How to Make Dyes from Plants

Dyeing using different plants has been a traditional practice. However, with the invention of artificial dyes and modern dyeing practices, such use of dyes from plants was soon abandoned. There are many Philippine plants which are good source of dyes – either bark or wood. There are plants which are naturally rich in tannic acid or tannin which is used in dyeing leather, wood or textile. These are: kamachili, bakauan, red white lauan, tangal, ipil-ipil, coconut husk and others.

The common procedure of extracting dyes is as follows:

  1. Boil the ground or chopped bark in uncovered cooking pot with just enough water to cover the barks.
  2. Boil to 60°C-80°C with continuous stirring.
  3. After an hour, strain in wire screen and replace water in the cooking pot. Repeat 1-3 until water becomes pale in color.
  4. The water used in second or third boiling could be used for the next fresh barks.
  5. Mix all the water used for boiling and boil them altogether until you get a dark colored dye.


Extracting dye for a 400 grams cloth:

  1. Soak ground or wood shavings in water at a ratio of 1 kilo wood shavings for every 40 liters of water and boil for five hours.
  2. Strain, then boil again until it thickens and dries.
  3. Scrape the dried residue and pulverize about 120 grams


  1. Heat the cloth to be dyed with 3% mordants: 12 g potassium dichromate or oxalic acid in 12 liters water at 60°C for half an hour.
  2. Let cool and wrap.


  1. Boil the cloth in 30% dye mixture (1 part dye in 30 parts water)
  2. 120 g sibukaw powder dye mixed to 12 liters water, 4 g sodium carbonate (1%), and 20 g sodium bisulfate (5%)
  3. Stir constantly to get an even colored cloth.
  4. Let it cool, squeeze, then wash well. (Use 20% teepol; 20 g teepol in 100 cc water)
  5. Rinse well and dry.

Another method of making dyes from sibukaw is by fermenting with powdered sibukaw bark for one week to get a strong color.


Black color for silk and gris for cotton.

Dye Extraction:

  1. Get some 3.5 kilograms of talisay leaves.
  2. Grind or pound the leaves.
  3. Soak the ground leaves overnight in 50 liters water.
  4. Strain and set aside the residue.
  5. Boil the residue until it thickens to about 1/4 of its original weight.
  6. Steam the residue until it dries and become a black residue.
  7. Scrape the residue and pulverize it to about 280 grams.

Mordant Preparation:

  1. Boil the cloth in 70% dye (280 g dye powder and 35% ferrous sulfate mixed in 12 liters water) for one hour; continuously stirring to get an even color.
  2. Let it cool, squeeze and wash in 100 cc water with teepol.
  3. Rinse well and hang to dry.


For cotton:

  1. Soak the annato seeds in boiling solution of carbonate soda.
  2. Soak the cloth to be dyed for 15 minutes.
  3. Squeeze the cloth, rinse in water with alum.

For silk:

  1. Dissolve equal amounts of annato and sodium carbonate.
  2. Soap may be added.
  3. Soak for one hour (according to desired color) in 50°C heat.
  4. The resulting color may be made yellowish if the cloth is rinsed with small amount of tartaric acid.

For wool: Wool is dyed in annato at 80°C – 100°C without any additives.

DYE FROM BANGKORO (Red, Light Violet and Chocolate)

The substance where the dye from bangkoro is taken comes from the bark of its roots – abundant in its third to fourth year of age. No more dyes could be taken when the aged beyond four years. The thin roots are the ones useful. When it grows to about half inch, it becomes useless. The root bark is the source of red dye, the woody part – yellow dye, so that when the root bark gets woody, the dye is reddish yellow.


  • red and rose – aluminum
  • chocolate brown — chromium (acc. to strength of mordant)
  • light violet to black — iron


Grated jackfruit wood produce yellow dye, although the tree is more popular for its edible fruit. It is being used as dye for yellow clothes of priests and for silk in India and Java.

To get: >> Mordant is:

  • Olive yellow >> use with chromium
  • Light yellow >> use with aluminum
  • Dark yellow >> use with tin

BONATO DYE (Dark Orange)

Kamala – a plant substance that is taken from the outer seed of bonato which is used as dye.

Use mordant as follows:

  • 4 parts (kamala)
  • 1 part alum
  • 2 parts sodium carbonate (native vanilla)
  • Rub with small amount of sesame oil

For silk, add 1/2-1 part sodium carbonate in boiling water. Soak the silk cloth and dye in boiling water for 2-5 minutes.


Red dye for wood is produced from narra tree. It does not soluble in water but dissolves in alkali solution such as aluminum hydroxide, alum, wood dust. The best mordant are metallic mordants — chromium and copper hydroxide; fader with soap. Narra mordant are used for dyeing wood. Its alcoholic tincture produces dark red color dye in wood.


This is a root plant like ginger. It is used to dye silk and wool – yellow. Boil the roots, add alum or vinegar, if desired, according to color strength desired. Its turmeric substance is not soluble in water, but dissolves easily in either alcohol, alkali, fats and oils. Turmeric solution fades under the sun. It gives bright green and brown, light violet red with tin, lime and barium hydroxide. Turmeric produce yellow color in acid solution and dark reddish brown in alkali.


Ipil wood produces bright brown (low) in low acid solution. Cotton cloth with tin mordant becomes olive greenish brown. When wood is buried for a week in clay with ipil dust, the part which is lighter black gets very dark. The juice of fresh ipil produce indelible brown in white paper or textile.


The leaves give gris color for mats.

For more information:

Province of Sorsogon
Capitol Building, Sorsogon City
Tel No. (056) 211 – 1319
E-mail: [email protected]


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