Wednesday 5 August 2015

Working with wooden surfaces

I do a lot of mixed media work and this is the first time I am actually writing a related tutorial. Your feedback is appreciated :)

I started with these wooden cars (some of them are smudged from corners since they have already been painted on the other side by my 3 yo daughter!) . 

STEP - 1
Prepare the surface

There are many ways to 'prepare' a surface that can hold your choice of paints and colours. I usually use a Gesso as base and then one or two layers of acrylic paint. I don't often use a paint brush for the base as I don't particularly like the visible brush strokes. To get an even coat using brushes, you will need to do it multiple times, allowing drying-time in between coats. I am not that patient, though you might notice that for this particular tutorial I have used brushes everywhere (solely for to get things done quicker). 

I use Ranger cut-n-dry foam to prepare the base (check this link).  The left side in below pic is done using brush and right side using foam. The difference is huge! Two coats using foam gives a very smooth surface.
Paint brush Vs Foam - coating the surface

I cut small squares of about 1" to 1.5" and they last a long time if you wash them immediately each time after using them. There are two side of this foam -  Black side is less porous and White side is normal foam. Black one works best to cover large surface/base  and white one works best for stenciling using inks/acrylics. Black side actually absorbs less and spreads the colour better. In the below pic you can see the foam piece I used - the amount of colour you see on it was enough to cover two cars!
Foam square used with acrylic

With acrylic as base keep in mind that they are water based but when dry, they allow very little interaction. If you try multiple coats of different colours, you can see that coats do not mix, even when you use extra water. 
There are different types of acrylic - thin, heavy-body, low pigment, high pigment, translucent, opaque. The usual ones we get from craft shops are medium pigment and dry pretty quickly. Docrafts Artiste acrylic that i have used here is touch dry in about half an hour and i use my heat gun to shorten it to 5 minutes. There is another one I use called PaperArtsy Fresco Finish which is touch dry in 5 minutes without the heat gun. 

If you want to work with the 'Raw' wooden look - get a coat of clear drying gesso. Using the wooden surface without a base will lead to a lot of 'bleeding'. In the below pic, I stamped using Stazon - can you notice the bleeding on right side car? I do not have clear gesso, so i prepared the surface with clear nail-polish and surprisingly that works well too!

Clear nail paint base coat Vs No base coat. 

STEP - 2
Working on prepared surface

There are a lot of ways you can work on the prepared surface -  stencils, stamping, colouring, etc. I am going to focus on stamping here, though principles are the same for all mediums. Choose your medium carefully at this step (or experiment with the supplies you have ). 

Usual choices are water-based, acrylic-based or alcohol-based mediums. 
Water based mediums are water pencils,usual pigment ink pads, distress inks, water pens. 
Alcohol based mediums are special ink pads like Stazon, Ranger's Archival, alcohol marker pens like Spectrum noir & sharpies, and alcohol inks. 
I only know of one acrylic medium - acrylic paints!

Stamping with water-based medium 

 I tried using normal pigment ink pads and distress ink pads. Pigment ink pads gave a decent result but distress ink pads were disastrous! Pigment ink showed very little bleeding though not as crisp as they are on paper. 

 Stamping with Pigment ink pads and acrylic stamps - decent result

Distress ink showed heavy bleeding, and it turned out to be a little translucent after drying, I could see through to the base slightly.
Stamping with distress ink - heavy bleeding

Stamping with alcohol-based medium 

Alcohol based mediums work so much better on acrylics. No bleeding, crisp images and deep vibrant colours. Alcohol inks are not absorbed readily by acrylics, they really do look vibrant as compared to normal pigment based inks. The pic below shows the difference between Stazon (Left) and pigment ink pads (Right). The colour seem darker with Stazon and detail of the feather crisp, all because alcohol does not interact with acrylic even in the slightest.

Stazon vs Pigment ink pads

Stamping with acrylic-based mediums 

Having never worked with acrylic paints and stamp together, I struggled with it at first. I looked on the internet and tried these techniques to stamp - 

Acrylic stamping methods

 1.  Simplest way - use a make-up sponge to apply paint evenly to the stamp. Okay result, probably not as much cover as i wanted.
2. Spread acrylic paint onto a wet-wipe and use it as stamp pad. It was okay for the line stamp but gave a barely-there look on a solid stamp. Wasted a lot of acrylic too! Not happy.
3. Spread the paint thinly on an acrylic block using a brush and spray with little water and use it as ink pad - line stamp was decent but solid stamp came out gloopy -  too much watery paint on the stamp!

After these not-so-good results I tried using my Ranger cut-n-dry foam  again and I got so much better results! I think it worked because the 'black side' of the foam is not as absorbent as normal sponge, it keeps colour on its surface and at the same time does not allow the stamp to get gloopy with all that paint (the way  acrylic blocks were doing). There probably are many more ways to apply paint on to stamp - google & experiment! 

