Making a Dye, Lake Pigment & Paint from Red Cabbage

Making a Dye, Lake Pigment & Paint from Red Cabbage

Hello- This is the third episode of my paint
and pigment series and this time I’m making oil paint out of red cabbage. Its gonna be
a longer than usual video because so much will be happening so lets get straight into
it! Here i have my red cabbage which I’m going
to make a dye out of and lets just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful of a purple
it is. It’s really something special and i am totally fan girl-ing  over it. I’m going
to open it up and lets just take another moment to admire its awesome line work and complexity
of shape and pattern. It really is such a beautiful vegetable that makes me in awe of
what nature is capable of creating. I almost feel bad that I’m going to completely chop
it up right now.  After chopping the cabbage with a lack of
grace – i place in into a pot and cover it with distilled water. I put it on high heat
until it starts bubbling and then i leave it on low heat to simmer.   After 30 minutes the cabbage becomes soft
and starts fading, and i observe that the water has taken on a dark purple color. I
do a quick tissue test to see the concentration of the color and i notice that its quite pale.
Hopefully i can get more water to evaporate by leaving it on the stove for a while longer.  When i feel that the red cabbage wont yield
much more color and that its faded and mushy and falling apart; i take it off the stove
and prepare to pour it in a sieve over a pirex container since I didnt want to wait for the
dye to cool down. At this point you can add mordant to your fabric of choice and dip dye
it to achieve a naturally colored textile. However, I’m going to try to turn this dye
into a powder lake pigment. It’s a really gorgeous blue and here’s another tissue dip-
its still too pale so I’m going to leave it in its wide container, uncovered in the fridge
for one day.  The next day i take my dye out, pour it into
a jar and take it upstairs to the studio for the second part of this process. At this point
its a dark blue purple. To turn this dye into a pigment i have to
precipitate it with a metallic salt- if you want to know more about how to do that be
sure to check my video which goes into depth about it. So what is happening now is that
i placed hot but not boiling water into two cups- dissolved a teaspoon of alum into one
and washing soda into the other. I tried to mix them really well. I decide to add an extra
teaspoon to my alum solution because I’m still testing out the ratios of each. If you know
a good ratio: please let me know! I add the alum to my red cabbage and mix well- i then dip a tissue into this mix. Since alum
is a mordant i believe it made the color attach really well to the tissue.  It’s a really really gorgeous blue and if
i can capture it forever i would be a very happy girl. I add the washing soda and cross
my fingers that this blue will remain. Unfortunately, i know that this type of chemical reaction
usually changes the color of pigments and since red cabbage is a natural PH indicator
I’m not keeping my hopes up. But my Fingers are crossed! The solution is definitely becoming
more blue and losing its purple hue. It’s actually super beautiful! I prefer it to the
original color- blue is so rare in nature and if i can hold onto this color it would
be a massive success. This type of blue slightly resembles woad. I actually really love it
a lot. I notice that there isn’t much precipiation so i add a tiny bit of washing soda and do
another tissue test. Here you can see the difference between them and here me whisper
“wow”. Red cabbage is awesome! After a few hours i put the solution into
a coffee filter over a jar so as to end up with just the powder. At this point its still
a deep and vibrant blue. Here is the paste after a few hours of filtering. Still blue
and still pretty – I’m going to take the filter out, open it and place onto a plaster bat
that will absorb its moisture fast. Wow, its so pretty- its gotten a little bit green but
i still love it. Spreading it is kind of my favorite thing.  I set some of the original dye aside to try
out a few other potential color variations. Again, since red cabbage is an indicator i
thought it would be a great opportunity to experiment and play around with different
PH’s. For this experiment- instead of using alum or washing soda I’m going to try to precipitate
the dye onto chalk. I’m simply going to place in the dye some chalk that i had sifted and
see what happens. I mix it around and hope it latches on.
