From time to time, I read about new ways of using art materials. There have been a few suggestions about using watercolour paint on textiles. Now I am a big fan of watercolour. I love the way the colours merge and flow on the paper, so I thought it was worth running a few tests. It could be useful for the background of pictures.
I have also been reading that Inktense coloured pencils are good on textiles. Inktense can be used like normal coloured pencils, but when you run a damp paint brush over it turns into brightly coloured ink on the page.
So here we go with some scraps of unbleached calico.
I decided to test a range of colours with different characteristics:
- Cerulean blue is an opaque colour (bottom left).
- Ultramarine blue is a transparent colour (bottom right).
- Prussian blue is renowned for its staining quality. If you want a stormy sky and plan to lift out paint to make the clouds, choose another blue (top left).
- Then I added in rose madder, just because it is one of my favourite transparent colours (top right). It was sone of Turner’s favourites, so it must be good.
The first test was to paint on dry fabric. I was quite surprised how little the brush strokes spread on this surface. The edges are relatively straight.
The next step was to paint on damp fabric. The paint I used was the same strength. As you can see:
- The edges are softer.
- The colours are paler. This is particularly interesting, as I added some stronger colour on part of each patch to see if it made a difference. It didn’t. It just spread out. As you can see, there is no shading, or th blooking that sometimes happens on paper when you add to paint that is drying.
- Where the patches meet, they have not flowed into eachother to mix into another colour.
Once the sample was dry, it looked like this. Not quite what I was expecting, but still plenty of potential for textiles.
I decided to move on to the next wave of experiments before worrying about fastness.
So I moved on to my Inktense pencils. You can get these colours in sticks, but I reckon I’m better off with the protection of some wood round my colour, so I’ve gone for the pencil version.
As far as I know, all the colours in the range have the same characteristics, so I just picked two colours at random.
For this experiment, I just scribbled a couple of patches of colour with each pencil. For each colour, the top picture shows the original pencil, and the lower one shows what happens when it is brushed with water.
Which suggest this might be a useful technique.
Apart from testing for water fastness, that was as far as the original plan went.
But then I remembered reading that Aloe Vera gel works well instead of water when working on textiles. Apparently it improves the flow of the colour on the fabric.
So I rubbed a little gel on the untreated sample of each colour. In the second picture, you can see:
- a line of the original pencil,
- then the sample of each colour rubbed over with a little gel,
- then the sample of each colour painted with water.
Interestingly, the colour shows more on the back of the sample where the gel has been used than the water.
I was surprised, because there is also more colour on the front. Again, I can see applications for both these pencil techniques, varying the flow of the pigment by using water or gel. I suspect you can vary the spread by diluting the gel.
So then there is the final question. Are these colours wash fast? I put my samples on a piece of absorbant paper, sprayed it thouroughly with water, and left it. The idea is that if a colour is not wash fast, it will bleed out onto the paper below it.
I had planned to take a picture of the paper underneath, to show the colour that had bled from the samples. But when I came to look, there was a very slight trace of the cerulean blue on the paper, but not so much that it would come out noticably on a photograph.
So my conclusion is that watercolour and inktense pencil are useful for artwork on textiles, but not worth the risk on an item of clothing. There is too much risk that, for example, the scarf created with this technique would mark your best white blouse.
The different effects cause by water and Aloe Vera gel are definitely worth thinking about.