Thursday, May 10, 2018

Second Thursday Tutorial: an inexpensive background

People don't call me Dr. E., Queen of Free for nothing.  I am a believer in inexpensive projects.   I am an advocate of using what you have available.  I don't believe in pushing name brand products, especially when I am getting nothing in return.   That's why I'm always trying to come up with new and unusual backgrounds anyone can use in their altered books, art journals, postcards, art cards, and ATCs.  I'm also trying to do that using everyday household products that just about everyone has in their home.

For this project, all you need to begin with are (from left):
Aluminum foil (you probably don't need heavy duty, but it's all I have)
Brush (any will do)
Gesso (if you don't have access to Gesso, you can use white acrylic paint)
Paper towels/Kitchen towels (any brand, but I don't suggest Viva, since it is so strong)

Cut a piece of aluminum foil about the same size as your paper towel.  Try to keep it as flat and smooth as possible.  Lay the paper towels on top of the foil, keeping them as close together as possible.

Completely saturate the paper towels with gesso.  Be sure to wash your brush thoroughly immediately afterward.

Allow the gesso to completely dry, leaving the wet paper towels on top of the foil.

Once dry, I was amazed at the difference in the sheets I covered with gesso from the "top" or decorated side, and the one I covered from the back.  I was hoping it wouldn't make a difference in the outcome.

Now that the gesso was dry on the paper towels, roll the entire piece into a ball.

Because I have such limited grip, I unrolled and rerolled, trying to create as many wrinkles as possible in the paper towels.

Once unrolled, I thought I had torn part of one towel.

It was now time to add color to the paper towels.  Any color of your choice will do, but be sure to use acrylic paint (craft, fluid, heavy body, your choice).

This is what you get when finished.  Allow to dry completely.

The paint has settled in the highlighted and wrinkled areas of the paper towels.  Once you glue the towels to your substrate, all the wrinkles should disappear.

I decided to try another background, this time adding an additional step.  I first smoothed the foil out using an old gift card.  No sense wasting good foil.

Using your brush,

lay down a layer of gesso on the paper towel and foil as before.

Allow to dry thoroughly.  Sadly, I tried to move the pieces from my work table while wet, but I created a huge mess that dried into a huge mess.

Not to be deterred, this time I laid down the same paint, but I covered the towel completely before squishing it in the foil. 

I allowed the paint to dry,

then scrunched as before.

Next it was time to unscrunch, but not flatten.  If your foil isn't too damaged, you can save it for other projects.  If torn too much, feel free to place it in your metal recycling bin.

I used my metallic rub-on oil paints over the highlighted areas of the towel.

I now have two different looks and two different backgrounds I can use in the future.   Remember, these should flatten completely if you use a wet glue (not a dry glue like glue stick) to adhere them to your substrate.  I suggest gel medium when using these backgrounds for postcards or ATCs, but you can use white glue (PVA) if you are using these in an art journal or altered book.

Note I said this was an inexpensive background.  I never said it was a quick background.  This is one of these backgrounds where you hurry up and wait (and wait and wait and wait).  Allow plenty of drying time, especially if you are using a heavy gesso like I did.

Once this goes live, you will find it on my tutorials page under "Creating an inexpensive background."

Thanks so much for joining me today.   Remember, these tutorials are often all about experimenting, not buying something new.

20 thoughtful remarks:

Valerie-Jael said...

Wonderful idea Elizabeth! Valerie

kathyinozarks said...

very awesome project-thank you for the tutorial

Tracey@Hotchpotchcreations said...

Looks like you have had a great play with the foil and mediums. I love days like this when you can play without fear of spoiling things, there's always something to learn along the journey. Foil is a very underestimated crafty medium.
Creative wishes Tracey

froebelsternchen said...

Fabulous technique dear Elizabeth! I will try it out - at least I will add it to my neverending "want to try this" list!
Happy day dear Co.-Admin!
Hugs, Susi

My name is Erika. said...

Cool backgrounds. Like you, I hate pushing brand names for nothing, (except those TH found relatives-they are the coolest). But I never thought of gessoing the the paper towel first. I have used clean up towels and baby wipes when the color is cool on them. Thanks for the tutorial. I really enjoyed it. Hugs-Erika

Caty said...

So wonderful background Elizabeth!! Lovely technique, I think I ´ve to try it, and see. Thank you very much for your great idea and tutorial.
I wish you a very nice afternoon, big hugssssss

Jackie PN said...

Wow! What a cool technique And you showed it so well! I really love the blue you chose- gorgeous!


aussie aNNie said...

Awesome, looks fun and messy....
I will be absent until May 21st so I will come bye then and see your blog...
[aussie aNNie blog]

CJ Kennedy said...

Looks like a fun project. Thanks for sharing.

Sami said...

Great techniques and I like the blue colours. I'm sure they'll make great backgrounds for your collages Elizabeth.

Nancy said...

Interesting method- thanks!

Darla said...

I always appreciate your tutorials. Using what I have is a big part of my art experience. I'll be trying this soon. Thanks my friend

Barbara said...

I’m just starting to learn some unusual techniques for nice backgrounds, and to have one to try from things already at my fingertips is great!
Thank you, Elizabeth!

Jeanie said...

Wow, Elizabeth. These are pretty impressive by themselves as dimensional art, much less to be used as backgrounds. I could see one of these in a shadow box with something in the foreground. They are definitely beautiful. Bookmarking this one.

da tabbies o trout towne said...

I like the blue and the white as there's so many different "shades" and
"shapes" nice work with this Elizabeth !!! ☺☺♥♥

Sandra Cox said...

Dr. E, Queen of Free. Heh. I love it.
That was amazing about the back and front of the pattern for the paper towels.
Two different backgrounds indeed.
Fascinating info today.

Cindy McMath said...

Very cool backgrounds!

Divers and Sundry said...

This is one of my favorites so far. I love what you ended up with and look forward to seeing what you use them for. Loving that color, too :)

pearshapedcrafting said...

What an a effective way to make a background - you really have created some great texture! Thanks for this - you may see me trying this soon!! Hugs, Chrisx

Meggymay said...

This looks a super idea Elizabeth. The results look fantastic.
Yvonne xx