Controlling the amount of paint that goes onto the stamp is the key factor I guess. Below are my initial attempts at it. From halo-painted to very-little paint -

Stamping with a rubber stamp

Once I got hang of it, I started getting better results. Look at the detailed butterfly in the pic below.
Stamping with Acrylic stamps

Stamping with acrylics paints is definitely a very flexible approach if you can work with it. The colour combinations and the different types available - chalk, pearl, matte, shiny makes it such a versatile medium! Remember to clean your stamps immediately, acrylic once dried is difficult to remove. Get a bowl of soapy water and dip them after use. For wooden mounted stamps, keep a stack of few wet-wipes handy and place them face down on top of the stack afterwards - it will keep the paint moist till you can clean it.

STEP - 3
Sealing your work

This step might or might not be required for your project. I like to seal my mixed media works, but I know of several artists who do not seal theirs. It might also be dependent on what you intend to use your final product as. A wooden tray painted and stamped will need sealing, even if you use Alcohol based medium (they most probably will be water resistant but not alcoholic-drink resistant!). A wall hanging might not need sealing if you don't want it to hang there for long!

Three matte varnishes that I tried for this experiment are Acrylic Varnish,  Spray Varnish and Mod Podge(check the links for more details)

Sealing water based work

This is the most difficult type of art work to seal. Water based work moves easily! I tried acrylic varnish first and  it moved the ink as soon as the brush touched it. 
With Acrylic Varnish

Then I tried ModPodge - same result as normal acrylic based varnish. ( Applied Modpodge in the middle)
With Mod Podge - Matte (on middle of frame)

Lastly I tried spray varnish, sprayed very lightly and the stamped images did not get smudged! I tried to rub my brush on the image to see if this varnish will move the water based ink. I was expecting it to get messy exactly like the other two, but it moved very very slightly. 

With Spray Varnish - ink smudges slightly only when I use the brush

 ( If you are interested in chemistry - I was so curious to see why this varnish was so good, i checked the ingredients and googled them. This Varnish has about 60-90% Alkanes, which are Hydrocarbons, sort of alcohol-sibling but are water insoluble. So it  probably doesnot react with water. AND i am sure it cannot be used on paper - it is going to make paper greasy like your used kitchen tissue paper)
If you are looking for something that will seal your water-based-artwork, read ingredients, check on google if they are alkanes indeed & obviously experiment! AND make sure you read warning labels carefully - this one was slightly irritating to the skin when i sprayed it without moving my hands away. 

Sealing Alcohol and Acrylic based work

I tried sealing both  Acrylic and Stazon stamped images on the same piece and all three varnishes gave good results. Nothing moved, and they all dried to a good matt finish. 

 All varnishes on Stazon(left) and Acrylic(right) 
 Top has spray, middle has acrylic and bottom has Mod Podge

After all varnishes have dried clear

The spray varnish was my favourite again - no brush strokes and a very very light coverage. Though my go-to varnish will still be the docrafts Acrylic based one. For startes it is cheap, has more flow than modpodge and works well with acrylic and paper alike. 

If you have anything to add, please let me know! Always happy to learn! :) 
Questions welcome too! :)
Thursday 11 June 2015

Been ages!

Trying to share my craft work more often from now on!

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful UKSN craft retreat in Oxfordshire. Early morning start, driving 65 kms was well worth it! Came back home at 9:45 pm. Loved the workshops, and it is always good to learn about new products and techniques besides getting to know how others execute the same task.

Here are two of my favourite projects from that day -

 Tissue box holder and tag. 

After this workshop, I started looking at all the stuff i now want to buy. Gilding wax, fresco chalk paints, new dies and masks. Guess how much i need to spend this month? £75.. phew! I keep telling me I don't have a costly hobby (I have seen people spending crazy money for their hobbies), but how can i afford all this and then save some more for my other fashion stuff!! lol!!

Anyways, I have joined UKSN swapping club too. Here are my next set of ATCs (themed 'Wooden' - all of these have a wooden element to them)

Hope to post more often! 

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Melody of my life

:) Made these two cards recently using the itsy bitsy musical embossing folder & itsy bitsy fancy panels cutting dies..

Thanks for looking
Tuesday 8 April 2014

some tall cards

  Made a few Tall cards recently.. Here they are -

submitting the above card to Kraftzone Challenge #4 'Anything goes with Washi n Stamps' (Vintage cars have been stamped & used 2 washi tapes)

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Just for you - CAS

I am not good in making CAS cards at all, however, I loved this stamp so much that i just couldn't cloud this up with other stuff! :)  The stamp has such nice spring feel,  bird houses & butterflies!

Entering this in these two challenges - 

Monday 31 March 2014


Another one of my fav canvas -

Entering this for Lulupu challenge #27 - 2nd birthday special
T - thickers, texture paste, telephone
U- Urban stamps by papermania
P - Pearls, permanent marker, punchinella as mask
C- car 

Wild Canvas

I am making a lot of canvas boards these days, they are not too big, about 5"X7" only..

This is one of my favourites -

the leaves -

P - Paints, PP; L - leaves, C- circles, T - thickers, tree