How to Press Seaweed for Art
Here is the ultimate guide to creating beautiful art from the ocean. Pressing and drying seaweed to make art and home decor is easier than you might think, it's a great way to get creative with nature, and it’s lots of fun. Let us show you how...
British Red Seaweed being positioned on watercolour paper for pressing
This is a great way to get outside for a walk and into nature, especially with children during the holidays, and you can collect seaweed at any time of the year. All you need is access to a beach, and a few other supplies such as watercolour paper, heavy books, and some mesh fabric in order to press your pieces of seaweed.
4 of the Red Seaweed Art Prints from Beach House Art - click image for more
A Quick Introduction to the Seaweed Found on the UK's Beaches
There are over 600 species of seaweed in the waters around the British Isles and these are grouped into 3 different taxonomy categories; brown, red and green. No two specimens are the same and they are all uniquely beautiful.
A quick video of positioning seaweed ready to be dried & pressed
We collected seaweed from the south coast of the Isle of Wight and the west coast of Cornwall to make pressings for art prints, and watercolour prints.
Through the summer we mostly found red seaweed, in autumn and winter, we see more green and brown.
See what you can find in your local area.
The Tools You'll Need to create your own beautiful seaweed art
- Something to collect seaweed in, such as a bucket, zip and seal bags or a water bottle
- Watercolour paper - the thicker the better. We buy ours from Hobby Craft
- A large rectangular bucket or a deep oven tray
- A fine mesh fabric, such as muslin or perhaps an old pillowcase. But man made fibers are less likely to stick to the seaweed. Something like this
- Small paint brushes, toothpicks, tweezers or chopsticks (to position the seaweed)
- Cardboard or newspaper
- Paper towels
- Old bath/beach towels, or puppy training pads (you can dry these out and reuse them)
- Weighty hardback books
Beach House Art team collecting seaweed in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight
How and When to Collect Seaweed from the beach
Low tide is the perfect time for collecting seaweed specimens as there will be a selection washed up on the beach, you can check the tide times for your local beaches, only collect the seaweed which is unattached rather than taking live seaweed which is attached to rocks.
Fill your buckets or zip bags with the best seaweed you can find and include some seawater to prevent them from drying out whilst you get them home.
Drying and Pressing Seaweed: A Step-by-Step Guide
You will want to keep your seaweed fresh and start the process as soon as you can to ensure the seaweed keeps it's beautiful natural colours.
1. Gather all the tools listed and wash your seaweed in tap water to clean it from debris or sand.
2. Fill your baking tray or bucket with an inch of tepid tap water and submerge a sheet of watercolour paper into it.
3. Take your seaweed and give it a rinse to remove all sand and other debris
4. Gently float it into the water prising it apart with your paintbrush or chopstick to reveal its full form.
Patience is required as it can take some time to get this right, and if you are a perfectionist, you may wish to trim your seaweed to give it a more pleasing shape.
Once you are happy with how your seaweed looks you will need to slowly and carefully lift the paper out of the tray, whilst trying not to disturb the seaweed.
In our experience, this is best done very carefully by first lifting from one end, and letting the water slowly run off the other end, this will trap the seaweed onto the paper, and you can correct small movements afterwards with your tools.
How to Dry & Press the Seaweed to make art
1. Lay your watercolour paper onto cardboard or newspaper and gently dab with paper towels to remove most of the surface water.
2. Next, place a piece of mesh fabric, or muslin over the top of the seaweed to fix it into place and then layer this with old towels - these will soak up water and begin drying the seaweed.
3. On top of these, place weights - large heavy books are perfect for this job.
If you have access to a large flower press you could use this. Or you could make one with two sections of non-porous wood, like a coated MDF, sandwich together, drill holes in all 4 corners through both pieces of wood, and then tread through large screws and wingnuts to tighten then together.
This is a fern weed seaweed pressing we did in 2022 - it's one of our best selling seaweed prints and suits lots of different spaces in your home. We are very proud of this one - check out all the details here.
Drying out Seaweed
The seaweed drying process can take a couple of days or up to 2 weeks, depending on the thickness of the seaweed. Every couple of days you should replace the towels as they soak up the moisture, keep checking on your seaweed pressing and once the watercolour paper is completely dry you can get ready to frame and hang your newly pressed seaweed art.
One of our favourite pastimes is beachcombing, a coastal pleasure at any time of the year!
Painting a Watercolour Seaweed
Helpful Notes & Resources
Useful tip; If any parts of the seaweed need a bit of help sticking to the paper, you can use a dab of glue.
It’s a nice idea to identify your species of seaweed and label your pressing with its name, the date and the beach you collected it from.
For help in identifying British seaweed, we found the book “Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland" very useful.
If you enjoy collecting seaweed and identifying different species, you can contribute to the Natural History Museums Big Seaweed Search.
You can find more information on British seaweed on the NHBS website.
If you do try this at home we'd love to see your pressings, remember to tag us on social media.