the color darker, and I wanted to keep the color as orange as possible.

4. Strain the petals

I strained the petals through a tea bag so the ink landed in a glass jar.

5. Optional: Add iron vinegar solution

To darken the golden color, I added some of my iron vinegar solution to the marigold ink.

I added a drop of clove oil to the ink to preserve it.

Left: Check out the jar of my finished marigold ink! Right: Marigold ink and marigold ink with iron vinegar solution added (shown in the darker swatch).

Method 2: Powdered dry petals in water

This method sounded like it could be a hassle, but it looked like it was a more commonly used recipe. So, I figured I’d test it out, too.

1. Collect and dry flower petals

I spread the flower petals on a sheet of paper. I waited for about four days for the petals to dry.

2. Grind the dried petals

I used a mortar and pestle to grind the flower petals. Some of the recipes I consulted said the petals would grind into a powder. However, my petals weren’t completely dry, so I ground them into a compact mash.

I spread the petals out to dry, and then ground the dried flower petals with my mortar and pestle.3. Cover petals with boiling water.

I placed the petal mash into a glass jar. Then, I poured boiling water over the petals just enough to cover them.

Left: I put the petal water brew in the window to steep. (The sun came out later that day and the jar steamed right up!) Right: Finished ink on Arches watercolor paper.
4. Steep the petal-water brew

I covered the petals brew with a lid and put the jar in a window. The sun came out and steamed the brew up like sun tea. After 24 hours, my brew did not look very colored, so I let the petals steep for another day. (Plus, it was off and on overcast the first day.)

5. Strain and use.

I placed a tea bag filter in a reused amber vitamin storage bottle that would become my ink storage jar. Then, I carefully poured the petal brew into the bag, so the ink would filter through to the jar.

So which method did I prefer?

I surprised myself! I preferred method two: steeping the crushed dried flowers in water. Even though this method took longer in duration, it required less oversight and less overall effort.

Next time I make marigold ink, I’ll aim to improve my steeping method:
  • Place the flower petals to be dried closer to sunlight (to dry more quickly)
  • Wait for the petals to be drier (to crumble more)
  • Add slightly less water to the jar (so the solution is stronger)
  • Plan to do the brew on a day with a sunny forecast (for stronger steeping)


How to make ink from flower petals
DIY: Making Natural Inks from Flowers
Making natural paints and inks from plants
Natural Ink

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