Natural Dyes

This page offers a holistic and natural approach for dyeing products for personal use and sale.  

NOTE:    Use this information at your own risk and be sure to be careful when using a new product or item.

  General Warnings:

The use of natrual dyes can be dangerous if you are unaware of the properties of the extract that you are making.  Always use caution when creating any extract or essential oil.  Though some items may be harmless in their natural state, the extracts and essentials can have compound or cumulative effect if used incorrectly.

FOOD WARNING: To any that would make butters or cheeses and want to add a splash of color.  It is NOT recommended to use natural dyes in these products unless you are fully aware of the properties of the origin.  Natural dyes such as Saffron can react with the rennet in cheesemaking which can have a very uncomfortable effect.  Additionally, some natural items such as the Sumac family are poisonous and if ingested can have a very bad effect on the body.  For foods, it is best to use an FDA approved product such as "food coloring"

SKIN WARNING: Do no use ivys or sumacs as a clothing dye.  These items are allergy prone and can cause an itch or rash.

CANDLE MAKING WARNING:  Candles BURN.  This is a fact.  When using natural dyes, be aware of the inhalation properties of the natural dye.  Ites such as Onions or Sumacs, while creating a brilliant color, may cause an inhalation reaction.  

GENERAL WARNING:  When creating extracts, it is best to wear non-latex protective gloves.   Use DISTILLED water (tap-water contains chemicals) to create your dyes.  The use of gloves will protect you from allergic reactions as well as unwanted dyeing of the skin.

TESTING:  When it doubt, test the extract.  
For skin reactions, use a cottonball or Q-Tip  with a small amount of the extra and apply to the skin.  After 15 minutes, rinse the area with cool water and check for a skin reaction.
For inhalation reactions: Burn a small amount of the (dry) extract in an open area.  Use your hand to "waft" some of the smoke and inhale LIGHTLY.  If the smoke produces a cough, or discomfort, do NOT use the dye in candle making.   **PERFORM THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!**

PROCESSING:  The best processing device that I have found is a (dedicated - not used for foods) coffee grinder.   Place the required amount of the extract base into the grinder and grind to a fine powder.  Transfer the ground product to a morar and pestle and mix with distilled water until the color is achieved.   As these are extracts, use sparingly in your poject.

FINAL NOTE:  These are extracts, NOT essential oils though they may mimic the properties of essentials.   Essential oils are extracted though a distillation process which is not discussed on this page. 

The Dyes

Orange:
- Alder Bark - (orange)
- Bloodroot will give a good orange to reddish orange color.
- Sassafras (leaves)
- Onion (skin) - orange
- Lichen (gold)
- Carrot - (roots) orange
- Lilac (twigs) - yellow/orange
- Barberry (mahonia sp.) yellow orange (with alum) very strong & permanent. Any part of the plant will work.
- Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) Yields bright permanent orange with alum.
- Turmeric dyed cloth will turn orange or red if it is dipped in lye.
- Pomagrante – with alum anywhere from orange to khaki green.
- Butternut - (seed husks) - orange
- Eucaluptus - (leaves and bark) beautiful shades of tan, orange and brown.

Browns:
- Wild plum root will give a reddish or rusty brown.
- Oak bark will give a tan or oak color.
- Sumac (leaves) - tan (WARNING: ALLERGY POTENTIAL!)
- Dandelion (roots) brown
- Broom - (bark) - yellow/brown
- Walnut (hulls) - deep brown (WARNING: wear gloves- SKIN REACTION)
- Walnut (husks) - deep brown - black
- Tea Bags - light brown, tan
- White Birch - (inner bark) - brown
- Juniper Berries
- Fennel - (flowers, leaves) - yellow/brown
- Coffee Grinds (process in a food processor)
- Acorns (boiled)
- Hollyhock (petals)
- Colorado Fir - (bark) - tan
- Yellow dock (shades of brown)
- Beetroot -Dark Brown
- Maple Trees (Red Leaf Buds) - red-brown color when dried. (Spring though fall only!)
- Amur Maple (Acer Ginnala) - black, blue, brown from dried leaves.
- Ivy - (twigs) - yellow/brown
- Pine Tree Bark - light medium brown.
- White Maple (bark) - Light brown/ buff
- Birch (bark) - Light brown/ buff
- St John's Wort (blossom) - brown
- Broom Sedge - golden yellow and brown
- Coneflower (flowers) - brownish green ; leaves and stems - gold
- Goldenrod (shoots ) - deep brown

Pinks:
- Strawberries
- Cherries
- Raspberries (red)
- Roses and Lavender
- Lichens - A pink, brown, or wine colored dye can be produced from a lichen known as British soldiers.
- Camilla -It's a nice pink-magenta.
- Grand Fir -(bark) pink

Blue/Purples
- Dogwood (bark) - blue
- Red cabbage
- Woad (first year leaves).
- Mulberries (royal purple)
- Elderberries (lavender)
- Saffron - (petals) blue/green
- Grapes (purple)
- Blueberries
- Cornflower - (petals) blue dye with alum, water
- Cherry (roots)
- Blackberry (fruit) strong purple
- Hyacinth - (flowers) - blue
- Japanese indigo (deep blue)
- Indigo (leaves) - blue
- Red Cedar Root (purple)
- Raspberry -(fruit) purple/blue
- Red Maple Tree (purple)(inner bark)
- Nearly Black Iris - (dark bluish purple)
- Dogwood - (fruit) greenish-blue
- Oregon Grape -(fruit) blue/purple
- Purple Iris - blue
- Sweetgum (bark) - purple / black
- Queen Anne's Lace

