How To Paint Chiffon Fabric Like A Pro: Another Craft Tutorial

Hi everybody! I’ve taken a few weeks off from posting because I’ve been on vacation. Being away was a fun and exciting change, but one of the first things I had to do upon coming home was to stencil the scarves for an order that was placed right before I left.  I’ve described in detail how I make the stencils for my scarves in an earlier post, but I’ve never gotten around to explaining how I use the stencils on the fabric itself, so that will be the topic of today’s post.

Stenciling fabric is very similar to stenciling on wood or other surfaces. The biggest difference between stenciling a soft surface like fabric and a hard surface like wood is the stability of the object. Stencilers working on a piece of wood or applying a stencil to, say, a wall usually use tape to secure the stencil to the surface. This is not practical for stenciling fabric for a couple of reasons. First, tape doesn’t really like to stick to fabric all that much. Once you get to applying the paint, the stencil will be moving around on the fabric causing your image to distort. Second, unless the fabric you are working with is stretched canvas, even if the taped stencil does adhere, the fabric itself is fluid enough to be moving around from the pressure of the brushes as you paint. The more light weight and sheer the fabric is, like my scarves, the more it tries to move around.

So we can’t use tape. what can we use instead? Weights! Usually, when I paint scarves I use a combination of pressure from my left hand and tile coasters (left over from that project I mentioned in “Three Musketeers!“) as weights on both the stencil itself and the fabric to keep everything from shifting around. With that, it’s usually safe to use the stencil brush on the fabric. However, my skills with this method were tested to the max this week when I tried my technique on chiffon scarves.

Chiffon is a particular weave of fabric with very thin fibers creating a kind of sheer veil that drapes well. Chiffon can be made of many different fabric types besides the traditional silk, such as polyester, and even cotton. I’m using polyester chiffon. Cotton chiffon is very difficult to find, and silk chiffon is best painted with fabric dye; the acrylic paint I use in my projects would wreck the smooth quality of silk, however, the techniques I am going to describe will work just as well with fabric dye on silk fabric

The chiffon I used was much lighter weight than the fabric I usually use with has a a larger polyester thread. As such, even weighted down, the fabric moved too much to be used with a regular stencil brush, and I substituted a regular paintbrush instead.

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Stencil brushes (left) versus regular paint brushes (right) The heavy technique used with the stencil brushes was too much for the fine fabric!

Using gently strokes with the regular paint brushes worked much better than the heavy scumbling of the stencil brushes.

The fibers of the chiffon fabric tend to channel paint along themselves. This creates a splotchy, watercolor effect. This can be very beautiful, but it isn’t what I had in mind for this project, so I used my paint sparingly and stopped short of the edges of the stencil.

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Painting the chiffon. Notice the up-down stroke I am using, this is working with the weave to reduce bare spots.

Working with this material was a great opportunity to practice new skills. To close, I have a short list of steps to help anyone paint chiffon like a pro!

  1. Make sure you are using the right brushes. Soft paintbrushes like you would use for art painting work better than stiff craft brushes.
  2. Use the right paint. Fabric dyes work well on silks but won’t penetrate polyester fibers. Conversely, acrylic paint works great with polyester, but will ruin silk’s softness.
  3. Weights are great to keep the fabric surface steady as you work. You can get creative with what you use for weights!
  4. Use a good work space. Make sure the fabric is spread all the way out, so that there are no creases or overlaps. If you can, the best way to do this is to set up a kind of screen so that the painting surface has nothing but air beneath. This lets you picture the final effect much better as you work. If this isn’t possible (it wasn’t for me) at least make sure that the surface you place the fabric on is wide enough to stretch all the way out.
  5. Paint with the weave of the fabric. This helps you get full coverage and avoid bare spots for a more even look. For a rectangle scarf you will probably be working long-wise, for other cuts, test a small area to which way goes easiest.

There you have it! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or advice regarding fabric painting. Have a great day!

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Sketch Practice, Drawing What You See: Dewdrops

Part of being an artist is constantly challenging your abilities and trying new techniques. I mentioned before in my article about my experience learning to draw cats, that the most important part of learning to draw a new subject is drawing a photo of it exactly as you see it. If you are new to drawing from references, it may seem overwhelming to concentrate on all that detail, and that’s perfectly normal. Drawing what you see is a learned skill. It takes time to develop that concentration skill, as well as time time to sketch out those practice pictures! One thing I’ve been meaning to learn to draw for a while is dewdrops. Here’s today’s effort! What have you been trying to learn to draw? Let me know in the comments!

