Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category


Paint Test on Tyvek Synthetic Fabric

June 11, 2018

Following up on the Tyvek fabric that I showed in my previous post, I wanted to show some paint tests on it using both oils and acrylic paints. In the photo above I painted a few sample swatches of each using different tools and methods. As a reminder, this is a 9×12 inch sheet of polyethylene fabric, “Tyvek” brand, mounted to mat board with acrylic gel.

For the oil paint on the left I used stiff a hog brush and soft sable, as well as a paint knife. Some areas were thinned with mineral spirits, or wiped down with a soaked rag. All of this worked out fine. There were a couple problems to point out, however. In the center yellow area, I used a stiff brush soaked with spirits, and scrubbed the surface hard. This caused the fabric to come unglued from the backing in that area (see the image below.) The other problem happened scraping lines with a metal paint knife. When I applied a lot of pressure it caused the thin fabric to tear. Although it is tear resistant, it’s not tear proof when using a metal tool. Otherwise, it works very well with oils. Since this surface is slightly porous, if your backing is a paper product I recommend sizing it properly if you will be using oil paint on this.

In the acrylic paint section everything worked well with the range of tools I tested. This included the same type of brushes as used with the oil, a paint knife, a rag, and also acrylic paint markers (DecoColor & Molotow.)

Above are a couple things to point out about using acrylic paint. With a metal paint knife I was able to scratch through the paint surface rather easily after the paint had dried. It’s an interesting effect, but also shows that the adhesion is not perfect, but acceptable. This layer (left image above) of burnt umber was painted with a stiff brush in the top area, and again below it with water added. You can see how the water beaded up as it dried. When using a wet soft sable brush, this was less noticeable. The paint also takes a little longer to dry on this surface than it does on regular paper. After a minute or so I was able to wipe it off almost completely with a damp rag. In these closeups you can also see a small square grid pattern showing through from the fabric where the paint is thin. The square is only about 1 mm. It’s less noticeable in areas where the paint is more opaque.

Keeping these points in mind, I would still have no problem using this as a paint surface for oils or acrylics. Being synthetic, it wouldn’t have some of the aging or humidity problems that come with natural fiber canvas. It’s also very inexpensive, and comes in large size rolls. I may do another test using water-based paints of gouache and casein, as well as different drawing media, so stay tuned.


New Sketch: One Too Many

May 9, 2018

I dug out a picture from my reference files that was a screengrab of some TV show. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the name of the show or actress, but liked the pose she had at the bar. I decided to make a sketch of her.

I used the Pentel Color Brush that I showed in my previous post. I refilled it with a diluted Sumi ink, Yatsutomo’s Ultra Black. This was used to render the main figure and foreground, and a larger brush was dipped into the ink bottle for the background areas.

To follow up on my previous post, I wanted to show how I refill the Pentel Color Brush Pen. This ink is very dense, so only a small amount is needed to get a medium grey tone. I fill a small jar with the shade of ink I’ve mixed up, and then pull that into a small syringe. A wad of poster putty holds the pen handle upright, and I gently add the ink to the handle. I discovered that it works best to slowly push the ink in at an angle. If I hold the syringe tight to the rim, the ink will back up, and overflow. I think it’s due to the air pressure inside the handle having to escape.


Improving My Watercolor Strainer Frame

April 11, 2018

The thumbtacks I used in my simple frame for the last painting worked okay, but I wanted to go back to the sturdier method of using binder clips as in my larger frame. I decided to just glue some wood strips to the sides of the frame.

This shows the back of the assembled strainer. I cut 4 thin strips of scrap chipboard to 1.5 inches wide, and glued them to the sides of the frame with contact cement. Now I can use the binder clips to hold the wet paper tight. Ready for another painting.


Stretching Light Weight Watercolor Paper

March 22, 2018

Not too long ago I picked up a package of light weight cardstock paper. It’s sold by Neenah, and I got it at a local Office Depot, $12 for 50 sheets. It works well for drawing, but I thought I’d see how well I could wrap it to a wood frame to use for watercolor, or actually water-based casein paint, and do some sketching on it.