im a bit concerned that it will come out very pale. 
I’m going to leave it for a few hours and hope in increases in vibrancy.
After a few hours- i place a coffee filter in a funnel over a jar and pour the solution
into it. The chalk should be left behind and the liquid filtered out. I notice the chalk solution is also more blue
than the original dye. I’m chalking this up to chalk being basic.  here’s the chalk paint after it has finished
filtering out. It’s quite light and pale and not as colored as I’d hoped but i have to
say it is very pretty blue. I open the filter up and and place it on a
plaster bat to dry and i spread it around to speed up the drying time.
Now for another test I’m putting two more jars of the plain dye aside so that i can
see the effects of different PH’s. I notice that this dye looks much more blue than the
original and i honestly cant tell you why- I’m recording this 5 weeks after the fact
and i honest to god- cant remember how it got so blue. 
I then get lazy and add my alum straight to the solution and realize very quickly why
its recommended practice to dissolve it in hot water first. It’s pretty hydrophobic and
difficult to mix.The acidic alum however got the dyes back to that original purple hue.
Here’s a quick tissue dip test of the solution. The cup on the left is my acid test so i squeeze
a small lemon into it and mix.It hasn’t really changed color to be honest. The tissue is
a very strong pretty color though. I add more lemon and i notice some pinks starting to
appear in the foam. It’s definitely changing color this time. Encouraged- i add some more.
It’s not a pure pink or red but its a very reddish purple. Here’s a dip test. It’s quite
pretty. I then add washing soda to it and mix. The solution turns back to a shade similar
to that of the original dye. The washing soda being very basic counteracts all the acidity
i put in and sort of balances everything out. So i go for the heavy ammo and pour some vinegar
into the cup hoping to get back some of my pinks and reds. It’s not really working to
be honest- although its fizzing and reacting I don’t see any difference in color. Not complaining
though its a pretty color. The cup on the right is my alkali and base
test- so i add some washing soda to it which is an extremely basic substance. The solution
fizzes up as a reaction takes place. It’s becoming this dark turquoise green. I add
more and more to see how green i can make it. It will probably make for a paint with
terrible texture but this is more about exploring the color rather than making a commercial
product. The tissue dip test reveals a very deep and attractive greenish blue that mostly
leans towards blue.  Here’s a side by side of both acidity tests.
Exciting stuff! Now I’m also going to pour both of them through a filter- i ran out of
funnels so had to improvise with some clothes pins. I pour the alkali test first- which
has turned very green and then i make the same setup and pour the acidity test. Here’s a cabbage family portrait- pretty cute
dontcha think? Here’s the green paste that i have left behind
from my base test – it looks really smooth and vibrant. I open it up and place it on
my plaster bat to dry. This is so satisfying. It’s actually kinda dark on camera though,
its a lighter green in real life- so i pumped up the ISO to try to get close. I touch  it
because I’m still a child.  Now to do the same with my acid test, so little
came out, I’m not sure why- but it’ll be enough for a test. Now to do some house keeping so
that it can have some space. It kind of looks like the bat signal.  Here are all the pigments after 2 days of
drying and they look ready for grinding. I’m starting with the one that hasn’t been altered
in any way and for some reason as it dried it lost its blueness and became very green.
Pretty sad honestly. I grind it well with  my little cheap coffee grinder and hope it comes
out fine. I know from experience that if i open the coffee grinder now a bunch of smokey
pigment is going to rush out and I’m not sure i want to inhale that so I’m going to leave
it for an hour to settle. When its settled i tap it though a DIY sieve that i just made
and it falls out easily enough so it seems like it’ll be really smooth. I pour it onto
my glass slab and prepare to turn it into oil paint. I lost my dropper so i had to pour
walnut alkyd onto it in an uncontrolled way. I am really disappointed that the pigment
has a very grainy texture as you can see. It’s not fun to mull at all- its like sand
as opposed to baby powder. I’m not a very happy nada right now. If anyone has any clue
