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Spore Print Tutorial

One of the frequently asked questions during the opening events at Roger Tory Peterson's "Art that Matters to the Planet" exhibition was "How did you make the spore prints?" Many thought they were photos or a different kind of print, and a few knew about spore prints but didn't realize how easy they are to make. So, I made a quick tutorial about how I did it.


Fresh Mushroom caps



Tray or box

Clear plastic box

eye dropper

Spray Fix

Gather your mushroom caps. Select specimens that have no veil covering the gills and are opened up fairly flat.

If they are too dome-shaped they will not make a clear print. (See below.)

This one was too dome-shaped and didn't work. Also, it still had part of a veil over the gills.

These were too dry and far gone to drop spores, but this is how you cut the stem off.

I used black or white paper and even tried clear mylar. You will have to experiment with what color paper to use because the spores might be dark or light. Peek into the gills or pores with a magnifying glass and you might get a clue.

Put the paper on a tray, so you can move it if needed. Carefully arrange the caps gill-side down on your paper. You can do singles (perhaps to use for identification) or group them however you like.

Take an eye dropper and place a drop of plain water in the center of each cap. This will encourage it to release the spores.

Place in an out-of-the-way can get stinky, so maybe not in the dining room…and put a cover such as a clear Sterilite box over the whole lot.

Prop up the box a little to let air flow, but you don't want a draft, it will make the spores drift and your print will not be as clear.

Wait a few hours, I usually give it 24 hours, then remove the box, carefully peel up the caps and discard. What you have left on the paper is a spore print. It will smear, so don't touch it.

I coated mine with artist's spray fix, but they are not totally smear-proof after 12 coats!

Troubleshooting: No print? The mushroom might have been too dry. Can't see it well? Try a different color paper. Looks fuzzy, with no gills showing? Cap might not be flat enough, or there might have been a draft. (See below.)

The fuzzy parts of this print are pretty cool, but if the whole thing was like that, I would have been disappointed. Parts of those mushrooms were too far from the paper and the spores drifted.

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