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How To Design And Make Your Own Stencils: A Craft Tutorial

Stencils are an indispensable component in every crafter’s arsenal. They allow us to produce crisp and consistent patters again and again over a variety of surfaces. However, sometimes even amongst the vast array of commercial stencils, we can’t seem to find a design that meets our needs. The obvious solution is to design and cut our own, but how? I have been designing and making stencils for my work for the past 2 years now, and today I’m going to share all the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Continue reading

Cat Sketch Boot Camp: How To Get Better At Drawing And Draw Realistic Pictures From Memory

Before and After From Cat Sketch Boot Camp

Have you ever watched Bob Ross effortlessly paint a beautiful landscape in seemingly just a few strokes? Or perhaps you’ve seen a street artist sketch out amazing human likenesses in almost no time at all? Yet, whenever you try to draw without a reference it looks cartoon-ish. How come some artists are able to conjure up life-like portrayals on the spot?

I found myself in this conundrum recently when I started to branch out from my usual subject of horses to a new subject: cats. While I can usually sketch up a realistic looking horse without much trouble, much trouble, something about my cat sketches just didn’t look right.

Before Sketches of Cats
Some of the sketches were ok, but kind of cartoon-ish…
Bad Cat Sketch
Others were… Yikes!

I realized that my problem was my lack of familiarity with the subject matter. You see, I’ve been drawing horses for years. Years of sketching. And studying. And revising. And correcting when something just doesn’t look right. As a result, I’ve developed the skill of drawing horses free-form. The reference of how a horse should look, the shapes its body is made up of, is in my head.

Once you have memorized and mastered the basic form of your subject, you can get creative with it, experimenting with poses, positioning, or lighting to create new artwork, and maybe eventually be able to draw those realistic pictures straight from your imagination!

The key is to start practicing. To improve my cat drawing skills, I embarked on a cat sketching boot camp. After taking a ton of pictures, of my own cats and the cats around the barn, I started intensive sketch practice. Not just copying the images, but breaking them down and studying the underlying shapes and angles. And here are the results:

after cat sketches
Cat sketches after boot camp. Much better, and no chihuahuas!

So here are my tips for you to improve your own drawing:

  • Study References. A. Lot. If there is a particular subject you want to be able to draw well (people, birds, cars…) find lots of pictures of that subject and practice.
  • Learn to find the underlying shapes in your subject. For instance, cats are composed of three roughly equal size circles:
    Preliminary sketch of a cat
    Preliminary drawing of a cat. The whole form is built around 3 circles, head, chest, and haunch. The other lines connect the circles to flesh out the form. In this pose, the lower circles overlap because of the way the cat is sitting.

    The front of a horse’s body can be broken down into wedges:

    Preliminary sketch of a horse
    The forequarters of a (somewhat sullen) horse, composed of 3 roughly equal wedge shapes; head, neck, and shoulder. The foreleg is a narrower wedge. Here, the head is a bit smaller than the others because the horse is looking away from the viewer.
  • Break the drawing down into smaller stages. This ties in with the previous point. You’ve got your subject broken down into circles and lines, how do you make the transition to fully-shaded final product? The answer is to break the image down again, this time looking for the shapes of the light and dark spots. First shade in the darkest areas:
    Cat sketch with rough shading
    The same cat drawing, now with rough shading added. It helps to vary the pencil strokes to show the form of the subject.

    From here it’s just refining and darkening the darkest spots until you get the results you desire:

    Completed cat sketch

Completed Cat Sketch. The detail is achieved by expanding on the loosely shaded areas from the previous stage, darkening the darkest spots, and blending everything together.

I hope anyone who is looking to advance their drawing skills will find this post helpful. Practice, the product of time and effort, along with trial and error (and a lot of erasing!), really is the best way to become good at drawing. If you have any questions or tips for other artists, please feel free to comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Take it easy, like Taz!
Take it easy, like Taz!

Flower Color Study

Black Eye Susan Flower Color Study: Clockwise from left, purple, blue, green, and red.

One principle in color theory is that layering basic colors close to another so that they are visually mixed by the eye leads to a richer result than mixing the colors together as a solid block of pigment; for example, lightly sketching red, blue, and yellow together to create the impression of brown rather than only using a brown pencil. Artists are encouraged to use this principle by carefully observing the color of the subject’s undertones and shadows to bring depth and life to the picture instead of just using black or white to darken or lighten a picture. The sister to this principle is the one of complementary colors: the color of the shadow will usually be opposite on the color wheel from the color of the highlight. A scene with blue shadows, for example, will have orange tones in the highlights. Usually the shadows will be dominated by a cool color, but warm shadows can lead to interesting results!

        Here is a quick sketch of some black-eyed-susans. Each one uses a different color for the shadow and highlight undertones. Clockwise from left are purple and yellow, blue and orange, green and pink, and deep red with light green. Which result is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

Black Eye Susan Flower Color Study: Clockwise from left, purple, blue, green, and red.
Black Eye Susan Flower Color Study: Clockwise from left, purple, blue, green, and red.