Friday, May 26, 2017

Drying and Preserving Flowers for Resin

Give a girl a bunch of flowers and it will last a week.... but give her a resin bangle filled with flowers and it will last forever!

Dried miniature burgundy roses and bright yellow rose petals embedded in a chunky clear resin bangle

Flowers are really important in our lives. We use them to landscape our gardens, as tokens of our love and affection, we eat and brew some, and we enjoy the fragrance of others. There are so many ways we use them.

So it makes sense that we'd want to preserve them forever in resin. Whether it's a posy of flowers from the garden, a bunch of flowers from Mother's Day or a wedding bouquet, using them in resin or other crafts is a great way of remembering that occasion or the person who gave them to you.

Unfortunately, you can't take a beautiful fresh flower and place it in resin. It will become brown, sludgy or mouldy in a short time. Flowers and other organic materials need to be thoroughly dried before they can be embedded in resin. So, here are the techniques I use.
4 ways to dry flowers and petals ready for embedding in resin

I've tried a few different drying methods and some of my results have been really good and some not so good. I want to share both the successes and the failures with you. 

The methods I've used to dry flowers and petals are: 
  • silica gel 
  • salt 
  • a dehydrator 
  • microwave flower press kit
The first three methods keep the flower's or the petal's shape so that they're 3D. The last one presses them flat.
Flower drying equipment: silica gel and the Microfleur microwave flower press in two sizes.
At the back: medium silica gel beads; large silica gel beads, small microwave flower press.
In the front: fine silica gel sand, large microwave oven flower press

Drying Flowers and Petals to Keep their Shape

The first thing I tried was silica gel. The process is really simple. I use a microwave-safe container when I'm using silica gel because I need quick results and the microwave will certainly give you that. You just place a layer of desiccant in the bottom of the container - I found that 1-2cm (1/2"-1") was sufficient. Then place your blooms and carefully spoon over another layer of desiccant as thick as the first layer.
Place the petal on a bed of silica gel sand and then cover it with a layer of silica gel before microwaving.

Set the container aside and let the silica gel get to work - it can take a few days for the flowers to dry out. It varies from flower to flower. My preferred flower-drying silica gel includes drying times for many different flowers in the instructions.

Or, if you're in a hurry like me and only need petals, place the container into the microwave on 50% power for 60 seconds.
Always use 50% power and short bursts when microwaving flowers.

Check the petals to see how they're going ...

... If they feel like parchment, they're done. 

... They'll be fragile but they shouldn't be brittle. If they crumble, you've overcooked them - shorten the time for the next batch.

... If they feel silky, they're not done yet. Continue drying them at 10-second intervals (always at 50% power) until they feel papery all over. 

Each flower will be different - fleshy flowers will take longer and some flowers will darken and some will fade. Some won't be successful so it's a good idea to record your results for future reference.

Once they're dried, use a soft brush to dust them off and store them in an airtight container with a little bit of silica gel to keep them dry until you're ready to use them.
Dried rose petals sitting on a bed of blue silical gel in an airtight containers with some dessicant in the bottom to keep them dry.

Now, to the Results....

The Failures!

You can see from the photos below that not all silica gels will give you equal results. Each of the three Silica gel products I tried preserved the shape and colour of the petals really well but the first brand I tried had large round beads. Notice how deeply dimpled these mint leaves are.
Pockmarks are left all over the leaves by large silica gel beads. Make sure you use a fine crystal or sand.

These leaves were dried with Dri Splendor which I found in the dried flower section at Michael's. Unfortunately, the results were the same whether I set the container aside for a few days to work its magic or whether I sped up the drying process in the microwave - pockmarked botanicals!
Large dimples spoil these dried botanicals. Use a finer silica gel or sand for a better result when drying.

These crystals aren't my favourite for this purpose but they'll be great for putting in containers with my dried flowers to keep them dry.

