Sometimes, the most therapeutic thing you can do after a long day is to start a craft project that requires whacking some stuff around, and making beautiful hapazome prints from flowers and other plants fits the bill. In this blog post, get tips and tricks for making hapazome prints—plus, learn everything you need to know to avoid hurdles as you start making colorful, crisp transfers from different types of plant matter.
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Lots of Different Botanical Goodies
Scrounge around your garden for some fresh and juicy leaves or flowers in various colors and shapes. Dried leaves and woody stems don’t have enough moisture to transfer dye to your paper or fabric.
Something to Transfer Images Onto
I like to opt for light-colored cotton fabric, watercolor paper, or high-quality cardstock since the hapa zome process requires you to have a durable surface for making the art. If you feel fancy, consider a simple tea towel, canvas tote bag, table cloth, or plain silk scarf. Items like these can make great bases, too. Most importantly, note that standard printer paper, construction paper, or any thin or “soft”/tissue-like papers will likely break apart when you try to transfer an image using this technique, even if you’re gentle, because of the moisture.
Tools for Smashing
I’ve successfully used a lot of different tools for making hapazome prints. Choose one of the following:
- Rubber Mallet
- Large Smooth Rock
- Big Serving Spoon
Items to Help Keep Your Prints Tidy
- Wax paper or parchment paper (required) helps when your plant matter bleeds during the imprinting process
- Masking tape or painter’s frog tape (optional) can help keep your layers straight
- Tweezers (optional) are great for arranging their delicate petals and leaves (additionally, you can also use tweezers to remove bits of leaves and petals that get stuck to the surface after they’ve been smashed too much)
FYI: If you plan to do your “leaf-dying” on a nice table, you may want to put down a placemat to protect your work area. Yes, it’s true. After accidentally making a dent in my coffee table with my hammer, I learned this tip the hard way.
How to Make Hapazome Prints
- Prepare Your Plant Matter. Strip your flowers of excess bits (like stamens, stigmas, ovules, receptacles, etc.), leaving just the pretty petals.
- Make a Hapazome Print Sandwich. You’ll need these layers, in this order, on your table:
- First, put a piece of wax paper as big (or bigger) than your paper or fabric down on the table.
- Second, place your paper or fabric right-side-up centered on top of your wax paper.
- Third, arrange your botanical (or botanicals if you want to transfer more than one leaf or flower) face down on top of your paper or fabric. This is where your tweezers can be helpful, especially if you are trying to make a precise, symmetrical design like a mandala.
- Fourth, put another piece of wax paper as big (or bigger) than your paper or fabric to finish the hapazome print sandwich. If you are doing a complex design, you may find it helpful to secure your layers to the table using masking tape while banging the pigment from the plant matter onto your paper or fabric.
- Smash Your Plant Matter. Using your hammer, rubber mallet, sizeable smooth rock, or spoon, hammer the plant matter to transfer each item’s natural dyes to the surface of your fabric or paper. Be careful not to overdo it! If you smash too much or too hard, you may tear your paper or create a blobby mess of an imprint. I recommend experimenting. Make test prints with your spare, imperfect plant matter to figure out how firmly you must pound them to create the most exciting image transfers.
- Repeat the Process Until Your One-of-a-Kind Hapazome Design Is Complete. Then, set your fabric or paper aside to dry.
5 Things You Should Know About Hapazome Prints
1. What Are Hapazomes?
In short, hapazome prints are what you get when you transfer natural pigments from plant matter to cloth or paper. The dyes from petals and other parts of flowers leak from the botanicals after you hammer them, staining your piece of paper or swatch of fabric and leaving behind a beautiful impression.
2. What Does Hapa Zome Mean? How Did It Get Its Name?
In 2006, India Flint came up with the term “hapazome” (one-word) to describe beating fresh leaf matter into cloth or paper. Hapazome has mistakenly been cited as a literal translation of leaf-dying but this isn’t accurate. (I only found out because I am a huge nerd and love going to original sources and fact-checking anything I don’t know first-hand. After all, everyone knows that there is a lot of hogwash on the internet—trust, but verify!)