why this happened please let me know! This is the best texture that i can get it to which
is still pretty awful but ill still go ahead and test its color and light fastness as well
as handling and how it acts on canvas. I grab a piece of primed canvas and use the palette
knife to apply the paint because i know it will be really annoying to apply with a brush.
The paint does not handle well but its very pigmented and is a nice shade honestly. I
then mix the color with white and again with grey to see how it looks- its very easily
over taken by white and doesn’t look that green to be honest. This isn’t turning out
how i hoped. I then try to make a wash slash glaze and its just failing so badly. This
paint is pretty much unusable. I really have no idea why its like this. The last thing
I’m doing with this specific pigment is mixing it will clear acrylic gel so as observe the
pigments lightfastness. I will wait till its dry and cover up a section of it so as to
visually gauge the effect of UV light of the color.   Now for the chalk pigment. Again – i place
it in a coffee grinder and grind it up. It looks a lot smoother than the previous pigment
and is quite pale and light but a very pretty light blue. I repeat the process of sifting
it and then i place it on my glass slab to turn into paint. I add my walnut alkyd and
start mulling. Here’s some scrape porn for ya – thanks for sticking around this long.
I appreciate it. The chalk isn’t super smooth to be honest- but its much better than the
previous pigment and its a nice pleasant blue. Hopefully it doesn’t fade. I may have added
too much alkyd but things are looking pretty good. I’m applying it to another piece of
primed canvas and i really really like the color actually and handling it ain’t half
bad. I’m quite happy with this one. I put some aside for the light test and am again
mixing it with clear acrylic gel.  Next- I’m going to mull my acid test. It was
purple when it was drying but its totally been bleached into alight blue. Kind of a
fail honestly. I’m too lazy to grind it so I’m just going to try to mull it as is. If
you want to see someone who pathologically cuts corners- and almost always regrets it
later- you’ve come to the right channel. The result is a greyish blue paint- not that
special but I’m not mad at it. Canvas test confirms that its not that exciting. It’s
pretty dull and not that vibrant or colorful. Forgive my little labelling mixup- they all
look the same.  Now to repeat this whole process again with
the alkali test. It’s has changed dramatically over the past 2 days – its become a very light
green with strong mustard hues. Place in grinder and you know the drill. I knew this one would
be super grainy because i put tons of washing soda on it- but still- very unpleasant and
not satisfying and the noise it makes is pretty awful.It looks pretty good though – not great
or fantastic or exciting- just good. Ugh i take that back. On canvas it looks pretty
gross. I personally wouldn’t use this color. I’m not really going to bother with a light
test.  OK- lets wait 5 weeks and do a final check
in and evaluation. I’ll quickly go through all of them and then give them 1 overall rating. 
Here’s the red cabbage by itself after 5 weeks. It’s turned very dark so I would say its not
very color fast and it just became more dull in general. I’m gonna remove the tape and
see how light fast it is. To me the covered area looks like a more vibrant green. For
the rest of the tests- it seems that they all also became more dull and lost their vibrancy.
The chalk test has almost completely faded and the light test just confused me to be
honest. Why is it yellow? What’s going on? Oddly enough the left over chalk pigment from
5 weeks ago hasn’t changed colour. Could it be a reaction to the alkyd? Anyways i think I’ve seen enough. For colour
fastness i give this pigment a 2 point rating. For light fastness i give it a 1 point rating,
and for handling i give it a 1 point rating. I was so excited by the cabbage but reality
is harsh. With a total of 4 points out of 15- this pigment ranks last. If anyone can
tell me why this went so south- please leave a comment with your suggestion. Anywho- i
know this video was pretty long but I felt that red cabbage was a special veggie that
deserved some attention and additional exploration.- it was a doozie to edit but i hope that you
got something out of it. If you have any questions- please leave them down below – as for now
– Thanks for watching and hope to catch you on the next one!