I also tried some finer crystals that I sourced from a local supplier. These orangey-coloured beads are much smaller in size and they turn a greeny-blue when they've reached their moisture-holding capacity. Even these smaller beads left dimples.
Fine dimples are left behind by these medium size silica gel beads. Use a fine sand or crystal for better results.

And whilst I'm disappointed with the dimpling, the colours are really well preserved.

The Successes!

Next, I tried Activa's Flower Drying Art and finally, I got the results I was looking for. Petals were beautifully preserved. They were covered with a fine layer of silica dust but this is easily brushed away with a soft brush.
Perfectly dried rose petals ready for embedding in resin. These were dried in Activa Flower Drying Art crystals.

I also tried cooking salt (aka kosher salt) and I found this worked almost as well as the Activa silica gel. The only difficulty I had was that the salt clumped around the entire petal and it was sometimes difficult to chip the salt away without damaging the petal. But the results were excellent and it's extremely economical.

Petals dried in the dehydrator preserved the colours (and sometimes intensified them) better than any of the other methods. They became more leathery and less brittle and generally twisted so they are better suited to potpourri or wedding confetti rather than for embedding in resin. It took a few hours for them to dry but the advantage was being able to do so many all at once.
Deyhydrators work well for drying petals but they are better suited to making potpourri than for embedding in resin.

With many wedding venues and churches banning traditional paper confetti these days, the dehydrator drying method is a great way to make your own eco-friendly confetti to toss over the newlyweds. 

If you're going to use the petals for potpourri, add a few drops of essential oil to the petal mix to give them a fragrance boost. If you're using a dehydrator, the instructions should give you a guide as to what setting you should use and how long you should dry the petals and flowers for.

Pressing Flowers in the Microwave

Now, on to the Microfleur. This is such a good invention. You can press flowers in the microwave without a Microfleur but the Microfleur makes pressing flowers really easy.

You simply lay out your petals (I didn't press the whole flower, just the individual petals)...
 Place petals on the cotton pad in the Microfleur for perfectly pressed and preserved petals.

 ....and sandwich them between the cotton, the wool felt and the plates. There are clips to hold it all together. 

Then it goes into the microwave at 50% power. That's really important. 

To see what happens when you use full power, scroll down to the bottom of the post. 😞

I found that the large Microfleur needed longer - generally 1 minute to start with - whereas the smaller 5" Microfleur worked in as little as 30 seconds.
The Microfleur is ideal for pressing large batches of petals in a short time.

Check how the petals feel - they should be papery but not brittle. If needed, microwave in short bursts until they are completely dry. Once again, keep records of what you do - it really helps. Notice how the petals have changed colour - the pink petals became mauve.
Check that the petals are papery after being microwaved for a minute. They shouldn't be brittle. If they are, shorten the time for the next batch.

Here's a geranium from my garden.
Place the blossom and petals between the cotton layers and then sandwich them in the Microfleur for pressing in the microwave.

The colour change was really dramatic! This geranium was really difficult to remove and it's really fragile - I had to use a toothpick to gently ease it off the cloth. 
Pinks and purples tend to darken when they are pressed in the microwave.

This wedding bouquet was full of bright tropical colours...
Tropical wedding bouquet ready for preserving.

But when dried, it took on all these lovely soft vintagey colours.... you'd never guess they were the same flowers!
Bridal bouquet blooms preserved ready to be turned into a resin bangle to preserve the memories forever.

The colours almost always change and the only way to know what will happen to your flowers is to test them out. Here are some of the results I got:

How flowers change colour after drying them

Most of the strong colours became deeper after drying and the light colours became paler.

But vibrant yellows and oranges stayed true to their original colour.

Some of the reds went black and some of the whites I dried became a little brown... but nowhere near as brown as this wrist corsage that was dried naturally.
Naturally dried flowers will lose all their colour in time. These roses were white when they were fresh.

