Natural indigo, Buckthorn seeds


Made in

Circular 213 Dye 45 Fair Trade 10 Ink 19 Paint 18 Pigment 47 Plant-based 165 Textile 88 Agar agar 19 Alum 4 Arabic gum 4 Guar gum 3

Natural indigo, Buckthorn seeds

Photos: Greta Desirèe Facchinato

Sap Green

A vibrant Sap Green ink was obtained by combining two plant-based pigments - Natural Indigo (Indigofera Tinctorum) and Buckthorn seed (Rhamnus Petiolaris Boiss) - with bio-based binding agents to screenprint on cotton and linen fabric.

Screen printed with handmade plant-based ink on eco-friendly linen cotton fabric.

In 2021 with the project Color is Alive - in collaboration with Grafische Werkplaats Den Haag and Gemeente Den Haag - Greta D. Facchinato researched how to make sustainable and organic ink for screen printing.

Nowadays, the printing industry focuses on synthetic ink as an eternally living compound, meant to provide a variety of colours all year round and last unchanged for as long as possible. On the contrary, bio-based ink is an organic living matter, composed of biological ingredients and influenced by nature’s cycles and habitats. Depending on the characteristics of the plants and organisms involved in pigments, binders, and preservatives, each ink will carry a different life which eventually determines its colour-fast properties.

Greta D. Facchinato’s practice invites us to experience matter from an embodied awareness, through the crossflow of different mediums and the investigation of daily life encounters, gestures, and materials. In this context, she sees the practice of sustainable ink-making as a method to re-learn our knowledge of colour through interconnectedness with our environment. Substituting the application of synthetic ink with bio-based one means creating a bridge between the past and the future, where human and non-human entities are included.

Additional information

The process starts with sourcing or foraging the plant material, Buckthorn and Indigo. Buckthorn seeds can be harvested in the late summer through autumn while Indigo leaves are best to forage before the blossoms open. One of the most important rules to respectfully forage plant material is to look at the abundance and never collect more than two handfuls or work with sustainable and fair-trade producers. While Buckthorn seeds are dried and ground for yellows, Indigo leaves are used to extract the blue pigment. The two powder pigments are then mixed on mortar and pestle together with water, and left to simmer to reach the Sap Green hue. After around an hour, alum is added to modify the pH of the solution and left on low heat for another half hour. It follows the addition of a combination of binding agents to reach the viscosity for screen-printing and turning the dye into an ink. Thyme oil helps to naturally preserve the ink. Before screen printing with it, the textile is scoured, mordanted with a tannin solution made with oak galls, and secondly mordanted with alum. These allow the ink to be absorbed by the fibre and prevents it from being washed away when in contact with water.

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


Natural indigo (indigofera tinctorum), buckthorn seed (rhamnus petiolaris boiss), agar agar (eucheuma), guar gum (cyamopsis tetragonoloba), arabic gum (acacia senegal), alum (potassium alum).


Collaboration with Lykke Amsterdam