Posts Tagged ‘materials’


Homemade Fixative from CMC Powder

February 9, 2019

Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) is a material I’ve written about before, that works as an oil and water emulsifier for use as a painting medium. It has an adhesive quality that should also work as a fixative. I’m testing out a batch of it by comparing it to the homemade casein fixative I’ve been using for some time now. Fixative, if you’re not familiar, is a spray finish applied to dry media, such as charcoal, to keep it from smearing.

jars of CMC gel and fixatives

First, the CMC powder was converted into a glue gel by adding 8 parts (tablespoons) water to 1 part powder. I let this sit for a few hours for the water to be completely absorbed and the lumps to disappear before using that to make a fixative solution.

Sheet of glass sprayed with fixative

The proportions as I use for casein fixative is 1 part gel, 2 parts alcohol, and 5 parts distilled water, so I made the CMC version with the same proportions. It seemed to be a little thicker than the casein, but still sprayed okay with the Preval sprayer. You can see in the first photo above that the CMC is clearer than the casein fixative, but both look the same when sprayed on a sheet of glass.

test marks sprayed with fixative

I took a small sheet of grey cardboard for my smear test, and drew some dry media marks on both sides using a soft pastel, charcoal, an 8B pencil, and white chalk. On the left the marks were not fixed, and on the right I sprayed three coats of the CMC fixative.

Holding the cardboard up to the light you can see a slight darkening of the paper from the CMC. It has a very slight satin sheen, but is mostly matte and clear. I also smeared the marks on the left to demonstrate the difference. After wiping the fixed side with some pressure using a paper towel I got no transfer at all from any of the marks on the right. I would call the test a success! Even the chalk seemed to hold up very well without darkening in value. CMC appears to work just as well as casein for a homemade fixative, but more time will be needed to see if it holds up as well. I’m encouraged by this test.

For now, I’ll likely continue making casein fixative, since I have some stock of it to use up. That brings up the major point in the difference between the two: shelf life. CMC powder can be stored indefinitely in a drawer, while casein has a limited shelf life, even as a dry powder. CMC is organic matter and can also grow mold when made into a gel, so I’ve added a drop of tymol as a preservative, not required if you make small batches or use it up quickly. As with casein fixative, the CMC can be drawn over, but you don’t want the total layers to get too thick; four or possibly five coats at the most.


Reviewing Arteza Brand Gouache Paint

September 24, 2018

I want to review a recent batch of commercial gouache paint I recently purchased from a company called Arteza. I haven’t yet tried to do much more with them than some preliminary sketches, and I do have a few complaints that I’ll get to in a moment, but my overall impression is that they are a good deal, and will likely be buying more at some point in the future.

Arteza gouache packaging

The paint comes in a set of 24 small tubes. It is packaged in a thin box with two plastic racks that hold the separated tubes, which is nice for storage. The pigment ID numbers are printed clearly on each tube, and I’ve made a chart below showing each one. The main thing that I am happy about is the low price. Including shipping, the cost came to @ $1 per tube. The shipping was free.

Below is another image that shows a brush stroke of each color over black ink to demonstrate its transparency.

For the most part, I am happy with the range of pigments. Most of them are mixtures of 2 or 3 pigments, but those are still useful, and there is a good range of single pigments. The pigment load of the paint feels very good, not streaky or poorly mixed, comparable to quality brands, and not like student grade paints.

I do have a few complaints: The tube size is very small at 12ml. Granted, they are inexpensive, so you might order 2 or 3 packages and have as much or more paint than you would get from other companies for less money.  but that brings me to another negative point. The paint isn’t sold separately, only in a set of 24. I don’t imagine myself ever using the neon “peach red” and perhaps very little of some others, so when ordering more I’d wind up with paint I don’t need. Arteza sent me an email saying they are considering selling them individually, but no information on when or how. Perhaps they could come in smaller sets that you could pick yourself, or maybe larger tubes could be an option. Those are suggestions I’ll send back to them.

Curiously, there are two tubes of titanium white, one labled as such, but the other is just labeled “white,” even though the pigment ID is PW6 for both. Having more white is a good thing, but I found this labeling confusing. I looked around on the web, and saw a couple other reviews of people thinking the “white” might be a “mixing white” (includes zinc) but that isn’t what’s on the label. 

