Archive for November, 2012


New Sketch: Car Help

November 30, 2012

As I was running errands yesterday, I spotted these two gentlemen in a parking lot helping a woman fix her car. I made a quick sketch and then finished it up later that evening. 8.5 x 11 inches with a Uniball Gelstick pen.



Final Review of Wet media Dura-Lar Film

November 28, 2012

Now that I’ve done a variety of tests on the Dura-Lar Wet Media Film from Grafix, I think it’s time to give a final review.
Here are links to the last three reviews, by the way:
Acrylics and other media

To get straight to the point, I like what I’ve seen with this film as a surface for painting and drawing, and would have no problems using it, but my primary choice is still traditional surfaces like paper or canvas. There are several things good about it compared to those other art surfaces, and many things that are unique. There are some negative issues to consider, as well. Nothing’s ever perfect. I will also make some suggestions at the end of this post on how to mount this film for presentation of the arwork.

Their advertising material describes this film as “archival, acid free, lays flat, heat resistant, non-tearing, clear and coated on 2 sides for water-based mediums, will not bead, chip or run.” I don’t particularly like using the word “archival” for art materials, since it’s too vague a term, but I can’t think of a better one, so I’ll just take their word that their testing proves it will last a long time. Everything else I read about polyester film supports that claim. I have no fair means to test “acid free,” certainly not over just the last few days of use. “Lays flat” pertains to not needing to tape or tack the surface down before painting as you would with paper when using water-based media, and that is correct. The film doesn’t warp when drying the media under a hair dryer, which is the only heat I would ever expose it to. I don’t know what the melting point is exactly. If I hold it close to a match it will melt, so the back seat of a car on a hot sunny day might not be a good place for it, or any artwork for that matter. If you nick the edge with a knife or scissors it is very easy to tear, but on an undamaged edge it cannot be torn by hand. It is very clear and can be painted on both sides. I didn’t notice any beading up or chipping of paint after it dried, but I’m not sure what they mean by not running. Maybe they are referring to the wet paint not spreading out in a large stain as watercolor can do on unsized paper. I’ll see if I can get them to clarify that point when I send them my feedback.

The biggest advantage for using this surface in my mind is the large size rolls that are offered at a good price point. The list price for a 4 x 12 foot roll is $48. Canvas at that size would be expensive and much heavier. Paper at that size that is acid free and thick enough to not react badly to water would be very hard to come by, and all these other mediums require some sort of preparation beforehand to accept the paints. There’s no need to prepare this surface in any way, so no sizing or priming, just start painting. I am very pleased with how well all the paints and inks I’ve tested on this work, even when the paint is very wet. Other than painting on glass, I can’t think of anything else that is clear, and allows me to see paint on the back as well as the front. The film surface will also not react to changes in humidity like canvas or paper, which cause problems with paints over time. Being able to easily wash off paint or ink is a bonus feature that allows me to reuse it over and over again, as well as make corrections.

As for negative points, the major concern I have is long term adhesion of paint due to how easy the media scratches off. On one hand, that also works as a feature, since you can create texture in the work that is not as easy to do on other surfaces, and it allows you to clean it off to reuse it again. However, if the paint is not stuck strongly to the surface will it lose adhesion over time? Paint on prepared canvas, paper, or wood panels adheres better. Still, I would rate the adhesion here as good, but not ideal. Bear in mind, graphite, charcoal, and pastels don’t have much adhesion to paper either. Paint that can be varnished would be protected from accidental scratches, and other media can be mounted under glass when small sizes allow; otherwise, be extra careful with the finished pieces, especially in storage. The film is very thin (.004 inches thick,) and if it’s not carefully handled it can get dented or creased, which cannot be fixed. This is a concern if you order single sheets, since they could get damaged in transit. That has happened to me when I’ve ordered sheets of drafting film that I had to return. The thin sheets could also be a problem for thick impasto areas of oil or acrylic paint due to the added weight. The glossy surface is like polished glass, and can be distracting, but there are ways to matte it down some with thinned paint, as I’ve discussed in earlier posts. If you don’t plan to leave areas unpainted then that shine won’t be a problem.

Some suggestions I will make to Grafix is to offer a thicker size option, and maybe a matte surface, as well as possibly offering tinted colors.

