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Natural dye for homemade playdough

I‘ve discovered lately that its really easy to dye homemade playdough with natural ingredients. We dyed ours using raspberries, rose petals, beetroot, blueberries, turmeric and oak tree bark. Check out the results in the picture below. Pretty good eh?

As well as creating some great playdough it’s also a lovely way to teach kids that some of the most beautiful dyes can be found in your own back yard.

First of all you need to extract your dye:

Raspberries and strawberries

Put a big handful of raspberries and a cup of water in a pan. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for 20 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through sieve then follow playdough recipe below

Rose petals

Roughly tear up the petals from about six red roses and put in pan with a cup of water. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for 20 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through sieve then follow playdough recipe below.


Chop up one medium sized beetroot and put in pan with a cup of water. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for 10 minutes. Once cooled pour through sieve then follow playdough recipe below.


Put a big handful of blueberries and a cup of water in a pan. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for 20 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through sieve then follow playdough recipe below.


Put approx two teaspoons of turmeric in a pan with a cup of water. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for 20 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through sieve and follow the recipe below.

Oak tree bark

Put a big handful of oak tree bark in a pan with a cup of water (its best not to take it directly from the tree – if you scout around you will find plenty on the ground). Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for 20-30 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through sieve then follow playdough recipe below.

Playdough recipe

½ cup of flour
½ cup of dyed water
¼ cup of salt
½ tbsp cream of tartare
½ tbsp cooking oil

♥ Combine all the ingredients in a pan (don’t worry about sieving the flour).

♥ Put the pan on a medium to low heat and keep stirring until mixture forms a ball. It will probably stick to the bottom and sides of the pan too!

♥ Allow it to cool a little and knead it on a well floured worktop.

Needless to say, this recipe is for a non-edible playdough. Please also remember that natural dyes stain…so make sure you wear a pinny and try to avoid using your best pots and pans! Lastly, please don’t let your little one/s anywhere near hot or boiling water.

104 thoughts on “Natural dye for homemade playdough

  1. I think your recipe is the same one my mom always used (minus the natural dyes).

    To make this even more kid friendly, I discovered that if you add boiling water you can skip the stove. Just stir the hot water into the dry ingredients. The heat from the water is enough to cook the rest. (in fact I used this as a class activity this year)

    Thanks for the colour ideas.


  2. This sounded a little odd to me at first, but considering it is all natural stuff I figured I give it a try. My results: I now have play-dough that I don’t have to worry too much if my 2 year old took a bite out of the fake hamburger his brother just molded! Even though its not edible, its not really harmful either!

  3. Hi Jessica,

    I thought it was a fantastic way of introducing kids to plant identification and to give them an idea about seasonal produce and homemade dye’s etc etc. I also know many Mum’s who don’t have food coloring in their cupboard because they don’t like using them. I’m really glad you tried making it….we had lots of fun making ours!

  4. If you want to play around a bit with the turmeric, it’s an acid-base indicator. Add baking soda, and it will turn bright red. Add lemon juice, and it’ll turn bright yellow. I hadn’t ever thought to dye homemade playdough. Great ideas!

  5. Does the dye come off onto the fingers?? I know from working with food dye that the first play rounds the fingers are always a little dyed- not a bad thing, very amusing but just a question!!

  6. Hi Gray, not that I had noticed. To be honest my kids really like it undyed as well (I think because it looks like ‘proper’ pastry) so if you were worried you could just leave it plain πŸ˜‰

  7. These are great ideas. I’ve heard about making your own playdough but never tried it. I think I will though. Question: what is the shelf life of playdough like this? Does it have to be stored in the fridge?

    By the way, it’s my first time at your blog and I love it πŸ˜‰


  8. Hi Ella,

    No you don’t have to store it in the fridge – all the salt in it acts as a really good preserver. Just make sure you store it in an airtight container and it lasts for ages. I usually just throw it out when the kids have mushed lots of dust and unidentified objects into it! It also seems to get better with age.

  9. My daughter recently found a tub of playdough that we made using this recipe 10 years ago. It was still good!

  10. Hi Meredith,

    Have a look at my photo. In the front row (running left to right) you can see a) undyed b) raspberry c) turmeric. In the second row back there is a) blueberry b) beetroot c) oak tree bark and d) a tiny peek of rose petal.

