Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paper towel fusion background

Here's another quick and easy background to try while I'm finishing my second set of swap pages. I call this "Paper Towel Fusion," but I have no idea what it's really called, or even if I made it up while playing around with paint and paper towels.

Supplies (clockwise from left):
Various paints and pens
water spritzer and/or mister
food coloring
foam brushes
freezer paper taped to surface using low tack tape
Not shown: paper towels, latex gloves

Prepare surface by taping freezer paper shiny side UP to water resistant cloth. Squirt out two or three colors of acrylic paint onto freezer paper. For this background, I used metallic pink, purple, and lime green.

Using a foam brush, smear the paint in a pattern of your choice. Note how the green is lost to the vibrant pink and purple. Don't overwork, or the colors will get muddy.

Once you are pleased with the pattern, spritz the paint with water and lay a paper towel on top. Spritz your paper towel, too. Make sure your paper towel is wet, or it won't absorb the paint. The picture shows the paper towel has been spritzed on the right side, but has not been spritzed on the left.

When the paper towel is saturated, gently remove it from the freezer paper. I found it was easiest to leave a small area on one corner dry, then gently peel it away from the freezer paper.

Note how much paint is left on the freezer paper.

You can spritz the freezer paper and repeat the process until you have no more paint. This is what my freezer paper looked like after two paper towels had been colored.

When most of the paint has been absorbed, or you want to change colors, wipe the freezer paper clean using a new paper towel.

Next, dribble food coloring on the freezer paper, then add a bit of other color. I added copper Lumiere for accent.

Spritz just a tad of water on the freezer paper this time, since the food coloring doesn't need to be watered down as much as the acrylics. No need to use a brush to spread the food coloring. Be careful where you point the mister/spritzer, though. Food coloring stains everything it touches, including fingers.

You can also use re-inkers or concentrated watercolors instead of the food coloring. You can get some beautiful papers with food coloring, but it isn't light fast and will fade over time.

Pull paper towels apart while still wet because when the paint blobs dry, you will never get the paper towels apart without tearing them.
Here are a couple of my finished pages. Yours will probably look better than mine because I have a tendency to simply swipe my brush across the freezer paper. Try mixing it up, by drawing circles, swirls, or squiggles.

3 thoughtful remarks:

The Geckos said...

Hi Elizabeth - this is a great technique. It is a variation on the ancient Turkish art of Marbling paper. If you've ever seen the wonderful almost psychedelic marbled papers often used as book endpapers (inside the covers) you can see the similarity. For marbling the colors are floated on a bath of water or specialized oils. Your method is simpler and more amenable to the home based artist. Check out the Wikipedia article at


because is gives a great description of different techniques.

If you want a sturdier background than paper towels you can use watercolor paper.

Thanks for all your ideas and keep inspiring us!

Duane (aka Phredkite on ABC, and The Moltengeckoglassworks Studio)

Robin in Las Vegas said...

E, these are *so* excellent! I can't wait for the panels to come out, holy heck what a great celebration. Thx for the great tutorial, too. You did a great job on them :)

Findings Art by Donna said...

I did't see this yesterday ! WoWsa, I think your favorite color is pink.... Right?