Since it was 11×17″, I used a small 9×12″ wood stretcher instead of my custom built frame. A large plastic storage bin worked well for soaking the paper instead of the bathtub to use less water. It’s only 80-lb. paper, so small pieces tore off fairly easily as I pulled it around the frame. There are no tears on the front, so no problem there. I used thumbtacks to hold the paper in place as it dried, and will leave them there as I paint on the front. It dried as tight as a drum, so this should work fine.


Making Red Oxide Casein Paint for New Painting

January 7, 2018

As I’m starting to work on the background of the new painting, I noticed I was too low on the red oxide paint that I wanted to use, so I needed to mix up some more.

I also wanted to test out the package of Bob’s Red Mill milk powder I bought recently to see how well it works for making a casein binder. 1 quart of rehydrated milk gave me a little less than 6 ounces of casein when I added 1/2 cup of vinegar. That’s the separated milk liquid on the right. I’m used to seeing the milk coagulate into a large ball after I add the vinegar, which I then tear it into small pieces so it will dissolve better. This milk forms small clumps of casein instead, as seen here, so that saves me an extra step.

I added about 2 teaspoons of Borax diluted in 1/2 cup distilled water to this casein, and let that sit for about 24 hours to form a thick smooth gel. This will be my paint binder.

The red oxide pigment was purchased from Camden Grey. A one pound bag cost me only $3. It makes a lovely dark red burgundy color that mixes very easily with my binder. I’m waiting on an order of empty paint tubes to arrive, so I’m using a one ounce jar in the meantime.

Here’s a scan of the paint on a piece of watercolor paper. I painted it over some black Sharpie marks to show how opaque it is. It also thins down nicely. Now I’m ready to get back to work.


Polyester Fabric Mounted to Hardboard

November 30, 2017

I’m preparing to start another painting, and wanted to use some polyester fabric I had. First I needed to mount it to a hardboard panel.

This shows a 16 x 20 inch panel with the fabric glued to the front. To get to this point I had to prepare the panel first. It was a scratch panel I had in the studio that had a few thin spots of white paint I needed to sand down. I used some acrylic “gouache” paint I had and mixed it with some GAC-100 medium to both prime and size the panel. I thinned this a bit with water to make it more brushable, and covered the panel in two coats.

I roughly cut a sheet of the fabric about 2 inches larger than the panel. It had a few creases in it, so I used an iron set to low heat to smooth them out. Once the paint had dried to the touch, I covered that with some Liquitex Extender Gel to use as an adhesive for the fabric. This also had to be thinned a little. I dropped the fabric on the wet panel, and used a brayer to roll the fabric smooth. I left this sitting under some weight for a few hours to keep the panel straight as it dried. Later I’ll glue the edges to the back, and trim them to make them look less ragged. Now all I have to do is figure out what I’m going to paint…


Plaster Coated Paper for Gouache Paint

May 4, 2017

As I get ready to prepare the surface for my new painting, I wanted to test out a ground to use especially for the grass area I’ll be painting. I’ll be using a large sheet of illustration board, and coating it with a thin ground made with spackling compound.

Spackling is a paste made out of (typically) calcium carbonate, silica, and glycol. You can find it at hardware stores, and it’s used for filling small holes and cracks in walls prior to painting. It can be thinned with water. I’ve added a small amount of acrylic medium to improve the adhesion and make it more flexible. In the picture above, I’ve drawn an area in pencil to show the rough texture it makes. It feels like a fine grit sandpaper. I applied just one coat. It creates a nice paint ground, but can lift if you use a very wet wash. Adding acrylic medium helps prevent that.

The main reason I’m using this particular ground is to allow me to lightly scrape away paint layers. You can see the marks I’ve made on the small test area of gouache paint in the picture. It will help me create a more convincing grass texture. The tools I used here are a bamboo pen and a solder scraping brush. The bamboo doesn’t dig too deeply into the plaster, and the steel brush gives a fuzzy, random scratch. I’m using various commercial gouache paint, as well as a couple of my own. This should work well for me.

I’m adding a closeup of the painted area to show the scratch marks better.