Made in

Biodegradable 228 Dye 45 Ink 19 Paint 19 Pigment 49 Plant-based 167 Recyclable 115 Arabic gum 4 Clove 2 Guar gum 3


Photos: Greta Desirèe Facchinato

Colour is Alive

'Colour is Alive' is a project centred around natural ink-making for screen printing techniques on paper and textiles.

In 2021, artist and designer Greta D. Facchinato started to research how to extract colour from our surroundings (plants, kitchen leftovers, and urban scraps) in order to turn them into sustainable inks suitable for screen printing. By gravitating between The Netherlands and Italy she developed an archive of recipes that can guide others into realising inks for printing techniques and obtaining bold or subtle hues. The recipes are shared in the artist's book 'Colour is Alive', a risograph limited edition manual, containing a collection of reflections and lessons that the artist learned on the way by researching archives, reading, and printing, and conversation with experts.

Many contemporary art materials and printmaking inks are made of refined mineral oil and use chemicals that are harmful to ourselves and the environment. These toxic substances not only effect the makers, but they also are absorbed into our sewage and, eventually, back into our food supply and our bodies. The focus of the project is to research which materials can be foraged from local surroundings and how to transform them into sustainable inks for printing techniques in order to design artworks that are not toxic for the artists who make them, the people who are own them, or to our environment.

Additional information

The world of natural colour is endless and attached to antique traditions and knowledge which have been substituted by the advance in synthetic colours. The approach of Greta D. Facchinato aims to rediscover these traditions, share them and invite us to look into colours as a series of living bodies, not meant to be here forever. Natural colour has more fragile properties than synthetic colour. Depending on the raw material, it can be more or less affected by external causes (like light or washing agents). Colour is Alive aims to challenge the idea of art conservation and the concept of artwork as an eternal one by rediscovering colours as close to us, as alive as us. With their own destiny and purpose with an end point. It is thinking of colours as elements closer to our bodies than what we usually think they are.

Making process:

- Collect the soft vine sticks and cut them into separate pieces, of length that make them fit inside a tin. Close the tin.
- Make a fire and place the closed tin under the burning wood. Leave it for one hour.
- Carefully remove the tin with the use of tongs and place it somewhere safe where you can leave it to cool down for an hour.
- Once the tin is cool, you can open it and check if all the sticks have carbonised.
- Grind the stick by using a mortar and pestle and reduce them into a fine black powder that you can store in a small glass jar.
- Add some warm water and the binding agents (guar gum and Arabic gum) one after the other. Use an immersion blender to mix them homogeneously.*
- Transfer the ink into separate glass jars and add two drops of thyme oil or a couple of cloves to each. This helps to make your ink last longer and to prevent some possible mould to appear too soon.
- Close your jars tightly, label them and store them in the fridge.

*Charcoal ink needs to be very well ground, otherwise it will feel grainy when printing. You can also use the charcoal powder as a watercolour by adding some water and Arabic gum until you reach the desired consistency.

Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.


Soft vine sticks, 1/2 tsp Arabic gum, 1/4 tsp guar gum, thyme oil, cloves


Research was made possible by Gemeente Den Haag and in collaboration with Grafische Werkplaats Den Haag.

Physical samples

0020-1, 0020-2
Accessible to visitors of the Future Materials Lab