In order to mount this surface, my first choice is to use their Double-Tack tape. This comes in sheets up to 2 x 3 feet. It’s a dry mount, so there’s no worry about the glue drying before you get everything placed. It’s not difficult to peel the film off of it, however, so I’m still looking for a more permanent adhesive. Acrylic gels work okay, but they dry quickly, which is a problem for large pieces. You can also see spots in the gel where it dries unevenly, even on smooth surfaces, which is a special problem for unpainted areas or drawings. This is most visible when reflected glare appears on the surface. Double-Tack also has this speckled look, but it’s more evenly dispersed. This condition is illustrated in the image above. I’m showing the film stuck to smooth mat board with acrylic gel, and film stuck with Double-Tack to a sheet of acrylic that I use for framing. That speckled texture is most visible in reflected areas, and shows through in transparent paint washes through the film. Of course, it’s not required that the whole sheet be glued down. You could just mount it with strips at the top as is done with watercolor paper, but that requires using a mat that you might not want. Also, when the sheet is loose like that, the media on the surface can cast distracting shadows underneath. I will ask Grafix for their recommendations, and keep experimenting with different adhesives as time permits.

You can purchase the film straight from Grafix, or various online stores. The single sheets and pads are easy to find, but the only place I found that carried it in rolls other than Grafix was Hyatts. Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Acrylics and Other Media on Wet Media Film

November 27, 2012

For my final media test on Dura-Lar Wet Media Film from Grafix, I will show results of using watercolor, casein, acrylic, and various inks and markers on this surface.

Before starting my watercolor test I wanted to reuse two of the film sheets I had tested gouache samples on earlier. It was a simple matter to wash away the dried paint in the sink rinsing them off with water. The magenta paint was a heavy staining pigment (PR122) so it took a little more effort. Soap and water got most of it, but there was still a faint stain left behind, as seen in the image on the left.

Acetone & Alcohol

I figured this would be a good opportunity to see how acetone and alcohol affected this film surface in order to remove the last bit of pigment. I cut off two small pieces and dripped one in acetone for a few seconds. When I wiped it dry I didn’t see any sign of damage, but was wondering how the special coating that makes the film accept paint might have faired. I painted a little bit of gouache back on it, and the paint behaved just the same as before, even as a thin wash. Alcohol on the other film piece didn’t cause a problem either.



Watercolor performed just as well as the gouache paint on this surface, not surprisingly. You can see with the cadmium yellow how the amount of water causes the paint to fade very well. Being able to see through both sides gives you a particular advantage here that you can’t get when using watercolor on paper. Casein also performed well on this surface and there’s nothing more to add to that I haven’t already stated.


This is a scan of a few acrylic paint swatches and mediums. After waiting a few minutes to dry, it’s easy to scratch off. The paint tears and peels instead of making a clean scratch. It’s a weak bond but adequate. The drying time is also still slower on this than on other surfaces. The sample of Golden’s GAC 100 medium shows how it can give the shiny surface more of a matte sheen, but brushmarks still show up clearly. I also noticed how the thicker mediums made the film pucker slightly when they dried due to their shrinkage.

Below is a picture of various inks and markers on the film. I’m still seeing very good performance from them. The only one of these that didn’t do well was the Uniball Gelstick pen, which has a hard metal point and did not leave very good marks. The best working markers were those that had soft tips, especially those with brush tips. Steel point nibs also did well, as did the various inks using a brush. Those are crowquill marks to the right of the brush swatches. In the bottom right corner I show a swatch of ink made with the PITT “big brush” marker that has been scratched with a penknife, and the top corner was wiped with a cotton swab after the ink dried.

Inks & Markers

In the next post I’ll share my final thoughts on using this surface as well as some ideas on mounting and presentation of finished works.


Grafix Wet Media Film and Oil Paint Test

November 25, 2012

I’ve been experimenting with a new product I’ve found called Wet Media Film made by Grafix in the last few posts, and today I wanted to show how oil paint performs on this surface. The package information reads “coated on 2 sides to accept water-based mediums, inks and markers.” No mention of oils or solvents such as turpentine. I’m waiting to get a response from them on using oils, but from my own tests so far I don’t see any problems.

I’ve tested a range of oils that have different oil type binders (linseed, safflower, and soya) and they all seem to work fine. I’ve thinned them with both odorless mineral spirits and turpentine, and that doesn’t seem to effect the film surface in any noticeable way. I’ve also tested water miscible oils, which work well, as I expected.

As I mentioned before with the gouache paint samples, the paint takes longer to dry on this than it would on a more absorbent surface, and oils are no exception. The thinned areas took many hours before they began to tack up. After about six hours I was able to easily wipe away some paint even with the burnt umber which is a very fast drying oil paint. The next morning the umber was completely dry to touch in the most opaque area and could not be wiped off. The sample showing the ultramarine and red oxide paint above had been drying for two days before it was dry to touch in the thickest painted areas.

