Experiments with printing and painting

Between Project 4 and Project 5 there is a section on printing and painting on fabric and this is something I have done before to a limited extent but was nice to explore much further.

I have a selection of textile paints, iron-fix silk paints, fabric crayons and also my new Inktense pencils and sticks.  Due to the expense at the time of doing the experiments I did not have the Markal Paintsticks recommended in the course material but these are now being ordered  and I will be doing a separate post on these when they arrive.

I gathered together the items suggested by the course material including various items I could use for printing, a cutting mat and knife, card or acetate to use for stencils, masking tape, brushes, papers, various palettes/tubs for mixing colours, glue, water and my iron (plus baking parchment and cloth for protecting my iron).


Simply due to having a heel condition that has kept me off my feet at the point of doing these experiments I was unable to make the optional printing pad as I was unable to go and get the necessary foam, wood and pvc required.  As this was an optional stage this was not an issue but I am keeping the instructions out of my file and to hand so that in the next couple of weeks I can make one and try using it – this could be particularly useful as I am looking to purchase a starter kit for lino printing as well.

However in lieu of this printing pad I had to look at how it was best to transfer paint to either my home made stamps or through my stencils.  I experimented with both brushes and artist sponges as well as a simple kitchen household sponge.  When using ‘stamps’ made out of polystyrene or string larger brushes were definitely the most efficient but I did always stamp onto spare/scrap paper first to get the excess off.  For stencilling I did not have actual stencil brushes so instead used either the artist sponges or the household kitchen sponge torn into smaller pieces – again excess dabbed off onto scrap paper.

I do not have the room where I work to have a small line to peg up fabric samples as I worked so had to do this stage over a period of several days and in batches.  I was also working on a trestle table that I covered first with newspaper and then when necessary with an old shower curtain and this worked well for myself.

At present my silk paints are only iron-fix and in a limited range of colours but this is now changing as in the very near future I am in the process of ordering steam fix paints which give the silk a much softer drape (iron-fix can stiffen a little in comparison) and my steamer will be using the pressure cooker method (I have done silk painting in the past and know this method well).  The steam-fix silk paints that are my preference have a vibrancy I have not been able to find in iron-fix brands but my difficulty lies in choosing my starting palette again – like with the Markal Paintsticks I am starting with a few and seeing how much I use them and in what context before I increase my collection.

My textile paints are also limited colours but have recently learnt that acrylic paints can be used as well in conjunction with a textile or printing medium. This is again something I will be experimenting with in the very near future and then writing about as I invest in some better quality paints.

As a last piece of preparation I did was suggested by the course material and prepared a working board – this involved covering one of my sketching boards with several layers of newspaper, then some fabric and finally a waterproof cover.  I did use this board for some of my samples but also found I worked well just on the above mentioned table which had been covered with newspaper and the old shower curtain as this gave me a greater area.




I tried simple methods for block printing and relief printing that were suggested in the course material with my textile paints.

For this first photograph I simply cut a shape out of polystyrene which I glued to another polystyrene block and using brushes applied the paint.  I found multiple prints could be produced with different textures according to how much paint was on the stamp.

This stamp is a very naive stamp but showed me the possibilities of what could be done.


A second version using the polystyrene was done by cutting a heat shape out of the polystyrene and applying in a petal format to build up blossoms.  I used a metal bobbin case dipped in paint for the centres.  This I felt was a success and in fact I have a personal use for this idea – I am doing a quilt that I need cherry blossoms painted on to behind stumpwork blossoms and this has provided me with the method of how to achieve it.  To do this again for my personal project I will be experimenting with foam hearts/petals on a small block of some nature.



I tried looking around my home for small objects I could use for printing and found the aforesaid metal bobbin, a small stamp base and also a small finely corrugated tube and just experimented with seeing what effects they would each produce and the amount of paint that I needed to apply.

My favourite was definitely the bobbin and later on I used this for my larger sample in Project 5.