77 thoughts on “Making a Dye, Lake Pigment & Paint from Red Cabbage

  1. mad respect for these videos, bringing to life things ive tried to attempt much better

    are u a chemist? ur approach reminds me of it speaking as one

  2. I’m curious to know if you could possibly take the liquid to make an ink rather than a paint. I’m a watercolor artist and I love working with inks! I would be ecstatic to be able to play with these colors in my art! Btw I love your videos! You seem to know exactly what your doing and I have so much respect for your work! Keep it up!

  3. Hi, your videos are really interesting, unfortunately it seams that there is no help for the cabbage test, I'm interested in making my own colours as a practicle exercise. That's probably how the ancients did it minus the coffee grinder of course! I paint, but I'm also a spinner, Weaver and Dyer so to me it's fascinating as to what you can get colour out of, I'm going to doing experiments with different soils and getting quite interesting results. Cheers!

  4. Good video! I don't even paint but I so much enjoyed watching this. Your voice is very pleasing and I like your accent. 🙂

  5. Hello again. Nice going. First off, let us not forget vegetable pigments are unstable to harsh conditions, i.e., extremely low and highs pHs and direct exposure to atmospheric oxygen. I think they're ok for easy cheap water colors for playing around, but they will rot sooner than later. Lots of different reactions, but all in all, it's biodegradation in action. Also, if the paint seems too sandpaper like, it's because the particle size is beyond 100 micrometers. The tenth of a milimeter. It's too big. Just a little more grinding, not with a glass muller (those are for dispersing), nor a coffee grinder (those always give bigger particles), but with a flour grinder or a colloidal mill. Those are expensive, but they will give you particle sizes below 15 micrometers. One thing you can do is get a ball mill. You can build it yourself, or you can buy it on Amazon. It's what jewelers use for polishing. Those will give you 20-25 micrometers in particle diameter. Micropore sizes in cellulosic fiber like paper and cloth are in the range of 1-5 micrometer, so if your particle is below 5 micrometer, it'll probably filter through the pores. Too small a particle. But you don't need that. If on the other hand it's too big, like sand paper, it won't work either. You showed that. What you're looking for is a range, say, between 10 and 25 micrometers. It's a very strict, but it's been proven that's the particle size range that works best. Ball mills are cheap enough, but they are slow, so you have to be patient. In the end it'll be worth it. Your pastes will become very buttery. I promise.

  6. Love this .. was looking for 'blue' and here you are doing elemental research like a medieval alchemist. You are amazing.

  7. Invest in a good ceramic morter and pestil to give your powder a really good finish grinding before adding your oil.

  8. I really like this video…since it shows the basic process for a lake pigment from plant material. Wish it had worked better. Looking forward to you doing more lake pigment tests with other plants. Hope some turn out better than this one did.

  9. try blue pea flower… i sincerely hope you can get some from where you're from. From where Im from, we use blue pea flowers as a natural food colouring

  10. Thank you sooooo much! I am trying to test lightfastness for my chemistry project and your videos have been extremely helpful in my search to find readily available organic material to create a lake pigment paint. I am trying the red cabbage tomorrow. This is going to get interesting…

  11. gracias por su video. Pero desafortunadamente no se ingles y me gustaria mucho tener todo el proceso de elaboracion (de todos tus videos) en espanol. Please could you help me ?

  12. (Signed into my mum account cause I’m lazy) So what exactly is it that makes the powder pigment? What does the alum actually do? And the washing soda? I watched your other videos, I’m just a bit slow… I’m trying to make some to use at uni. Is it a combo of the 2 powders? Like what is the purpose of 5 washing soda? ahh

  13. con los subtitutos en Ingles puedo seguir perfectamente las indicaciones. Thank you for your videos, they are very interesting I am going to try it

  14. I've been trying my hand at ink-making recently with the ultimate goal of making ink that works in a fountain pen. I tried red cabbage and its one of the most promising candidates, my only problem was I couldn't figure out a preservative. I tried different ratios of salt and vinegar but I fear they will corrode the nib. Do you have any suggestions for other readily available preservatives?

    Also here's a few pigment sources I've run into in my searches that may be of interest to you for future videos (if they haven't been discussed in videos already).
    -Acorns and iron salts (classic iron gall ink) makes very nice blacks.
    -Buckthorn berry (haven't tried it, supposedly it produces a nice green)
    -huckleberry (haven't tried it, supposedly it produces blue)
    -Onion Skins

    Keep up the awesome work!

