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What’s new Anthotypes – step by step instructions to making a print using plants

It is possible to print photographs using nothing but juice extracted from the petals of flowers, the peel from fruits and pigments from plants. We’ll show you how.

Rose petals used to make anthotype prints

What you need

You probably don’t need to go shopping before making an anthotype. All the tools you need can most likely be found by rummaging around in your kitchen.

  • Petals from a colorful flower, berries or other plant
  • Mortar and pestle or electric food blender
  • Glass container or ceramic bowl for mixing
  • Water (distilled if possible) or alcohol
  • Cheesecloth, coffee filter, cotton cloth or very fine masked strainer
  • Brush
  • Art paper
  • Glass clip frame or a contact print frame
  • A large size positive (not negative) or items to make photograms
  • Sunshine

Good to have

  • Newspaper to cover work surface
  • Scissors
  • Rubber gloves
  • Apron or an old shirt
  • Cleaning cloth
Anthotype emulsion from black currant and lilacsEmulsion from Black Currants will make a strong pink anthotype print whereas Lilacs will give you a more gentle anthotype print.

The anthotype process is made up of three steps. Making emulsion, preparing the canvas and printing. Before you start, cover your work surfaces. Put on your rubber gloves, an apron or an old shirt, cover the work area with old newspapers and you’re ready to go. Plant pigments can stain your work surface blue, red or green and turn your hands rainbow colored.

1Making emulsion – Grind, mash or mix the plant

An anthotype emulsion can be made from a large number of plants. There are plenty of plants to choose from. The book has a huge directory with plants to choose from and you can also find examples in the .
Pestle and mortar or mixer?
Using the mortar for petals is more economical, since a print can be produced using only one or two flowers. Using the mixer will require petals from a dozen flowers to make pulp. If the plants, leaves or berries are too dry, dilute them a little.


Different diluters that can be used – with various result of course! My preferred choice is a few drops of alcohol.

  • Tap water
  • Purified water (Deionized water)
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Cheap vodka
  • Lighter fuel
  • Paraffin oil
  • Olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil
Pestle and mortar for making anthotypesA pestle and mortar is good to use for anthotypes when you only have a few petals at hand.

Using pestle and mortar


  • Needs only a few petals to make a print
  • Therapeutic
  • Strengthens arms
  • Quick and easy to clean


  • Peel does not get into the mix, but is strained away
  • Your hands may blister
Blender or mixer for making anthotypesUsing a blender or mixer requires large quantities of petals. It’s better when using leaves and plants that are hard to grind by hand.

Using a blender


  • Fast when making large batches
  • Includes pigments from the peel of berries


  • Noisy
  • A lot of petals needed
  • Takes time to clean


Straining anthotype emulsionStrain the anthotype emulsion, or you will have bits of peel or petal on your final print. Unless of course this is what you want!

Straining the emulsion

Once the soup is blended or crushed into pulp, strain it though a cheesecloth, a piece of cotton rag or a coffee filter. Once all the liquid has drained through, use a teaspoon to squeeze the excess liquid out, and then discard the pulp left in the filter. Make sure you wash the cloth thoroughly between different emulsions, or the emulsions may get “contaminated”, or use a new filter each time you strain.

2Preparing the canvas
Any paper that will hold the emulsion can be used. Since it will be out in the sun for a few days or even weeks, it is best to start with a sturdy paper. Try a medium or heavy weight watercolor paper before you start experimenting with other base supports. Once you are feeling more confident you can try coating and printing on any material that will hold the emulsion. Just remember that it will be exposed in the sun for quite a long time, so it shouldn’t be too fragile.
Always work in a dimly lit area, since any exposure to sunlight will destroy the color of the emulsion. Prepare a drying area in the dark before you start coating.

Dipping paper in anthotype emulsionDipping the print in the emulsion, rather than coating it on will create a more even coat and a stronger print.

Brushing or dipping?

Two ways of getting the emulsion onto the paper is brushing it on or dipping the paper, both adding different qualities to your final print. Coating with a brush will enable you to leave brush strokes on the paper, adding a handmade quality. Coating by dipping will give you a more even coat.

Exposing anthotypesExposure of an anthotype print is best done in the sun. It can take a few hours or a few weeks.

3Printing the anthotype

Objects or positives (not negatives, since most of the emulsions tend to lighten when exposed) are placed on the material to make a print. The anthotype is printed in the sun for a few days or several weeks.
The anthotype print develops as the rays of the sun destroys the color of the pigment, bleaching the print.
Each and every emulsion will need a different exposure time. Some emulsions need only a few hours to change color, some a few weeks. Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) will produce one of the most sensitive emulsions. Sir John Herschel found that the juice from merrygold and corchorus japonica was the fastest, changing color as rapidly as ten minutes in clear sunshine while Mrs Somerville found the juice from the dark red dahlia to be speedily changing colors.

5 anthotype photogramsPhotograms made the classic way by placing plant material directly onto the paper, and sandwiching it there during the exposure. From left to right: Red oxeye daisy, Bellflower, Garden Lupin, Potato and Tulip by Malin Fabbri, 2008 and 2010.

The thousands of different plant emulsions will have various colorfastness, and the different strength the sun, depending on your season, weather and geographical location will also matter. One thing that can be said for certain, is that it is a matter of days or weeks, rather than minutes or hours. Patience is required.

No rinsing, fixing or other frills necessary. The print is ready to be hung on a wall and admired. But, be careful the wall the print is hung on is not exposed to the sun, or the darker areas of the print will start to fade too.

This is a short brief of how to make anthotype prints. If you want to explore this further, we strongly recommend the book which has very detailed information, and also a gallery where over 100 different plants have been tested and rated. Good luck!

Get the book on anthotypes

Ultimage guide to anthotypes
by Malin Fabbri
Make prints using plants – an environmentally safe process! It is possible to print photographs using nothing but juice extracted from the petals of flowers, the peel from fruits and pigments from plants. This book will show you how it is done, and expand your creative horizons with plenty of examples from artists working with anthotypes today.
Strongly recommended for beginners and experts.