It was just fun to see what worked and the textural effects produced.

img_0939This sample was another one done using a polystyrene cut-out stamp but on a larger scale again.  I roughened up the polystyrene a little by cutting into it as  I wanted to see if I could use the polystyrene texture much more than before and am not entirely sure on how well it worked.


For this sample I followed the course material to make a relief block and based it on one of my previous drawings.  To make the block I glued string onto a base made out of folded and taped card board and added a small handle onto the back for my own ease (again folded and taped cardboard.  After drying I used the block for printing and was really pleased with the results.

I do now wish I had added other items to the block such as buttons etc and am intrigued to try this again but with the block made out of some wood I have been now given – it will be interesting to try adding other items into the glue as is suggested and am bearing this in mind for future reference and ideas.


This is where I have a little experience happily as I have used stencils before.  I decided to use card initially to cut my stencil out and based my design on the rose petal – when drawing a small section I realised it had taken on a shell shape so ran with this idea and turned into one! For more complex designs sticky back plastic or acetate can be used and I did exactly this for my larger sample in Project 5.


This was my first sample with the stencil – I applied the textile paints with a sponge in differing colours to see what worked and what didn’t.  Overall the stencil, although simple, worked really well and does give me ideas for a possible theme book in the next assignment.


I also tried using this stencil in a more defined pattern and with just pink and yellow textile paints.  The one thing I would change would be to cut the stencil out in acetate in future (or as I have discovered cheap plastic clear files work well too) and also add a placing mark on the stencil – this would enable me to correctly position the stencil when required.


Please note at to this stage just cotton or poly-cotton fabrics were used.

There is also in the actual samples a silk version done with the above stencil as well but it has turned out too pale to photograph clearly.  I mixed my silk paints with a textile medium so they would not spread and used the same stencil as before.  My lesson learned here is that the silk paints need to be used with either much stronger concentrations or much less medium – I suspect the steam-fix paints with an appropriate thickener will work much better and will be tried in due course.  However the sample does work reasonably well although I do not like the fact that the silk is stiffer to touch.


As a very basic experiment with a mask I used the snowflake cardboard motif off some Christmas crackers!  As stated this is very basic but I was able to see how this worked and what effects could be achieved.


In retrospect at this point I do feel I could have experimented more with both the printing and the stencilling/masking but did go on to do more in Project 5.  In addition when I do get my order of Markal Paintsticks I will be do some more of these experiments too along with trying different relief stamps made with wooden blocks and lino printing too.


For these 2 samples I tried using Inktense sticks and fabric crayons – there are more samples done using actual fabric painting in Project 5.



For the fabric crayons I decided to see how they worked just using my favourite street scene – a very simple sample but one that shows that I can use them in much the same way as I would on paper.

The main think I have learned when using fabric crayons/Inktense sticks and similar is to make sure your fabric is secured to your board so the fabric does not move – masking tape was sufficient to do this.


I then found a linen fabric that I felt was suited to working with the Inktense sticks and pencils and was a texture that I really felt was right for the chosen photograph that inspired me.  I did this sample over two days as I needed the background to dry first – the background was done using the sticks and then textile medium was painted on to bring out the colours and to adhere the paint to the linen.  The second day I used my Inktense pencils to draw the grasses in the foreground and using a fine paint brush again used the textile medium on top.  This is one of my favourite samples as I feel it has worked really well and these sticks and pencils will become firm favourites.


As a development from the sample using fabric crayons I went on to have some fun with a plain bathroom blind – this was done literally the day after the sample.  We had just redecorated our bathroom and Argos did not have the blind we wanted so I purchased a plain blind and had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours!  The crayons were set very very carefully using my iron and baking parchment and have proved both waterproof and durable.  The design was purposefully simple and child like and also very useful in showing me just what could be done with a basic set of fabric crayons.


This is without doubt the area I enjoy most as I have done silk painting in the past albeit not for nearly 11 years – I had a small craft business selling my own scarves but sadly had to give it up on my divorce and sell my equipment.  I fully admit to never having success with gutta though and am determined that come hell or high water if I have to do countless samples I will crack it this time!

