Materials you'll need:
- Stacks of paper. Any kind will do and I use all kinds. You do not have to have expensive art paper but can use whatever you have on hand. I have learned that the bigger the paper I start with, the more paper I end up with. It just seems faster to paint a few larger pages than lots of smaller ones.
- Acrylic paint.Again, any cheap acrylic will work fine. You may even end up with more variety of pattern if you choose cheap craft paints that are more liquidy than expensive full bodied acrylics. But use whatever you have available. Start with 2-3 colors that you really love together.
- Foam paint brushes. The larger your paper size, the larger brush you will want. But any size will do. I use 1" brushes most often.
- Palette knife, old credit card, or other paint scraper. Experiment with different sizes.
- Foam stamps or rubber stamps with large simple designs. Because we will be stamping with paint instead of ink, images with many details will be lost. Stick to simple designs: swirls, flowers, diamonds, etc. that will look much more complex when they are repeated.
- Large bowl of water (optional)
- Spray bottle of water (optional)
1. The first step to painting patterned papers is to just get the paint onto the paper. Since we will be working with multiple layers, this bottom layer doesn't need to be pretty. In fact, the messier the better. I keep a stack of blank copy paper on my desk to brush off leftover paint, to catch my stamped images that go off the edge of the page, to doodle on, to take notes, to catch spills or whatever. The more varied your background, the more intricate your final designs will be. I hate to waste paint and don't have a sink in my studio for easy clean-up so when I change paint colors, I tend to brush off the excess paint onto plain paper sprayed with a little water that I will later use for making patterned papers or journal pages. If you're just starting out, chose one of your paint colors (maybe the lightest or the darkest hue) and wash it onto your paper with a little water. Don't worry about what it looks like, just get the paint onto the paper.
2. Once you have a stack of color washed papers that are basically dry, you can move on to the second layer. Layer #2 is optional but I like it for adding more texture to my designs. Layer #2 is basically paint scraping and like Layer #1, the main idea is to get the paint onto the paper. You still don't have to worry about your paper looking pretty at this point because you are going to be stamping on top of this layer later, but if you experiment with the paint scraping, you will soon see that you can get some beautiful results that may need no further layering. This is your chance to get messy and play at art!
Start with one of your paint colors and squirt or dribble it right on top of your paper. It takes a lot of paint to cover an entire page so don't be shy about it. Next, take a palette knife, old credit card or other scraping tool and smear the paint around on your page; it's way easier than a brush and gives a completely different effect. Have fun! Now reach for your second color and squirt it right out onto the paper again. Here I focus on covering some of the white parts still showing. Scrap that paint around and enjoy how the colors blend together. Different textures of paper will give different results so experiment with lots of different kinds of paper. The multiple layers of paint will make even tissue paper sturdy in the end. You can stop after your second color or move onto your third color. Because we aren't waiting for the paint to dry, you will have to keep in mind that colors opposite each other on the color wheel mix to create brown. If your paints start to get a little muddy looking, stop and let the paint dry before you move on to another color. The advantage of working with wet paint is, besides working faster, the colors mix together in exciting ways making your final patterns even richer. After scraping on color #3, most of the white on your paper should be covered up. It's ok if a few small spots show through, or you might want to keep the white to add to the composition. Its all up to you. I usually cover my papers at this stage almost completely.
As you can see with these samples, you may want to stop here and use your designs as they are, but I can rarely resist pushing the envelope even further. Sometimes I go back and add more of my first color to bring it back to the top of the composition. Sometimes I add a fourth or a fifth color. Just play and go with your instinct. You are pretty much guaranteed a great result any way you go! (Hint: experiment with using different tones of the same color for a rich tone on tone background. I like the way this one created a suede-like texture to the eye with color alone.)
3. Layer #3 is stamping. I usually start my stamping with a paint color that contrasts with my background layers. Pick your first stamp and evenly brush the paint over the surface of the stamp with your foam brush. (Hint: if you plan on using more than one stamp image on a page, start with your most detailed image on the bottom in a lighter color.) I try to avoid globs of paint and cover the stamp entirely at this stage, but I don't worry if there's a glob or two or if the image isn't perfectly crisp because I like it to look imperfect and a little messy. The most interesting part of the stamping process for me is the overlapping and repeating of pattern, so I always start with covering the entire paper with the stamped image:
Sometimes I stop here, but most often I go on to add another layer of stamping. Chose a second paint color and use the same stamp or experiment with a different image for the next layer. If you use the same image, offset it a bit so the pattern underneath shows through. (Hint: once you've used a stamp, drop it into a bowl of water to keep the paint from sticking and you won't have to run to the sink to clean after each stamping but can scrub them all at the same time when you're done painting for the day.)
From here you can go onto a third color and/or third stamp and keep layering until your heart's content. My favorite thing is to keep layering until I almost lose the initial pattern altogether and can hardly tell where one image starts and another ends. (This is why a simple image can create such a wonderfully intricate design.) On this one, I chose to use the same paint color I used in my background as the final stamping layer to push all the other layers into the background and create the kind of intricate detailing I love:
That's it! You can use this same technique on paper or fabric. For my painted fabrics, I use an inexpensive muslin or canvas fabric torn into manageable pieces. If you're painting fabric, you may find it helpful to mist the fabric with a little water before beginning to help the paint move around a little easier. If you could still use a little more inspiration for designing your own patterned papers and fabrics, take a look at my other designs here.
Now you know all my secrets and you can make your own lovely patterned papers to use in your own art or trade with friends! But be sure and come back here and share them with me if you enjoyed my little tutorial. And have fun creating! xo, debra