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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:
Gouache
Oils
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.

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2 comments

  1. Update regarding graphite pencils: I mentioned above that I wasn’t able to get pencils to adhere well on this film; however, I tried it on a sample sheet that I had sprayed earlier with Soluvar Matte Varnish, and then the pencil marks went down very well, even hard leads. I was also able to get charcoal to work this way, but it doesn’t get very dark. Not all pencils are made the same way, so you might have to try a few different types. For example, a Wolff pencil didn’t do well on the Soluvar, but a Conte charcoal pencil did great.


  2. I got some feedback to share from Grafix:
    They have no current plans to offer thicker sizes of the Wet Media film.
    They have not done any testing with oil paints on it.
    Their recommendations for glues are the same as mine: use Double-Tack sheets or acrylic gel mediums.
    Their support of the “archival” claim is based on the film being Ph neutral, making it acid-free.
    The statement that paint “will not run” is that paint will not flow or spread across the surface without adhering to it, like water would on glass for example.

    Speaking of adhesives, I also tried some rubber cement, Loctite brand, and it holds extremely well, even on the regular non-coated Dura-Lar sheets. It has a slight yellow tone and brush marks show through, so any unpainted areas would not be clear. The cement is not acid-free, but the film should adequately protect the paint. The glue itself will likely darken over time. I’m going to try out some acrylic cement as soon as I can track some down. It should dry clearer.



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