    As for the intensity – its a bit hit and miss really. If in doubt make the colour as strong as you can. Then you can mix it with some undyed playdough to make the colour less intense! Generally speaking beetroot is a very strong colour so thats the only one I would be inclined to go easy with!

  11. I loved this article on making your own play dough. I always kept some when my girls were little, it’s something they played with a lot and had a whole collection of things to stamp designs in their play dough creations. Their favorite things to stamp with were those plastic barrettes for little girls. I still think of play dough when i see thise ! Now my first grandchild has come along and I can’t wait to make her playdough to carry on the family tradition of homemade playdough, and I will definitely make up this recipe. We used natural dyes for Easter eggs, but I never thought of doing it in the playdough. I am really looking forward to trying it.

  12. Hi Das,

    Thanks for such a wonderful comment. We really do make play dough all the time and have just as much fun making it as playing with it.I love the fact we can just whip up a fresh batch on the stove avoiding a trip to the shops. Many congratulations on your first grandchild πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Kate,
    Does the rose petal batch smell like roses? That would be lovely! Thanks for all the wonderful pictures, this is the best article on homemade playdough I’ve found and it’s very inspiring. I’ll be making a batch for my 3-year-old daughter this week and can’t wait!


  14. We tried bark for brown–I think it was oak (fabulous), basil and pine needles for green (I think I can see a difference…), sunflower petals for yellow (again, no discernible difference, despite very yellow liquid after th boiling), and an herbal cherry tea for red/pink (wonderful!). I put different essential oils in each for scent, depending on the child’s whim. Lots of fun! Thanks so much for the recipe and inspiration!

  15. Sounds wonderful Rose. I tried lots of green things; spinach, grass etc but found it really hard to get a decent colour. Also agree that the essential oils are wonderful…we did lavender and peppermint. Like you say lots of fun. Not sure my husband agreed when ‘essence of cabbage’ filled our kitchen!

  16. What a lovely presentation of a great idea – love the photos! Thanks, Kate, I can’t wait to try this with my son! πŸ™‚

  17. This is fantastic! We used cranberries, turmeric and paprika, strong black tea, grape juice, orange peel and cocoa (by adding 1T cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and using water to mix). Not only are the colors great, they smell wonderful too. And the cocoa colored play dough immediately lends itself to making bon-bons, cookies, cupcakes….my little baker is very busy decorating all of her creations.

    Has anybody come up with a convincing blue color? I am thinking about using red cabbage leaves and then adding baking soda to increase the pH and get blue, rather than purple. I’ll report back if this works.

  18. @ Devon – thanks! I hadn’t realized that turmeric was also acid/base sensitive. You’ve expanded our color palette.

  19. Shaay, sounds fantastic. I’m gonna try the cocoa one today – sounds yummy! I tried the red cabbage – it creates the most wonderful blue/purple dye. As soon as I added it to my mix it turned bright pink! Would love to hear if adding the baking soda makes a difference. Please let me know.

    If anyone has any success with blue’s or greens then I would love to know!

  20. Hi Kate,

    Great blog and ideas!
    I never made homade playdough, but am excited to try!
    Is the cream of tartar necessary or can something else serve as a substitute?

  21. Hi Malka, I’m pretty sure you can leave the cream of tartar out. It just acts as an additional preservative so might not last so long. Good luck!

  22. Hi there – I love this idea!!! For those of you who have used the basic recipe — how much does it make? I’m looking to have a Mommy group make it (where we all make 1 color and share it), so I’m trying to determine how much I need to make 8-10 (pretty large) balls. Thanks in advance! πŸ™‚

  23. Hi Beth,

    I’d would say if you double the ingredients up (so that you are using 1cup etc) you would get one large ball. Good luck! Hope the mothers group enjoy it.

  24. Will try this recipe for sure. I recently made some using standard food colouring but it was so garish and really lacked the depth and range that your natural dyes seem to achieve. Also wanted to say that your blog looks fantastic – really nicely designed!

  25. I linked to your blog for this recipe :o) I love your site and can’t wait for more fun, beautiful tutorials! Thank you so much for sharing!