Notice how I was able to scratch off paint on the umber sample above using a razor. The blade damaged the film somewhat so extra care is needed for that effect. While this does show that the surface doesn’t offer quite the degree of adhesion that oils have on more absorbent material, I would still rate it as good if not ideal. This would mostly be a concern if you paint in thick impasto due to the weight of the paint on the film, but otherwise I wouldn’t be worried.

If you would rather not wait so long for the paint to dry, it is possible to paint on both sides of the film, so you could just flip it over and continue painting. An idea occurred to me to tack or tape the film to a frame, paint one side, and then flip it over and tape it back down so that the paint doesn’t touch anything and get smeared (see the image above, for example.) Otherwise, the extended drying time makes this a less convenient surface to work on than prepared canvas, wood panels, or paper, unless you tone the surface with paint a day or more in advance. Once that first paint layer is dry, subsequent layers will dry at the same rate as they would on any other surface.

One suggestion if you want to paint on a toned surface is to lay the clear film on top of a sheet of colored paper, as shown in the sample above where I’ve stuck the film to gray paper using a sheet of double-sided tape. Smooth paper works best or you might notice uneven air pockets underneath. Next, lay down a thin coat of shellac, turpentine, or retouch varnish on the film and let that dry. The first coat of oil seems to dry faster on that sort of prepared coating.

I had noticed with the gouache paint how the brush strokes would furrow through the paint to the film surface so that it was hard to get an opaque layer. Oils, however, have more body to them so that wasn’t much of a problem. Once you paint over the first layer of dried oil then it’s definitely not an issue.

As I mentioned, turpentine doesn’t seem to effect this surface in any negative way (see the red paint sample above.) In fact, when I brushed it on the surface by itself it dulled the reflective shine of the film, which is a nice added feature. Odorless mineral spirits just evaporated after a few minutes and left no noticeable residue.

One final thought is related to varnishing the oil paint. While I see no problem with this as an immediate concern, varnishes are intended to be removable, which requires the use of strong solvents. That could very likely damage this film surface beneath. So, I doubt any conservator would give this surface an endorsement. An alternative would be to protect the painting under glass instead, but that’s a problem for very large pieces. Either varnish it and recommend that it not be removed, or don’t varnish it at all and rely on gentle cleaning. I also recommend you tell your customers that the surface is a polyester film so they can care for it appropriately.

I want to wait and see if it’s easy to peel off the paint after drying for a few months. Based on the scratching I did above I’m guessing that won’t be a problem. I also want to wait a few months to see how it reacts to wiping the surface with a cloth that’s damp with turpentine. So far this test shows promise that this is a decent surface to paint on with oils. The fact that it comes in very large rolls (up to @4×12 feet) at a reasonable price, along with it’s other features, makes it very appealing.

In the next post I plan to test acrylic paint and mediums on this film surface. I expect them to perform well also.


Grafix Wet Media Film is Glossy

November 24, 2012

While I’m waiting for the oil paint to dry on the sheets of Grafix Wet Media film that I’m testing as a paint surface, I thought I should mention how shiny the film sheets are.

The paint itself doesn’t seem to be affected too much by this glossiness; although, if you look at this close-up below of the dried gouache magenta paint you can pick up some curious color reflections within it that do not appear when the paint is moved away from the window reflection. It has a sort of inner glow to it that is interesting and worth pointing out.

Also, notice in the image above on the right how there appears to be a slight matte border around the black paint at the bottom caused by the thinned gouache medium as it sits on the glossy surface of the film.

You can dull the glossiness a bit by applying a very diluted layer of paint to the surface, as demonstrated by that border around the black paint. I noticed while painting with oils that turpentine by itself causes the glossiness to dull down a notch or two; although, turpentine exposed on the film might eventually discolor. Gum arabic by itself didn’t change the glossiness at all, but did seem to make a decent adhesive for gluing the film to paper. I tried spraying some Soluvar Matte Varnish on the film (shown in the image above,) which did dull down the shine, but left some odd streaks on the surface, possibly caused by the solvent in the varnish. I might experiment with different matte varnishes later. These reflections can be distracting, especially with ink drawings.


Grafix Wet Media Film and Gouache Test #2

November 23, 2012

Continuing the testing from my previous post, I am going to show gouache paint samples on Wet Media film sheets, and see what happens when they are overlapped. You can paint on both sides of the film sheet, as well as place them on top of each other, and since they are clear you can see through to whatever colors are beneath.

The image on the left is the same one from my previous post showing several different gouache paint samples. The second image shows another scanned sheet of the same colors plus white and black. I’ve also cut out three shapes on the far right side of this sheet with a razor blade. The image on the right shows the two sheets overlapped with the center one lying on top of the left one. Notice how the paint underneath tints the paint on the top sheet through the transparent areas of paint on the top sheet. Also in the close-up below, notice the cut out shapes on the far right, and how the clear sheet is creating a slight shadow tone on the surface beneath. The paint itself also casts a shadow.

