Saturday, 17 July 2010

Making 'Paper' from Vegetables

As promised – but rather overdue, sorry! – an explanation of my paper-from-vegetables process. These instructions are for flat paper - and are not terribly precise since this is definitely an experimental, make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of process... Sometimes it works fine, sometimes you do exactly the same thing and it all goes horribly wrong… but then that's what compost heaps are for!

Equipment : You will need some pressing boards (old shelves work well ), lots and lots of newspaper, and some cloths – I used the cheapest of cheap J-cloths.

Next, choose your vegetables. I have been most successful with courgette, carrot (sliced or grated), onions and red cabbage (good but smelly!). Leeks and celery can work but are a bit temperamental. I tried a yellow pepper which didn’t work at all, although I think it might if I skinned it first… or sliced it into strips… Anything too watery probably won’t work and shiny skins like that on the pepper are a problem.  But there are lots of veggies I haven’t tried yet which will probably work really well – so experiment!

Step 1 : Slice your chosen vegetable whichever way you want. The slices do not need to be particularly thin or even – in fact, slices which are too thin will make your resulting paper terribly fragile. Boil the slices until they are just soft but not disintegrating – how long depends on the vegetable and the thickness of the slices – 3-5mins is about right for most things. Drain.

Step 2 : Lay a cloth on top of a pad of newspaper, on top of a board. Arrange your drained vegetable slices on the cloth, overlapping the slices by about 5mm. You can see from the photograph that the courgette slices were really quite thick.  I was making lots of little separate pieces here so I haven't overlapped them much.

Lay another cloth on top and another pad of newspaper on top of that. If you have more vegetable slices you can lay another cloth on top and repeat, topping off with a last layer of newspaper and another pressing board. Weight it all down with a stack of books or whatever else you have to hand.

Step 3 : The vegetables are very wet at this stage, so after an hour or so you will need to replace all the newspaper with dry newspaper. This is important because if you don’t get rid of the moisture your veg will go mouldy before it dries. You can now leave your vegetables pressing for a few hours or overnight.

Step 4 : Your vegetables should be paper thin by now, sticking together and beginning to dry out. Renew the cloths by carefully peeling the top cloth off and replacing with a clean one. Flip the cloth-veg-cloth sandwich over and carefully peel off and replace the other cloth. If you don’t replace the cloths at this stage you may find your veg paper gets irretrievably stuck to them. Restack with fresh newspaper between the pressing boards.

Repeat step 4 a couple of times a day until your vegetable paper is dry. This can take up to 3 or 4 days depending on the moisture content and thickness of the vegetables, how heavy the weights are, and so on.

And then you’re done! The vegetable paper can be left as it is, or coated with a sealant such as shellac or acrylic wax. I found the acrylic wax made the otherwise quite brittle paper really flexible, but also very shiny, which I didn’t like so much. Shellac is less shiny and worked really well on the red cabbage but would discolour a paler vegetable.  I have no idea how long the paper will last or how long it will keep its colour - I will keep you updated.

So, have fun experimenting, and if you make some vegetable paper, send me a picture, I'd love to see!


  1. this really, really looks like fun! and the results you got were amazing :)

  2. This is wonderful! What fun experimenting.

    Thank you!

  3. wonderful - and i know what to do if the courgette mountain gets too much!

  4. This looks very cool - but you have WAY more patience than me LOL.


  5. It needs a lot of patience, but it's really enjoying! :)
    dry vegetables like flowers...and the final effet is great and very fashion! :)


  6. They make beautiful textures, would love to give a try!

  7. This is interesting. Patience you need. I already tried with mosaic so maybe this could also be worth to try...

  8. Replies
    1. Do you mean using an inkjet printer? I very much doubt it!

    2. He means can you make a print on top of this paper (ie: linocut print).

    3. The 'paper' is not a smooth surface and can be quite brittle, depending on how dry it is. But I would think an oil based ink would transfer ok. As with most things, the only way to find out is to try it and see - let me know how you get on.

  9. Hi Helen...Just came across your page….I am a fiber artist based in India and I make similar paper in my studio…Spaces Things Et cetera……variety of fruits and vegetables…and in custom sizes too…….here is a link to my FB page


  10. Can you tell us more about why this works when you overlap the veggies? What is the chemical thing that is going on that makes the pieces "stick" together? Water and cellulose? But how and why?

    1. I'm not an expert but I imagine it would have something to do with the natural sugars in the vegetables? - but I'm guessing here. My approach is very much, lets try this and see if it works.


Helen Smith, artist and maker in glass, print and stitch.


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