Also, the color printed on the label in many cases isn’t accurate to the paint inside, either when it’s wet or dry. If you reach for a tube based on that color, you will sometimes be disappointed. The Ultramarine, for example, looks more like a violet on the label, and dries at a lighter shade. This Ultramarine label looks very similar to the Prussian blue label, and could easily be mistaken when the actual colors are different. I recommend making a separate color chart as I did above, and keeping that handy, something good to do for all your paints. In terms of the pigment choices, I would have preferred cadmiums and a true cerulean, but that likely would have increased the cost. Having a Phthalo blue or green that was not mixed would be nice. 

One last comment which is not Arteza’s fault has to do with tracking the shipment I received from the Post Office. It took a week to arrive, but on the day I got it the useless tracking information said it was still on its way to the Post Office. Possibly only a one time glitch.

Once I make a couple sketches that I like with this paint I’ll post them here.


Using Tyvek Polyethylene Fabric for Artwork

June 9, 2018

I recently purchased a large sheet of synthetic fabric that I wanted to experiment on as a painting surface. It’s called “Tyvek,” made by DuPont, and is a paper-like fabric made of polyethylene fibers. There are different brands out there that have different textures, and other features. The sheet I bought is 60×52 inches, and came folded in a letter sized envelope. I’ve seen rolls of it in larger sizes at hardware stores with “Tyvek” printed on it in large type. This was blank, and other brands in rolls may be also. This sheet is 43 GSM (grams per square meter) which is very thin, but it’s extremely tear resistant. Some other brands I’ve seen have a puffed up canvas-like texture, but this is smoother.

The folded sheet has creases, but I was able to mount it to a scrap piece of 9×12 inch mat board, and that removed the crease. In the picture above, the Tyvek board is on the left. I used an acrylic gel medium, and also painted the back of the mat board with a single coat to flatten it out when it dried, and then folded over the edges of the fabric to the back.

In this photo above you can see what looks like wrinkles, but it’s actually very smooth. These are fibers that leave wavy streaks of matte and sheen lines that looks something like wood grain. If you wanted to leave areas unpainted this would be seen, but an opaque coat of paint would hide it.

Here I’ve scribbled some ink lines to on the back to show an example of what that media looks like on this surface. Even though it’s soft to the touch, it does have a texture. You can see a grid of square lines running through it like a canvas weave. A thick paint layer would cover that, but thin washes would not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. I used sumi ink with a brush, a PITT brush pen, and a ZIG Millennium marker. Markers draw well on this in general, but water based inks may bead up some. Metal dip pens don’t work so well, tending to snag on the surface. Dry media, like charcoal or pastels work okay, but this is a little too smooth to be ideal for them. Hard leads of graphite or wax pencils don’t work very well either.

Once I figure out what to paint on this, I’ll show an example of how it performs with paints. I may just paint example swatches and nothing in particular, but I’ll still wait for a later posting.


New Sketch and New Water Brush Pens

June 6, 2018

Lately, I’ve been working regularly with my water brush pen, so I decided to get a few more to add to the family. These are made by a company called Cocoboo. The set of six pens cost me $9, with 3 sizes of round and flat brushes. They each hold about 6.5 ml of liquid.

Below is a rough sample of the type of strokes these brushes make, using liquid sumi ink inside the handles. If you look closely at the rounds, when they are first filled or wiped dry, you can get decent dry brush effects, even though the brush stays filled with ink. Also, notice with the flat brushes (#2 medium, and #3 large) that the first strokes at the top look like multiple strokes from the brush, but are actually single strokes. This is caused by the way the brush hairs tend to separate when they’re wet, and clump together. As the drawing goes along, and the hairs get more saturated with liquid, they get more uniform, and make a solid stroke.

This closeup shows how the flat tips tend to clump together when wet. When you lightly drag the brush across the paper this way, you’ll get multiple lines from a single stroke. As you press down, the hairs will come together in a more uniform stroke. Working with these, you will get a feel for their behavior.


Framemaking: Cleaning Dust On Acrylic Sheet

June 4, 2018

To follow up on the previous post where I assembled a frame for my painting, I wanted to show how I clean the acrylic sheet that will be part of the frame. If you’re fortunate enough, unlike me, to work in a space that doesn’t have carpeting, you’ll be less likely to get very much hair and dust on the sheet, where the static acts like a dust magnet.