  15. if I could make a suggestion, after you've boiled the red cabbage and the liquid has turned purple, add nothing except a crap load of baking soda to it, stir it around, and let it settle to the bottom. after that let it sit in the fridge for a few days, to a week. Afterwards pour the turquoise liquid off and what will be left on the bottom should be a light blue paste. This is the dyed baking soda which after drying and grinding in a mortar and pestle, should work as a painting pigment. That's what I do anyway

  16. Actually the reason why the acid test turn blue was because the acetic acid in the vinegar evaporated and the citric acid in the lemon got neutralized by the soda powder you used. So it turn light blue , maybe you should use a stronger acid, or more acid to counter act the basicness of the soda powder stuff 🙂 Also make sure the acid you use doesn’t evaporate

  17. hello! I was rewatching for research purposes. So, reactions like this tend to be slow and all in all, need their you were just pouring big amounts of alkaline and acidic subtances, that gave a beautiful color at that moment, but in reality the reaction continued to happen so the color changed even more .It really reminded me of chemistry experiments we did this year in school, where we tested the acidity regulators and the capability of ceratin substances to change color (idon't know the exact terminology in english).Our teacher told us that the color is even brighter after 10 or 15 minutes, and he was right, a pastel rose turned into a brigh flashy pink after only 10 minutes.Also, it may has to do with how things look when wet,For exmaple, wet hair looks darker than dried hair. Those are my ideas, anyway.

  18. I had a rather successful lake pigment experience with a few Chinese privet berries last year. I used the pigment to make some indigo like watercolor. I liked the color so much I went out and gathered a bunch more berries to make a big batch. But this time I added more alum and washing soda and ended up with a more muddy grainy pigment like you have here. I think it may have to do with adding too much washing soda or alum or both. There seems to be a sweet spot for how much to add and if you go beyond that, you end up with grainy muddy stuff.

  19. Hello. I'm a weaver of rug and kilim ( flat weave) Could I dye my wool or cotton with cabbage? And what mordant shall I use for it!? Thanks

  20. I gotta ask… Why not dehydrate the color foods you want and grind them down to a powder? Is that skipping too many important steps? Would it mold after becoming moist again?

  21. Hello, thought you will be interested in this use of red cabbage dye:
    it's about using it as a wearable pH-meter

  22. Wow !!!
    I am uber impressed by you.
    As a super-novice dabbler, i could wish for a bit more explanation of the some materials used and their purpose (washing soda, etc.), but i guess that's up to me to research.
    Again, – – – you're opening doors !

  23. This was great. I've been experimenting with fruit and vegetable colours as well. I make play dough with the colours i extract and it's great! I have just started trying to make children's paint as well. You know, the basic cornflour type, but with no nasty additives. So far it's a big fail. Nowhere near enough colour. If you, or anyone else, has any advice or ideas, i would be so grateful.

  24. What about not adding chalk and just letting the pigments dry in a dehydrator. Try thyme or clove oil to deter fungal growth maybe?

  25. I once saw another youtuber mixing things together for an Illumination art project and they used a glass grinder on a marble tile to get an extremely fine mix, even more so than a coffee grinder would make.

  26. Totally subscribing. Loving your content so far <3
    You're pretty much me, but without being lazy and demotivated with life. lol

  27. interestingly, I boiled down the red cabbage added the baking soda and when I applied to arches watercolor 300lb paper it remained blue. when I left it over night in the dehydrator it turned to a dark blue black my husband added some flour to the consistency to make it pasty. just a pinch. never did get it to remain that turquoise blue color.

  28. Try using Algae. It's incredibly pigmented. I've always wondered how my algae powder would work as a paint. There's blue-green algae, green algae, red algae and all different colors of seaweed as well!

  29. Why Walnut alkyd?
    I think I’d use a more neutral non alkyd oil—If you ever repeat this experiment.
    I found this an exciting and very interesting process—
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  30. On my way to finding out how to make pigment I met Bob Ross and cobalt blue oil paint. Then, on to what to do with the red cabbage in the fridge ♥️

  31. Thank you for the lesson. I got plenty out of it.I won’t be doing it, but you saved me ton’s of time. I think I would like to experiment with cochineal. We have lots of cactus around here and there’s always some of those bugs on the paddles. They turn bright bright red and as a pigment they were considered one of the most important imports from the New World because of their value in dying.

  32. Subbed. You had me at cabbage and touching the satisfying green gunk, because you are a child at heart haha big mood. Touch everything!

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