I am in the process of ordering my old favourite steam set silk paints but for now am using iron-set ones which are enabling me to get back into my favourite form of art.

I invested in a large frame with claw pins which I have had previously but can no longer get the stand – the company has changed ownership and the stand is no longer made so a solution will be worked out towards the spring.  For the sample I have done here I found a medium and large sized embroidery hoop worked sufficiently well and I will be looking at other square or oblong frames that will also work for smaller trial samples.

I initially tried using clear gutta which I actually succeeded with but found with the silver gutta I got some bleeding through – I am suspecting the mix in my tube may have separated a little as well as there being gaps in the lines. Another problem that is very common is that the gutta does not penetrate the silk sufficiently and this also causes bleeding of the paints and this did happen in some areas with the silver gutta.

The other thing I have re-invested in is Chinese calligraphy brushes as these hold silk paint well and were my favoured in the past.

The silk I have used throughout is a Pongee 5 which is a fine light-weight silk and ideal for me initially although I have on order now some Habotai 8 which was my old favourite – it is a slightly heavier silk but with a good drape.  Pongee 5 is quite transparent and therefore the gutta lines can be clearly seen on both sides – this enabled me to check for gaps.


This first sample was done simply to get back to using the silk paints and using table and rock salt to try different effects.  I also tried using the paint on wet silk and dry to see how these particular paints work – I know from experience differing brands do all work very slightly differently in the same way different water colour paints do.


This was an initial trial using silver gutta and using a previous sketch as an idea to work from.  As can be seen there are gaps in the gutta that lead to bleeding through of the paints – one factor that may help this is a finer nib on my tube that would also give me a little more control.  Another problem is that in some areas the gutta did not penetrate the fabric sufficiently – it has to go through to the other side so that both the front and back are equal and this would prevent bleeding of the paints.   I continued to experiment with different effects using the silk paints including the salt and wet-on-wet techniques and using several different colours within one area.


This sample was much more successful – I used clear gutta which worked a lot better.

The only areas that the paint bled into another was purely down to my mistake – accidently brushed into the area rather than the gutta lines not being complete.


As something totally different I went back to trying Inktense pencils for this sample rather than silk paints.  The pencils were drawn directly onto the silk and very carefully gone over with a textile medium and then the sample very carefully ironed through baking parchment paper.

I drew the foreground first and went over it with the textile medium before letting it dry and then did the background in the same manner.  This way the pencils ink id not blend together when the medium was applied.

The result was successful and gave a very delicate drawing – in future I would use the pencils more firmly so the piece was brighter but at the same time I like the effect of this one too.  It will be interesting to try these pencils on the Habotai 8 when I receive it.


For my final sample I drew a Rennie Macintosh inspired design onto the silk using a B pencil and went over this in the clear gutta again.  As my confidence is growing again I felt able to experiment more with the salt and my colours and am really pleased with this result.

Looking through all the samples again as I write this it is clear where my love in fabric painting lies – silk painting.  On the other hand I have also tried some different techniques too with the printing and painting and can see how I will be able to use these in the future – I am also very keen to try lino cutting and printing on both paper and fabric.

Since doing these samples I have also discovered a form of Japanese marbling called ‘suminagashi’ which is primarily used on paper but with a fabric dye setting liquid (I believe Jacquard do one but I have yet to investigate) it can also be done on fabrics and in particular silks.  The inks are not affordable to me at the moment as I am investing in my steam set silk paints and a small set of Markal paintsticks but I have made notes of them for the future.  I mention this here as it is another form of mark making on fabric that could be something of great interest to me as I am developing a fascination for Japanese textiles including stitch and fabric painting.

In addition to these experiments last summer I also took advantage of the variety of leaves in my garden and did a series of printing experiments both on paper and fabric.




The paper printing is on the left and the fabric on the right – some leaves were really successful and others not so much so as was expected. I went on to use the leaves in some patterns and also did a leaf printed fabric sample which I simply over-stitched in embroidery thread as can be seen below.  These samples were really successful and were done in anticipation of this section of the course and will be born in mind for when Spring arrives again.













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