potato printing

potato print geometric pattern

Sometimes, like last weekend, when it’s wet and windy and everybody else is sitting in front of the television watching the rugby, I sneak away to play with paper or fabric and dabble with paints and ink.

I recently rediscovered an old book called Fun with Art that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was twelve, which brought back memories of trying lots of the projects in it, including one that involved making patterns from wax crayon shavings ironed between paper and another of painting with bleach. In those pre Health & Safety obsessed days there was no warning about hot irons or the dangers of bleach, other than “Do be careful when using bleach; it could ruin the carpet or any chair you dropped it on. Keep it out of the reach of little children.

By-passing the bleach painting and polystyrene cutting projects, I thought I’d try a little potato printing.


potato print circles


Potato printing is a wonderfully simple process that can be undertaken by any age but which we seem to do with great enthusiasm in primary school and never try again. I had visions of creating some fantastic pattern that I could use for printing on fabric but ended up playing around with patterns and making a few cards. Here’s a few things I learnt:

If you want a square then it’s best to measure it instead of trying to do it by eye.

To make a circle, use a biscuit cutter.

Apply the paint to the potato with a brush or sponge. Acrylic paint works well. Use fabric printing ink if you want to print on fabric and for it to remain colour fast.

Before you print, place the paper or fabric onto something with a little give, like a towel or yoga mat, rather than on a hard surface, especially if the cut surface of your potato isn’t completely flat.

Other vegetables are available.

potato print flowers

Perhaps next time I’ll come up with something fantastic to print onto fabric. Enough for a set of curtains perhaps. Or maybe just a cushion. Or an egg cosy. Does anyone use egg cosies these days?

39 thoughts on “potato printing

  1. We have a wonderfully gifted artist here who potato prints onto fabric, subjects include ducks, pheasants and chickens. Her cushions are sold on places like John Lewis and Harrods . Good luck!

    1. I wonder if that’s Julia Burns. I saw her work at a show one winter and came home determined to make Christmas cards like that but alas my skill levels are way, way below hers; she’s very clever.

  2. I remember books like you describe! I used to love melting shaved crayons with a hot iron – and, now I come to think about it, I’ve still got a box of old crayons somewhere …. Perhaps I’d better stick to potato prints – your examples are very effective.

    1. It’s difficult to believe my mother let me use her iron as I’m sure I didn’t always put the paper down properly and some of the wax probably escaped onto the iron and ironing board.

  3. Oh yeah I remember those crayon and iron things, ha! I might have to see if Clem wants to try that. I like your potato prints. Hand-printed fabric can look awesome, I really think you should try!

  4. Such a happy memory but more importantly, I love what you created here. Something about the simplicity and bright colors works perfectly!

  5. The gingham effect is especially good isn’t it! I love the “other vegetables are available” line!! You are so right about the elf and safety, I cannot remember any examples, but I know that the crafting books I had as a child had no warnings in them as you would get nowadays, I had a book on candle making that made it sound so easy – not that I ever made any – and now if you see anything related to candles there is a great long list of warnings. Even just to burn one! Hope that you have fun with your printing, great results!! xx

    1. Don’t you sometimes wonder how we made it through our childhoods? Probably the next generation won’t burn candles, they’ll just switch on scented LED battery driven ones.

  6. I like the daisy pattern best, especially the earthy colours you’ve used. Do you have to ‘fix’ the paint so that the fabric can be washed or does that happen when you iron it. We have all sorts of paints here and when I have a moment (…?) I would love to give this a whirl.

    1. I either use fabric block printing ink or mix some textile medium into acrylic paint and fix them according to the instructions, which is usually to iron them after a set time. Have a go!

  7. Love what you’ve done with your potatoes here! You have a very good eye for what makes a good print-image. Any of these would work beautifully on fabric. It’s a lovely form of printing I think – somehow the very temporary nature of the cut spud – I find they lose their crisp surface after a day or so – makes the whole thing easy just to have a go with. Print today because tomorrow it won’t be the same! Do you remember that thing about Winston Churchill and his oil-painting? He had all the right equipment etc but couldn’t get started on the blank canvas because he was afraid to make a mistake? I find that affects me quite often – so anxious for it to be “right” I can’t get started, especially if the materials are expensive. Potato printing seems to bypass that so I enjoy it a lot! I’ve also toyed with the fabric printing idea. What is the textile medium you add to the paint? Enjoy! E x
    Ps can I ask how you got that lovely tiled effect in your first pic? Squares on one spud and lines on another?

    1. I’ve wasted several expensive pens by waiting for a special project to use them on and then finding they’ve dried up. I used to find it hard to make the first mark in a new sketchbook or notebook until I read to put a stripe of colour along the edge of the page. Suddenly it’s not a daunting blank page. You’re right, potatoes completely bypass that.
      I use Daler Rowney system 3 textile medium which costs about £8 for 250ml.
      The tiled effect was made with a square cut into two triangles. One triangle was left solid and I cut a line from the other (like crinkle crisps). Rotating makes different patterns.

  8. You are right Anne, the last time I did potato printing I would have been less than 10. What a fun project for a wet afternoon.

  9. That looks like loads of fun. I recently joined a Creative Live Project for the month of Feb called #28toMake and every day they send us a new assignment, it’s meant to ignite your creative mojo, some projects are fun others less so :), its free and anyone can join any time. Check it out you might enjoy it, just google or search for creative live 28 to make. Thank you following my blog, I will most definitely be following yours, its my kind of blog. Your farm and images are divine. I grew up in Ireland till I was 12 and we always visited my grandfathers farm in Waterford, fantastic fun for kids, haystacks, barns, animals apple tarts and fresh bread. Your lovely blog reminds me of those days and happy times.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion of creative live 28 – I’ve signed up and will give it a go though I agree that some projects look more fun than others. Your grandfather’s farm sounds idyllic for children.

Comments are closed.