  26. Just some FYI: Someone said to add baking soda to turmeric to create red: I tried it but the mixture turns bright yellow when it meets up with the cream of tarter, etc. Darn! I was so looking forward to the bright red! I think I’ll use some herbal tea instead.

  27. Hi Regina,

    Thanks for the information. I did the same too – bum!!! I have an idea to achieve red but haven’t tried it yet. If you boil red cabbage down it makes the most wonderful blue/purple dye but when you add the cream of tartar it turns the most amazing pink. Maybe you could make some bright pink playdough then knead turmeric in at the end? If not red then I’m sure it would make an amazing red/orange.

  28. I haven’t tried it, but there is also liquid Chlorophyll sold in natural food stores. It might work to turn it green.

  29. Why is so much salt used in the recipe?

    Love the playdough and all the creative ways of making it colored dough!

  30. Hi Tammy – the salt acts as a preservative. Without it it wouldn’t have a very long shelf life πŸ™‚

  31. Hi -Great web-site with really lovely ideas. I’m going to try and use this play dough as an eco-friendly alternative to styrofoam for dried flower arrangements. Do you have any idea how well it holds its shape/stays together if you just leave it out for a few weeks? Or even months…..

  32. Hi Moira…thanks for the lovely comments.

    I think it might work?! When you first make your playdough it’s quite soft because it’s warm so maybe pop it in the fridge before you use it.

    It just hardens on the outside over time if left out – it certainly seems to keep it’s form. It loses it’s colour a little and looks quite chalky – so not as attractive. Let me know how you get on.

    Cheerio for now

  33. Hi Tina,

    I think homemade playdough is always a tiny bit grainy.

    When I first started making playdough I thought the same thing so tried boiling the water to fully dissolve the salt but it never seemed to work. I thought it would make the texture smoother.

    At the end of the day I think it’s just a case of getting used to the different texture?

    Shop bought playdough is smoother with a finer texture. Better for picking up fine detail.
    Homemade playdough is ever so slightly grainy with a softer texture. Great for littler ones as it’s easier to manipulate…wonderful for hand/foot prints.

    Homemade playdough wins hands down for me every time because there are:

    No plastic containers that can’t be recycled
    No mysterious ingredients
    My kids LOVE to measure out all the ingredients and stir it together

    Blimey…what a ramble!

  34. We just made this! Well instead of doing some work tonight I finished off the 3 balls and had a great time. I accidentally missed the part where you put the mixture back on the stove so it’s extra grainy. Will just have to make it again. I can’t wait til our son wakes up in the morning to some cool cookie cutters and fresh playdoh. Thanks Kate. xxx

  35. Thanks for the link Karen…the playdough table at the market looks like a lot of fun…great way of keeping the kiddiwinks entertained. Have fun x

  36. I am the crafty person in my family with all the Grandkids and nieces and nephews and your blog is the bomb! Thank you for sharing everything with all of us.
    My Grandkids love markers that smell…just wait til they see this! Blessings

  37. Hi Kate! I did the play dough yesterday, it turned out wonderful. And I managed to get green one, too! My daughter kept pestering me about wanting some blue and green one, so I made blue one using methyl blue (it’s a disinfectant for small wounds in my country but my aunt used ink and it turned out equally beautiful) and then I kneaded it vigorously with a batch of yellow one. You have to put more yellow and less blue for a more intense green. The color was beautiful, we made lots of leaves and flowers with it. I will post it tomorrow and leave a link for you to see.
    I did the yellow with curry mix, because I had no turmeric and the brown with water in which I boiled cinnamon sticks, cloves and a bit of instant coffee, as I had no oak tree bark at hand. For red I used some food coloring, but I want to try next the raspberry mixture. Thanx for all the great ideas, you’re an inspiration to me!

  38. Just stumbled your post. I’ve been looking for a good play dough recipe and now I can make it even better and healthy for my son to play with. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Um..I made play-dough stuff..It…um…is made with salt, flour….and water. If you put it in the oven for 2-3 hours then it hardens.

    Salt 300g
    Flour 240g
    Water (add gradually so not watery or dry a bit soft)

  40. Hi Georgia,

    That sounds cool…..I’ll have to give it a try. Let me know if you have any other ideas or if there are any other tutorials you might be interested in seeing on minieco!