According to an anecdote about the origin of hapazome printing from Flint on her own website, the term hapazome is just “kitchen Japanese” she used to describe this process of making art. Flint further explains that it was too late when she finally learned the actual Japanese phrase for this method of beating leaves into cloth or paper: tataki zomé (たたき染め). By that time in 2012, her instructions for eco-printing with plants had spread with her name for it (hapazome). The rest, as they say, is history, and the new widespread accepted name for the process of making prints with flowers and leaves is part of the printmaking zeitgeist.
3. What Are the Benefits of Hapazome Printing?
Making hapazome prints uses natural pigment from plants, so it’s a great way to add color and pattern to fabric or paper without harsh chemicals. This technique also requires simple tools and materials—many of which most folks already have on hand—so this type of eco-printing can be pretty affordable. It also is a project that doesn’t require any special skills, making it an easy craft project for even little kids.
Pro-tip: Hapazome printing can be a great way to use art to teach little ones about nature.
4. What Are Common Hapazome Printmaking Challenges?
- Mess: The process of printing hapazomes can be dirty. After you’ve pounded different leaves and flowers, they get smooshy. I like to use a little brown lunch bag for storing smashed debris as I work to keep my table surface clean and clutter-free.
- Time Restraints: After you pick your plant matter, it will start to wilt and curl, which means you can’t pick flowers and leaves too far in advance of when you want to make your hapazome prints.
- Fuzzy Results: It can also be tricky to get crisp designs if you don’t plan out how you bash your plant matter. It works best to hammer systematically or in one direction, e.g., go from top to bottom or left to right rather than back and forth at random.
- Unpredictability: Another challenge that you might encounter is less than perfect results. A switch in your mindset can help you get over this problem. Since this technique uses natural materials, different factors can influence how your pigments transfer. Remember: slight imperfections in your hapa zome prints can add to the charm of your transfers, so embrace them.
5. Which Plants Create the Best Hapa Zome Prints?
Generally speaking, I like to use leaves with interesting shapes and flowers in yellow, red, purple, pink, and blue since these petals tend to release their natural pigments most vibrantly. For example, here are some of my fave types of plant matter for hammering prints:
- Basil Leaves
- Fern Leaves
- Gingko Leaves
- Kale Leaves
- Maple Tree Leaves
- Mint Leaves
- Sage Leaves
- Tomato Leaves
- Woad Leaves
More FAQs About Hapazome Prints
What Is Flower Pounding?
Flower pounding or flower hammering are other names given to the process of making hapazome prints.
What Is Leaf Pounding?
Chlorophyll, a pigment found naturally in plants that gives them their green coloring, is released when you hammer leaves onto fabric or paper using the hapa zome printmaking technique. As a result, this process is also sometimes called leaf pounding.
How Can You Fix Flaws in Hapa Zome Prints?
Colored pencils or watercolor pens are great tools for touching up minor imperfections in any hapazome creations.
How Can You Prevent Picked Flowers From Wilting Before You Smash Them?
The ideal situation is to make your hapa zome prints as some as you can after you’ve picked fresh flowers and leaves, but that isn’t always possible. One way that I’ve successfully prevented some fading of my plant matter is by sticking fresh cuttings into a sealed plastic bag and refrigerating them until I’m ready, just like florists store their arrangements in chilled cases to keep them looking their best. This tactic has worked to keep them looking good for a couple of hours.
Do Hapazomes Require Special Care? Do Hapazome Prints Fade?
Yes. Because they are made with natural pigments, hapazome prints made on paper may fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight. For transfers made to fabric, the color may fade with laundering if you haven’t prepared your cloth with mordant, which can help your pigments stick rather than vanish. (For example, alum—also known as potassium aluminum sulfate—is a common fabric mordant choice for people doing eco-printing on cloth. I like my fabric hapa zome prints to stay vibrant, so I’ve stuck to hammering flowers only onto cloth that I never plan to wash, such as old off-white and cream-colored cloth napkins that I can stretch over chipboard, frame, and put up on my wall.)
What’s a Quick Way to Help Make Hapazome Prints More Permanent?
