Pressed Flower Tutorial

Many of you have kindly asked us for more information on how we press flowers and if we ever host pressed flower workshops.

For us making pressed flowers is not just about pressing flowers, there are many other elements to the process that make it a worthwhile activity. Going on walks through the forest, looking after, cultivating and watching our own plants grow and learning about new plants and the idiosyncrasies and difficulties to grow each one, these are all really important and enjoyable parts for us. Picking and pressing is a small part of the process and one we only try to do in a sustainable and very selective way.

Given the way we try to limit our impact on the environment we don’t host any workshops. (Also you do have to wait for at least a week for everything to be ready!) But that doesn’t mean that it’s a secret how we press flowers! We wanted to write a tutorial here to show how we do things and try to pass on what we have learned along the way.

Materials you will need:

-Any flowers, leaves or even weeds that you have found. We love using weeds & the sort of plants & flowers that you wouldn’t usually think of as pretty or otherwise appreciate. To us if they successfully turn into something better or more beautiful than you were expecting that is a joy!

-A very heavy book (or books), something like an encyclopaedia to use as a weight.

-Newspaper: with each sheet folded twice to make it into about A4 size.

-Blotting paper : we use 315gsm blotting paper, so things may take longer to fully dry if using a thinner paper (you could always try doubling up a thinner paper). Cut to a slightly smaller size than the folded newspaper.

-Two books- thick magazines, children’s illustration books etc something not too floppy that is thick & hard enough would be perfect. It is good to use books that are the same or a slightly bigger size than the blotting paper you will be using. You can substitute this with two flat wooden boards if you prefer, plywood offcuts are ideal for this which is what we used here.

The method:

Step 1: Pick the flowers & leaves that you want to press. We love this process; it’s a great way to feel the season. But if you pick any wild flowers/foliage please respect nature. We always pick only the amount that we actually use, no more. Try to start pressing everything as soon as possible after picking to help preserve the natural colours and shapes as you found them. 

Step 2: Once you have got all your flowers/foliage place a piece of blotting paper on a piece of folded newspaper & then lay the flowers/leaves on the blotting paper. As none of the flowers & leaves should overlap make sure that they have enough space between them.

Step 3: Carefully sandwich them with another piece of blotting paper & folded newspaper on top. If you have more flowers/foliage to press place another piece of blotting paper on this newspaper & repeat.

Step 4: When you finish placing all the flowers/leaves between blotting paper, carefully put this pile on a book (or magazine, children’s book, wooden board etc) and sandwich the pile with another book/board (this should make everything easier to handle without disturbing the flowers/leaves if you have to move things). Rest your big heavy book on top of this pile somewhere flat, preferably in a dry out-of-the-way environment & leave it for a week or so. We understand that you would feel a craving to see how the flowers/leaves are doing but for a beautiful result it’s the best not to touch it until it’s ready as things are quite delicate before fully dry!

Step 5: After a week finally you can open it! But you still need to make sure that everything is completely dry- so have a careful peek first. If it still feels moist, carefully remove and change the newspaper from your pile (this way you can leave the flowers/leaves mostly undisturbed between the blotting paper) & leave for another week or so.

After this and everything is completely dry you should have a selection of beautiful pressed flowers! How flat and thin they are will depend on how much weight you put on top of your pile, but we find this is a matter of preference that you will pick up as you go.

This method is only an example of how we press flowers. It’s not definitive and there are a few other techniques that can be found. (You can of course substitute the books/wooden boards in this guide with your own D.I.Y or professional press or any other kind of flat weight/object, but books are generally more readily available and how we started!) Hope this helps if you are looking to start pressing your own flowers :)

A few final tips:

I have often been asked how to keep the flower/leaves colours bright when turning into pressed flowers. I think this ‘trick’ is the use of good blotting paper. Getting rid of the moisture from the flowers/leaves quickly is the most important thing in making the flower/leaves colours as fresh as possible. This is why it’s important to press as soon after picking as possible too.

This is another popular question that I get asked: how to stick the pressed flowers/leaves on paper etc. Seriously no tricks or anything special! I use PVA glue- only a small amount but spread over the entire area of the flower/leaf. You need to spread the glue very thinly.

One final thing after everything is stuck down (although not a necessary step depending on what your outcome is) is to varnish your flowers/leaves. This helps to protect what you have pressed from handling and also further sticks down any bits that might still be a bit loose after gluing. We use an acryclic matt varnish, this is non-yellowing and affects the flowers the least, you almost can’t tell it is there!

There are U.V resistant sprays that you can buy to reduce the speed pigments in the flowers and leaves will fade but you will have to spend a lot and build up many layers to have any effect. A better consideration is to think about how the flowers will be stored (keep out of direct sunlight!) and displayed. For example if framing you could consider using a U.V resistant glass to preserve the pigments. This will have a limiting effect on how light changes your work if that is important, although it won’t completely stop things fading. You are maybe just as well embracing the change and delicacy of pressed flower making as part of its beauty and charm!

Happy pressing :)