Presses for Beginners
Botanical material has two requirements for pressing: pressure and absorbency. Heat and or moving air can accompany these two essentials if desired, but without these two, you cannot press flowers and leaves.
You can press simply with any book that has absorbent pages (phone directories are popular) with evenly dispersed weight placed on top of them. The simplest method involves placing flowers on the pages, (not too densely, so as to allow for good absorbency), turn over about ¼ inch of pages, place flowers, etc., until the directory is full. Place a large book on top of the phonebook, and then add more weight (weights, or 3-4 large books will do). It will take about 4-6 weeks to dry your flowers, depending on local humidity levels. Flowers can be stored in phone books as well.
The botanical press consists of two hard surfaces (usually wood) that are screwed together around a sandwich of blotting paper and flowers. The blotting paper provides the needed absorbency and the screws provide the pressure. Presses are available from many online sources, as is the blotting paper. Flowers dry in 4-6 weeks, and can be stored in the press if desired.
Microwave presses have been in use for several years now, and are available online. They consist of a hard surface (plastic or hardwood) that is clipped together to provide pressure, and absorbent wool pads that absorb the moisture from the flowers. They use heat from the microwave to accelerate the process of evaporation, and usually work best when used for short blasts with cooling time in between. Color retention can be very good with some flowers; others become too thin and brittle in the microwave. Flowers are dry in a few hours, and are usually stored in a different location after the drying process is complete.
There are other types of presses and more advanced methods of pressing. One of the perks of membership in the World Wide Pressed Flower Guild is having access to our Pressed Flower Database, where we list recommendations for pressing specific flowers.