Ironing your print (pounded side down using low heat) can help set the natural dyes released during the hapazome printing process. You can make your fabric hapazome designs more permanent by preparing your cloth in advance using mordant.
What Can Make With Hapazome Prints?
There are lots of uses for what you create. Here are some of the ways that I’ve used stuff that I’ve printed using hapa zome techniques:
- Fabric Quilt Blocks
- Framed Art
- Gift Bags
- Gift Tags
- Greeting Cards
- Scanned Digital Art Assets
- Wall Hangings
- Wrapping Paper
How I Learned About Hapa Zome Printing
I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign launched by “fearless creative enthusiast” Jen Broemel for Twelve Red Chairs. It was to be a new local retreat space for teaching art workshops, and I was all in. Although—sadly—her fundraiser wasn’t unsuccessful, Jen offered a few one-off classes as part of this initiative, including one on hapazome printing.
I couldn’t take the class, but its promo materials intrigued me. Subsequently, I Googled “how to make hapazome prints” to learn all I could because I wanted to know everything. That’s how I found India Flint’s seminal book on the technique. I bought it and read it from cover to cover to learn all I could about working with natural dyes. As a result, later that same spring, I made my first set of prints using the hapazome technique. I’ve made them every year since (and learned more about eco-printing, eco-dyeing, and crafting with plant-based natural materials).
Books on Hapazomes and Related Topics
Before you gather plants and flowers to make imprints, here is a list of books that I’d recommend to give you even more inspiration for your project and other botanical crafts.
Must-Read Resources for People Interested in Hapazome Prints
- Seasonal Plant Dyes: Create Your Own Beautifully Delicate Dyes, Plus Four Seasonal Projects to Make (2020)
- Natural Palettes: Inspiration From Plant-Based Color (2020)
- Plant Dye Zine (2020)
- The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments, and Results (2019)
- Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking (2018)
- Botanical Inks: Plant-to-Print Dyes, Techniques, and Projects (2018)
- Natural Dyeing With Plants: Glorious Colors From Roots, Leaves & Flowers (2018)
- Botanical Colour at Your Fingertips (2016)
- Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes (2011)
- The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing (2010)
- Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles (2008)
- Natural Impressions: Taking an Artistic Path Through Nature (2002)
- Craft of the Dyer: Colour From Plants and Lichens (1993)
- Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing (1971)
Good Books on Similiar Topics to Hapa Zome Printing
- Natural Kitchen Dyes: Make Your Own Dyes From Fruit, Vegetables, Herbs, and Tea, Plus 12 Eco-Friendly Craft Projects (2022)
- Grow Forage and Make: Fun Things To Do With Plants (2021)
- The Organic Painter: Explore Unusual Materials and Playful Techniques to Expand your Creative Practice (2019)
- The Wild Dyer: A Maker’s Guide to Natural Dyes With Projects to Create and Stitch (2019)
- The Natural Colors Cookbook: Custom Hues For Your Fabrics Made Simple Using Food (2018)
- The Secret Lives of Color (2017)
- Common Backyard Weeds of the Upper Midwest (2017)
- Dyeing to Spin & Knit: Techniques & Tips to Make Custom Hand-Dyed Yarns (2017)
- The Organic Artist: Make Your Own Paint, Paper, Pigments, Prints, and More From Nature (2015)
- The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home (2015)
- Natural Processes in Textile Art: From Rust Dyeing to Found Objects (2015)
- A Garden to Dye For: How to Use Plants From the Garden to Create Natural Colors for Fabrics & Fibers (2014)
- The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft With Organic Colors From Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients (2011)
- Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (2010)
- Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles (2008)
- Natural Dyeing (2007)
- A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers (1999)
- Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours—Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts (1814)
Making Art From Nature
Whenever I see spring’s first vibrant pansies or delicate Johnny-jump-ups, all I want to do is grab a mallet and get to it. That is to say, it’s my favorite vernal equinox tradition. This specific type of eco-printing is a unique way to use the loveliest bits from nature to add color and pattern to fabric or paper. Above all, by reading this blog post, you can now avoid common mistakes (and troubles that I ran into) that people make when “leaf-dyeing” and create beautiful hapazome imprints that you’ll love.