Reds:
- Elderberry - red
- Red leaves will give a reddish brown color
- Sumac (fruit) - light red
- Sycamore (bark)- red
- Dandelion (root)
- Beets - deep red
- Bamboo - turkey red
- Crab Apple - (bark) - red/yellow
- Rose (hips)
- Chokecherries
- Madder (root) - red
- Hibiscus Flowers (dried)
- Canadian Hemlock - (bark) reddish brown
- Japanese Yew - (heartwood) - brown dye
- Wild ripe Blackberries
- Brazilwood
- St. John's Wort - (whole plant) soaked in alcohol - red
- Bedstraw (root) - red

Blacks:
- Iris (roots)
- Sumac (leaves) (Black)
- Carob pod (boiled) will give a gray to cotton
- Oak galls - makes a good black dye.
- Sawthorn Oak - (seed cups) - black
- Walnut (hull) - black
- Rusty nails & vinegar

Purples:
- Pokeweed (berries)
- Hibiscus (flowers, dark red or purple ones) - red-purple.
- Daylilies (old blooms)
- Safflower - (flowers, soaked in alcohol) - red
- Logwood (is a good purple but you have to watch it as it dyes quick when the pot is fresh)
- Huckleberry - lavender (can use it for dye and also for ink.)
- Portulaca - (flowers, dried and crushed to a powder)
- Beluga Black Lentils - soaked in water overnight .. yield a dark purplish / black water
- Dark Hollyhock (petals) - mauve
- Basil - purplish grey

Greens:
- Artemisia species provide a range of greens from baby's breath to nettle green.
- Artichokes
- Tea Tree - (flowers) green/black
- Spinach (leaves)
- Sorrel (roots) - dark green
- Foxglove - (flowers) apple green
- Lilac - (flowers) - green
- Camellia - (pink, red petals) - green
- Snapdragon - (flowers) - green
- Black-Eyed Susans
- Grass (yellow green)
- Pigsweed (entire plant) yellow green
- Red Pine (needles) green
- Nettle
- Broom - (stem) green
- Larkspur - green
- Plantain Roots
- White Ash - (bark) - yellow
- Purple Milkweed - (flowers & leaves) - green
- Lily-of-the-valley (light green) be careful what you do with the spent dye bath. (WARNING: this is a poison-dispose of extra carefully)
- Barberry root (wool was dyed a greenish bronze-gold)
- Red onion (skin) (a medium green, lighter than forest green)
- Yarrow - (flowers) yellow & green shades
- Mulga Acacia - (seed pods) - green
- Peach - (leaves) yellow/green
- Coneflower (flowers) - green
- Peppermint - dark kakhi green color
- Queen Anne's Lace - pale green
- Black-Eyed Susans - bright olive/apple green
- Hydrangea (flowers) - alum mordant, added some copper and it came out a beautiful celery green
- Chamomile (leaves) - green

Salmon colors:
- Jewelweed - orange/peach
- Broom Flower
- Virginia Creeper (all parts)
- Achiote powder
- Plum tree (roots) (salmon color)
- Weeping Willow (wood & bark) makes a peachy brown
- Virgina Creeper - (fruit) - pink
- Balm (blossom) - rose pink

Yellows:
- Bay leaves - yellow
- Barberry (bark) - yellow
- Crocus - yellow
- Fustic - yellow
- Saffron (stigmas) - yellow
- Safflower (flowers, soaked in water) - yellow
- Sassafras (bark)- yellow
- Syrian Rue (glows under black light)
- Red Clover (whole blossom, leaves and stem) alum mordant - gold
- Yellow cone flower (whole flower head)
- Onion (skins)
- Alfalfa (seeds) - yellow
- Marigold (blossoms) - yellow
- Willow (leaves)
- Queen Anne's Lace
- Heather - (plant) - yellow
- St. John's Wort - (flowers & leaves) - gold/yellow
- Burdock
- Celery (leaves)
- Golden Rod (flowers)
- Sumac (bark) - The inner pith of Sumac branches can produce a super bright yellow color. (WARNING: SKIN REACTION!)
- Weld (bright yellow)
- Old man's beard lichen - yellow/brown/orange shades
- Oregon-grape roots - yellow
- Cameleon plant (golden)
- Mimosa - (flowers) yellow
- Dandelion flower
- Osage Orange also known as Bois d'arc or hedgeapple (heartwood, inner bark, wood, shavings or sawdust) (pale yellow)
- Daffodil flower heads (after they have died)
- Mullen (leaf and root) pale yellow. (WARNING: SKIN REACTIVE)
- Hickory leaves (yellow)
- Tea ( ecru color)
- Yellow, Curly, Bitter, or Butter Dock (despite various leaf shapes, all have a bright yellow taproot) gives you a yellow/flesh color.
- White mulberry tree (bark) Cream color onto white or off-white wool.
- Paprika -pale yellow - light orange)
- Peach (leaves) - yellow
- Beetroot (yellow)
- Turmeric (spice) --bright yellow
- Oxallis (wood sorrels) (flowers)
- Dahlia Flowers (Red, yellow, orange flowers) make a lovely yellow to orange dye for wool.
- Mulga Acacia -(flowers) - yellow
- Sunflowers - (flowers) - yellow
- Dyer's Greenwood (shoots) - yellow
- Tansy (tops) - yellow
- Yarrow - yellow and gold