Tea-Dyed Projects (Loose-Leaf Journal Pages)

Tea-dying is ancient. And modern. And flexible and inventive. Here are three projects that you can do with four tea bags.

You’ll need:

  • 4 tea bags of any black or red tea
  • Filtered water, about 1/4 cup
  • Wide watercolor brush, about an inch wide
  • 3 Tablespoons rough Kosher salt
  • Pitt pen (optional)
  • Watercolor pencils

1.  Chose tea bags that you don’t want to make into a drink. If you experiment with tea flavors like I do, you will eventually wind up with a choice that took one step too far into the “experiment” stage, and you’ll wonder what to do with a box of coconut-lychee-pomegranate-chocolate or some other choice that seemed clever at the time.

2.  Remove the staple from the bag, if it has one. Leave on the string and tag.

3. Put four bags into a small bowl, add about two tablespoons water, and put in the microwave on high for 30 seconds.

4. Remove bowl from microwave with an oven mitt. Using a spoon, press the round back of the spoon against the tea bags to expel concentrated tea.

5. Remove tea bags from bowls and place on a piece of watercolor paper. Move the positions once. It’s fine if the tea runs onto the paper. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before moving bags. When the bags have been in two positions, remove them allow the paper to dry, then draw the outlines of the bags, strings and tags.

Project One:

Using a broad watercolor brush, dip it into the strong tea, and paint horizontal bands across the paper. After each stripe, re-dip brush and paint next stripe overlapping the first stripe, so you are painting a continuous tea coverage down the page. The page will curl a bit. This is fine. If you don’t want it to curl, spray back of watercolor paper with a mist of plain water.

Use a big pinch kosher salt and toss it on the page. On the pages, experiment with more and less salt. The salt will suck up the tea. If you have a puddle, use more salt for a darker effect.

Let the salt dry completely. All the way. Really dry. Don’t rush this step or the design will smear.

Brush off the salt. You may need help from a dry stiff sponge or a toothbrush.

Project Two:

Create a map by outlining the salt stains. You can add pieces of real map or a star chart. Label the land masses and seas according to your mood–Salt Flats, Horizon Line, Land Spill, Farther Than You Thought.

Project Three:
Using watercolor pencils, trace the edges of the salt marks and create fantasy patterns. For this one, I decided on flowers.

If you keep the flowers paler than I did here, you can use this as a background for a page. I’ll write on this, but I need to think of the words and how to make it look of a piece. Meanwhile, I like it the way it is.

—Quinn McDonald is working on her second book and playing with concepts.

26 thoughts on “Tea-Dyed Projects (Loose-Leaf Journal Pages)

  1. Pingback: My Heroes: Quinn McDonald « Valkoinen poni

  2. I used to tea dye muslin and then put it in the oven on a cookie sheet on low heat to distress it even more. I used it to make cloth doll bodies.

  3. I’m a bit confused. Do you do Steps 1-5 and THEN (if you choose) continue on with the steps for the projects? I guess I’m confused about whether your paper will have outlines of teabags (1-5) AND, say, the flower shapes from Project 3 (if you do that one).

    • Steps one through five give you Project One and a bowl full of tea to paint with. You then continue with the painting portions (described after the image of Project One) and you can get either Project Two or Three, depending on how much salt you put on it. Less salt looks more like Project Two, more salt looks like Project Three.

      • Ah! All is clear. Thanks much; I think I will try this and see what happens. If I had all the supplies, I’d do it now because it’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep. Alas, it will have to wait until I can get some water color paper, pencils, and brush.

  4. Thanks so much for ruining my carefully planned afternoon. No, seriously, I had to try this immediately, so I now have 4 pages drying with the salt on them. Let’s hope I can keep the cats away. 🙂

  5. I’ve just bought some watercolour paper on a back to school sale and am looking forward to experimenting with it as soon as the gallery is up and running this weekend. This article is perfect timing and great fun! Thank you AGAIN Quinn!

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