If you've stuck around this long, you deserve to see my disasters too! Here's my first set of felt pads and cotton liners - charred into oblivion by forgetting to use 50% power. Fleshy flowers and 100% power in the microwave actually caused the cotton liner to catch fire... which was a bit scary!!
Scorched cotton liners and felt pads from overheating the Microfleur in the Microwave

And here's my second - singed, but still useable! Luckily, you can buy replacement pads. These are the 5" pads but you can also get replacements for the 9" Microfleur.
Burnt felt pad and cotton liner from a Microfleur microwave flower press

So now you've seen how I do it, go raid your garden... or take a walk in your neighbourhood to see what you can find... and experiment!

And of course, this is a great way to preserve a special bouquet. Once the petals are dry, pop them into resin and you have a bouquet that will last forever!

And now that you know how to dry your flowers, you need to know how to treat them before you put them in resin. See this video for 5 Ways to Seal Dried Petals Ready for Embedding in Resin.

Pin it for later!
Pressed pink rose petals compared with fresh pink rose petals inspiration sheet

4 best tips for drying flowers inspiration sheet

Happy Resining!

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Would you like to comment?

  1. Do you use a sealer before putting the flowers in resin? If so, what brand have you found works best?

    1. Most times, yes. But not always. A few times, my petals have become translucent or partially translucent where the resin has entered the cells of the flower, so sealing them is a good safeguard against that happening. Take a look at this video which shows you some of the methods I use for sealing them:

  2. If you pull the liners of the Microfleur from corner to corner, the flowers will usually pop off without damage. For some reason geraniums stick to the liners more than other flowers and it is important to loosen them a bit before removing. However, unless flowers are over-processed this is not usually a problem. Beginners should start with pansies, violas and ivy, which are had to mess up.
    Generally burned pads are due to using too long a cycle, though the power level can also be a cause. Start with three bursts of 25, 20 and 15 seconds and increase from there. Wipe the platens of moisture between cycles.

    1. Thanks for sharing your really great tips! I especially like the one of pulling the opposite corners of the cotton liner to release the flowers.

  3. Thank you so much for this excellent info! Very grateful. Please can you tell me more about the salt option? Did you use the microwave to dry them or did you just cover them in salt and wait, and if so how long did it take. I want to dry really small wild flowers in their 3D form, so I'm guessing the size of the silica needs to be as small as possible? I look forward to our reply.

    1. I use the salt in the microwave too, because it's so quick. You do exactly the same thing as you would with silica sand. Cover the bottom of the container with cooking salt, place the flowers on top and then gently spoon more salt around and over them. Then microwave them. You will have to be very careful removing the salt as it clumps around the flowers.

  4. Hi Mylene, my mother-in-law recently passed away and I have the small baby rosebuds still in the rosary from her casket. I want to dry them but try to preserve the rich red color. What would be the quickest but not too expensive way to dry them whole?
    I would also like to use some petals to make earrings. Again the quickest way to dry them so the rich color remains?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Lil
      I'm so sorry to hear your sad news and my heart goes out to you and your family. The earrings will be a lovely way to always remember her.
      One of the things about drying red roses is that they often darken when you dry them so they may end up dark red but that is better than pale colours which tend to fade.
      Silica sand is the best method for drying the petals 3D. It is so fine that you can get it down inside the layers of the petals. You can get quite good results with table salt as a cheap alternative but it's harder to get the salt out because it clumps together and the petals will be brittle and easily damaged once dried.
      For individual petals for earrings, press them flat (that will make the resin part of the process MUCH easier). You can't beat the Microfleur for doing this but in a pinch, place the petals between some papertowel or other absorbent paper (untextured if you can find it) and place a microwave-safe plate on top to keep them flat. Follow the instructions above to dry them in the microwave to help retain the colour.
      Have you seen my video on how to make rose petal earrings? You can check it out here:
      In time, the flowers may take on a vintage look as they petals fade a little and the resin begins to yellow. That will be different for each different brand of resin.

  5. I'm new to preparing fresh flowers for use in a resin project. Can you tell me what "sealer" is used after having used the dessicant on the flowers?

    1. Take a look at this blog post. It will walk you through the methods I use:


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