Examining this overlapping effect a bit more, I painted two small film pieces with swatches of yellow orange and blue. On the left image below you can see how they look when one is placed on top of the other. Beneath them is another sheet showing those two colors mixed together. In the second image below I’ve glued the two pieces to each other with Double-Tack tape. This is a clear double-sided tape that Grafix sells for mounting these polyester films to a surface. Although the tape is clear it can create a bubbled texture in unpainted areas that can’t be avoided. If the whole surface is painted, it’s not noticeable. The colors beneath show up more clearly and the shadow effect is minimized when the sheet is glued down as opposed to loosely lain on a surface.

In this next example below I’ve painted a yellow orange color swatch on one side of the film with blue and green swatches on the other side. The tinting caused to the top color by the color on the back is very subtle, even if the paint beneath is at full strength and very saturated. On the right image below I’ve placed that sample on top of the black paint shown in the first image above. Even the darkest value of black won’t show through when the back of the top sheet is painted unless those top colors are very transparent washes. The more colors and sheets you overlap, the more opaque those areas become.

That’s all for this post. Observations: you could draw on one side with ink and then paint on the back, as is done with animation cells. As seen in the first image above, you can also scrape the paint away to show what’s underneath. Dry media, such as pencils, don’t work well on this film, but you could place it on top of pencil drawings. China markers or litho crayons work okay. Oil pastels kind of work, but they slide around quite a bit. Oil paint and acrylics work well, and I’ll show that in my next posting.

One big concern I have about loose overlapping film sheets touching layers of paint is that this might not be safe in the long run. I’ve seen old paintings that have been damaged by moisture when glass or plastic is pressed against the paint surface. However, if these sheets were glued together then moisture couldn’t penetrate to cause problems. I’ll send a message about this to Grafix and see what they recommend. By the way, if you happen to have other types of clear thin plastic sheets like this lying around, don’t mix them up because you won’t be able to tell them apart without painting on them.


Grafix Wet Media Film and Gouache Test #1

November 22, 2012

This is the first of a series of posts I am planning to show how gouache paint behaves on the polyester film from Grafix called Wet Media Film. It is a polyester film that has been specially treated to accept any type of wet paint or ink (see my previous 2 posts.) Both sides are treated so you can paint on either side. Above, you can see the package of 5 sheets they were kind enough to send me to test out. These are 8.5 x 11 inches.

In this picture I’ve scanned a sheet on which I painted some swatches of various brands of gouache. I randomly chose Da Vinci yellow ochre and raw umber, Winsor & Newton viridian, Lukas ultramarine blue, Talens permanent rose magenta. On the left side of each swatch is a full application of paint straight from the tube, a slightly diluted mixture in the center, and a very diluted wash.

My first observation at this point is that the surface takes the gouache paint very well. Unlike untreated polyester film or frosted matte drafting films, the paint here doesn’t bead up at all, even when it’s very diluted with water. There is a tendency for the brush to “furrow” the paint in a noticeable manner, causing it to build up on the sides of the stroke leaving a transparent center. This effect is most apparent if you use a stiff brush. I was able to minimize this effect with some tricks, but it was a challenge to get a solid area of color, especially with the more transparent pigments.

I also scratched into the paint swatches with a box-cutter knife, as you can see in this close-up of the umber. This didn’t damage the film at all. It could make an interesting texture effect, like using scratchboard. Because it can be so easily scratched away, I would say that the adhesion is not as good as gouache is on paper, but adequate; certainly not poor since it doesn’t flake off.

In the close-up of the viridian I wanted to show how the paint dries when it’s wet. It builds up in banded puddles. Within the paint itself the pigment blends very well, but on outside border it creates a sharp edge that is less noticeable when more water is used. On the subject of drying paint, gouache will dry very quickly, and yet on this surface it took several minutes longer than it would on paper, about as long as acrylics by comparison. This again is due to the lack of absorbency. A slower drying gouache paint could be good or annoying depending on your needs. A hair dryer speeds up the drying time.

On this second swatch of the magenta I wanted to demonstrate how easily it is to completely remove the paint from this surface with a damp cloth. I used a dry cloth on the paint when it was partially dry, and on the bottom I used a damp cotton swab after the paint had completely dried. You can, in effect, easily erase the paint or areas of it without damaging the surface. On paper, when you dab gouache with a damp cloth you will leave a tinted stain, but not so with this surface. The paint will come right off.

That’s all for now. On the next posts I plan to show how you can overlap the transparent sheets, and mounting them to a support. Feel free to leave me questions, but they may be answered in upcoming posts.