The first thing I do is to work on top of a dark sheet of paper or mat board, so I can see the dust easily. I place the frame with the plastic sheet face down on the paper, and use a large paint brush to sweep the dust to the center. The sheet didn’t seem to be that dirty, but you can see the ring of dust I gathered in the center. Next, I wet a “microfiber” polyester rag with a little rubbing alcohol, and pick up the dust.

To finish up, I hold the plastic at an angle to a light source, and spot any missed dust or smudges. Be careful to not touch the face of the plastic with your fingers to avoid smudges as much as possible. The last step is to place in the backing, flip the frame over, and clean the front.

I’m using these window turn buttons to hold the foamcore on the back. I ran out of the flatter type of buttons made specifically for frames, which I’ve ordered. The local hardware store had these which will work if the order doesn’t get here in time; although they sit a little high off the back. The frame is now ready for a hanging wire and label.


Refilling a Pentel Color Brush Pen

May 8, 2018

In the above image I’m showing two Pentel Color Brush Pens. The one on the bottom is brand new, but the one on the top is an old one I’ve taken apart. The way Pentel sells these pens is that the bottom section can be replaced with another handle that is already filled with ink. That struck me as wasteful, and I figured out a long time ago how to fill it with new ink of my own choosing. Also, their old pens only came with dye based inks. They now sell a pigmented ink option, which is in the bottom pen here.

To refill these pens (this method works with the new ones too,) You have to disassemble everything. You carefully pry off the plug (D) from the handle (B), and then remove the two tubes (C) attached to the plug. I use a 1ml syringe to fill the handle with ink. It holds about 7ml of liquid. Don’t fill it completely full, so that there’s a little bit of air to push the ink into the brush top. Replace the plug on the handle without the tubes, and screw the brush top back on. On the new brushes, you are supposed to leave off the spacer ring (F) for the top to screw all the way down, but on my old one I needed to keep the ring between the top and the handle to make a good seal. Gently squeeze the handle until the top fills with ink. It will take a long time for the ink to fill into the brush, so I do this a few hours ahead of time. Replace the cap (E) to keep the brush from drying out. There are different size brushes available, too, including a flat style. I’ve seen other brands that have different sizes of flats, also.

You can refill these with any type of ink, but I would recommend not using a type that is waterproof, such as shellac or acrylic inks. These can dry inside the brush top and make it useless except possibly as a dipping brush. It is possible to use those inks if you give the brush a good cleaning after each use, but that can be tedious, and the inside of the top is hard to get completely clean. You have to fill the handle with water, screw the top back on, and squirt it through the brush a few times. Sumi inks work very well, and are available in a limited range of colors. Since they’re not waterproof, you don’t have to worry about leaving the ink in the brush. Fountain pen inks also work well, but are not pigmented.

Pentel also sells another similar style tool called a “Aquash” brush. I’m showing one here filled with sumi ink that’s been slightly diluted. This is mainly sold for watercolor painting, but will work with ink the same way I’ve described above. However, for watercolor painting you only fill the handle with water, not paint. This allows you to dip the brush on your palette and use different colors as you would with a regular brush. The water in the handle keeps a constant flow of water on the brush. To refill it you just unscrew the top, and add the liquid in the handle – no plug or tubes to deal with. When refilling it with ink, don’t press the syringe tight against the rim of the handle. Instead, leave a little bit of an opening to let air in, so the ink will flow inside properly. If your syringe has a needle, that won’t be necessary, but needles are a little harder to clean.


Considering Selling the Casein Paint I Make

January 20, 2018

I continue to be wrapped up in a family crisis, so I haven’t yet gotten back to my painting, but hope to tomorrow. In the meantime, I made up some more casein paint yesterday. This time I made some yellow ochre.

It came out very good. The paper shows a thin wash, and an undiluted sample painted over a black sharpie ink marker. I decided to use my last empty 45ml tube instead of the new 37s I got recently.

All this paint I’ve been making has got me wondering if anyone would be interested in buying some tubes of paint from me. Right now I have a bunch of burnt umber, titanium white, red oxide, and this yellow ochre. I have a few small jars of other colors, but can easily get more. I could put together a “basic set” of six tubes, such as what Richeson does with their caseins. I’m sure I could affordably sell it for $15 to $20, and possibly individual tubes as well for $3 or $4. That would be much cheaper then Richeson. Not sure how I would market them. Perhaps an Etsy page, or a Go Fund Me project would work. Does this sound like something any of you would be interested in? If so, please leave me some feedback.