    Cheerio for now, Kate πŸ™‚

  41. The creme of tartar is important. The dough will have a nicer texture if you use it. Another hint — if you undercook the dough and it is too sticky you can fix it by microwaving it. Flatten it out on a plate and microwave it for many short times (maybe 2 minutes at a time. I forget exactly). Moisture will come out of the dough onto the plate so wipe the plate dry each time after you zap it in the microwave. Beware of the hot dough and hot plate.

  42. Another thing about the sticky Playdo. You may need to mix extra flour into the dough as well –a small handful at a time.

  43. I’ve used the same ingredients and quantities but skipped the stove stage by using boiling water and just mixing quickly! Herbal tea-bags work well, but some of the colours are less intense than others, so you may need several bags! A bonus of using the tea bags is that they make your dough smell *amazing* πŸ™‚

  44. I love using freshie (Kool-aid) in my playdough since it leaves a nice smell and colours the dough too:) But the ‘colour’ does stay on the fingers for awhile:)
    Thanks for this wonderful site! It’s fun to work with kids doing crafts – even us ‘creative grandmas!’ πŸ™‚

  45. Hi Amelia, I’m pretty sure you can leave the cream of tartar out. It just acts as an additional preservative (and gives a slightly better texture) so might not last so long. Good luck!

  46. Hi Amber…no it won’t. Google ‘salt dough’ or ‘cold porcelain’ if you want something that does.

  47. Okay this is a great recipe I doubled the recipe to make more and what I did to make it a little quicker was I took half cup of maraschino cherries juice and a half a cup of water I stuck it in the microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes then I added the rest of the recipe and the Play dough was gone in seconds and it smelled like cherries

  48. I’m sorry but what is the “cream of tartare”
    Because as I’m french the only thing that come to my mine is cheese πŸ™

  49. Hi,

    Its used in baking (it’s a powder). Apparently is is called ‘potassium tartrate acide’ or ‘crΓ¨me de tarter’ in French and you can buy it from Chemists or specialist baking stores ^_^

  50. If you follow the recipe, the cream of tartar will be an acid. I’ve made a similar recipe with baking soda instead and it appears to still be fine.

  51. Thank you so very much for helping me make moments of bonding and memories to last a lifetime with my four year old. We used black berries for fuscia and turmeric for yellow. So much fun!

  52. As a kid my mom made homemade playdough. I used to eat little bits all the time. It was always too salty for me to eat much. I’m almost 38 and very healthy. (I also swallow gum and have no GI issues!)

  53. Hello,

    I want to make a natural skin coloured playdoh as we want to make faces, but i just cant think of anything to use to achieve this colour.

    Any tips?


  54. Methyl Blue is a very intense dye I have found in the chemical cabinet at the University I attend, I’ve never heard it used as a disinfectant, does it stain? Curry and instant coffee, brilliant! For red there is also Anatto powder, I found mine in the cultural isle of the supermarket with most of the other Mexican spices. For yellow would Dandelion flowers work? So many questions! I remember as a kid I would go outside and spend hours collecting flowers and leaves to crush and use to paint rocks, inspiration after reading a book about the Indian Paintbrush flower. I guess the same applies for this as well

  55. I made homemade play dough recently and I substituted corn starch instead of cream of tartar and it worked great! I used a play dough recipe that also had jello in it though, so it might be different with this recipe. Wouldn’t hurt to give it a try though! πŸ™‚

  56. I made homemade play dough recently and I used popcorn salt (very fine salt) and it worked great, not grainy at all! I used a recipe that used jello though, so I don’t know if that would effect it or not. Wouldn’t hurt to try! πŸ™‚ If you cant find popcorn salt I’m sure you could grind up normal salt in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, food processor, ect.

  57. I don’t know about lemon juice, but I did corn starch instead and it worked great! πŸ™‚

  58. this recipe is really great! this year i tried to colour easter eggs with natural dye but it didn’t work out the way i wanted it and i was upset and thought i’d never try anything with natural dye again. but when i found your tutorial i decided to give it a 2nd chance and it was really worth it. the making of was as funny as playing with it with my son πŸ™‚ i also tried capsicum powder for orange and mallow for a dark red. thank you for your wonderful blog! <3

  59. Don’t forget that you can mix colors to make more variety like putting the tumeric with the rose water to make orange. I found this website looking for good playdough recipes for my preschool class and it is nice that I can actually find all of the ingredients here in Taiwan (very rare for most western DIY projects). I even have a jar of spirullina capsules and powdered turmeric at home as well as frozen raspberries and strawberries and a few cans of beets.

