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Plant-inspired styling: DIY anthotype photograms

by Timber Press on January 27, 2017

in Craft, Gardening

Photos by the author.

Lush, plant-filled rooms are as stylish as they are rejuvenating, but it can be hard to care for an urban jungle. Add a splash of green and garden-inspiration (without a watering can, fertilizer, or direct sunlight) with these elegant, minimalist anthotype photograms from Caitlin Atikinson’s Plant Craft: 30 Projects that Add Natural Style to Your Home.

Anthotype photograms are a perfect reflection of a garden’s ever-changing nature. An anthotype photogram is an image produced by placing an object directly onto a surface that has been made light-sensitive by coating it with a photographic emulsion. The emulsion used here is made from plant materials. This results in a delicate, color-infused, low-contrast print. Anthotypes by nature are temporary—they might last from six to eight months—and part of the charm of an anthotype is watching the image fade away over time. Some people scan their artwork to make a permanent record of it.

This project calls for using spinach leaves to make an emulsion, but you can use all kinds of petals, leaves, and berries to make emulsions. Some plant emulsions can take weeks to develop; spinach leaves have a relatively short processing time, making them a perfect introductory emulsion. Other flowers, vegetables, and fruits that you can use to make emulsions include pansies, which make a beautiful shade of deep purple in one to two weeks; marigolds, which make a light rusty yellow in three to four weeks; cabbage, which makes a purple hue in two to three weeks; onion skins, which make a rich orange in three to four weeks; and beetroots, which make a fuchsia in two weeks.

What You’ll Need:

  • Heavyweight watercolor paper
  • Approximately 4 cups of raw spinach
  • Small trees or plants
  • Frames
  • Painter’s tape
  • Mortar and pestle, blender, or food processor
  • Cheesecloth
  • Foam brush
  • Piece of glass


What to Do:

  1. On each sheet of paper, run a length of painter’s tape along the edges for a uniform white border.
  2. Grind or blend the spinach until it is completely processed and looks like coarse pesto.
  3. Transfer the pulp to a piece of cheesecloth and squeeze extract all the liquid into a bowl.


  1. Using the foam brush, coat the paper with the spinach emulsion, brushing from side to side in long, continuous strokes.
  2. Let the emulsion dry in a dark place.
  3. While the paper is drying, rinse the plants and their roots of dirt. Let the plants dry completely.
  4. When the emulsion is dry, do another coat brushing the emulsion from top to bottom. Return the paper to a dark place and let dry.
  5. Once both the paper and plants are dry, position each plant on a single sheet of paper and cover each with the glass. The plant will compress into a two dimensional object.


  1. Place the glass-covered print in the sun and wait 1 to 4 hours. Monitor the changing color of the print. Once the paper is very light green and significantly lighter than the area under the plant, remove the frame from the sun and remove the plant.
  2. Remove the tape from the edges and frame the print.


Want more crafting ideas? See more in Plant Craft and Air Plants.


Caitlin Atkinson has worked in floral design and at Flora Grubb Gardens as an interior merchandiser. An accomplished freelance photographer, she captures gardens, interiors, and still life.


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“Delivers lush, knowledgeable, and surprising ways to beautify your home and bring nature into your life—so accessible, you’ll want to start right away!” —The Horticult

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