  60. I love your blog:) I have been making homade playdough for the past I would use cool aid or food coloring..we have become extremely holistic being aware of harmful chemicals.. my awesome girls six and nine have decided to for go trick or treating…we are going to have an awesome Organic candied halloween party..I want to make pumpkin spice/pie playdough..what can I use to get bright orange? I have used tumric before as a dye for cloths never playdough..I love the rustic color of it..I will settle for the yellow the tumric made in the above photo..but would really like orange..does the tumric smell go away? I also bought from Whole Foods, the natural plant bassed blue and yello..not sure what the consistency needs to be , how many drop exct…

  61. Hi Victoria. I would go for a mixture of beetroot and turmeric (the turmeric is actually quite bright yellow – you’ll be surprised). It doesn’t really smell either (especially if you add other scents to the dough – like whole-spice or something).

    Not sure about quantities. Just make sure your water is a really deep orange and it should dye the dough accordingly.

  62. Thanks for sharing. The turmeric did in fact turn bright red! Yay, now i dont haveto waste any sstrawberries! Awesome!

  63. Someone mentioned getting a beautiful blue by boiling red cabbage but that it turned pink after adding the cream of tartar. Could arrowroot be substituted for cream of tartar to achieve similar results without changing the color?

  64. I boiled the red cabbage with water and then prepared two pans, one with the cream-of-tartar recipe as above, and one with baking soda IN PLACE OF cream-of-tartar. The first came out a lovely pink, the second, blue!! A little grey blue, but definitely blue. So, just make sure you use only baking soda and no cream-of-tartar in the blue batch, cause red cabbage is an acid base indicator. Baking soda is basic, and cream-of-tartar is acidic. Same goes for Tumeric, if you want red, use baking soda in the flour mixture, but no cream of tartar. If you want yellow, use only cream-of-tartar. Thanks for this great recipe!!

  65. My granddaughter decorates cakes and we’ve been looking for natural food dyes. Will these work for cake frosting without leaving flavor behind?

  66. Kate

    Thanks for the inspiration and to all the many posts below with their experiences and additional findings.

    My results –
    Intention – RED – raspberries and cream of tartar – turned out Hot Pink. No raspberry fragrance.

    Also tried to make RED with turmeric, fruit of the forrest tea and baking soda (as oppose to cream of tartar) as suggested in a couple of posts (apparently successful), however turned out Rustic Orange/Yellow. I added hot pink food gel to save it and it turned Rustic Orange/Red. Still not the Bright Red I was hoping for. Will leave Fruit of the Forrest tea out next time. Perhaps that had something to do with colour not working out.

    Intention – YELLOW – turmeric, lemon rind, squeeze of lemon and cream of tartar – turned out Vibrant Yellow. Smells slight lemon.

    Intention – BLUE – red cabbage, lavender and baking soda – turned out Grey Blue (as done before and mentioned in previous posts). No lavender fragrance, so will leave out next time. Would love to hear about other suggestions for a Brighter Blue

    Intention – GREEN – spinach, peppermint tea and cream of tartar – turned out – Porcelain Cream. (Perhaps shouldn’t have included peppermint tea for fragrance sake). Please share if have any other suggestions to achieve vibrant green. Thanks

    As Green turned Porcelain and Red turned Hot Pink, I ran out of ideas and time and just used Red food colouring in the Porcelain coloured batch to achieve Bright Red. Would love to hear other successes for a natural Bright Red colour.


  67. I make play dough for a childcare center I work at. My recipe is similar, I have found that KoolAid is a good coloring agent, smells great, very safe. By using oil, cream of tartar and salt the play dough last forever. You can rejuvenate it by adding water and kneading it. You can also make figures out of it and bake them to preserve them. Great dough.

  68. Love this recipe and have been making play dough for my son. However the beet pink soon turns to brown. Is there anyway one can get it to stay pink? Thanks

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