Distressed Gel Print backgrounds

Last week I taught a couple of gel printing classes and had a blast seeing others fall in love with the process and results. As you might imagine I have many prints now, a big box waiting to be used. I thought I would use a few scrappy patchy prints as backgrounds. Some of these prints are ghost prints where I pick up a patchy layer of paint left on the gel print after a more distinct print has been taken. I also have some patchy distressed looking prints taken from a damaged gel plate. I don’t know how the surface got damaged but I still use it as a place to roll out paint before brayering on the main plate or to clean off excess paint after brayering on the main plate. The little dots you see on today’s prints are from imperfections in the damaged plate.

On the print above you can see not only the specks of black paint from the plate but also the leftover paint from the border of the plate. Most gel printers love being able to pick up some of those colourful leftovers on a future print.

Both the print above and the one below were made from excess paint so there is very little defined pattern but instead some lovely specks, blends and blobs.

I chose to make cards from these prints not just because I wanted distressed backgrounds but also because it shows how even the scrappy, incomplete, messy prints can be worth saving.

The only colour on the background print above was some black. I used rustic wilderness, wild honey and frayed burlap archival inks to stamp flowers and grasses from Darkroom Door sets, nature walk and wildflowers vol 2.

The ghost print above was pulled with rice paper. When I stamped the purple flowers in versafine clair they soaked through the paper and spread to give the image a halo surrounding it. Although it was an interesting effect I switched to archival inks for the rest of my stamping as they sit of the surface and dry quickly.

I used similar colours to stamp flowers from DD sets, tall flowers and art de fleur vol 1 over the purple ghost print.

The print above was by far the busiest one I used so a bright contrasting colour seemed like a good idea. I used thistle, wild honey and faded jeans archival inks to stamp flowers from DD sets, nature walk and wildflowers vol 2. I also added some text with a stamp from the nature walk set

To attach the cards to the neenah card bases I used double sided adhesive sheets. I added some black and white paint splatter and Darkroom Door sentiments.

If you have read right to the end you are a champion. If you are a gel printer I hope you are inspired to use a few of those patchy prints you might otherwise discard. I have been using them in my art journals but it is nice to see them on cards too and it’s not as if I am going to run out anytime soon!

Supplies


AI + Stencils Blue Edition

After success with one of my detailed stencils over an alcohol ink panel I tried a few more all with a mix of blue inks. The one above features the Darkroom Door crackle stencil over a mix of cloudy blue and stream inks.

There is also a little bit of salt sprinkled on the panel where the stencil did not make consistent contact. This technique is definitely not for the impatient among us!

I am still working on Grafix white craft plastic and often starting over the top of a panel that already had ink on it. All the card bases are Neenah solar white.

The stencil above is MFT geometric stars and I positioned it over a panel of denim and stream inks with some leftover copper as well. The ‘print’ is not very consistent but I like the way a distinct line is right next to a blurry pattern.

I finished this one off with a die from the Pinkfresh Studio ‘sending’ die set.

I worked with the DD mesh stencil a couple of times because it didn’t make consistent contact on my first attempts. I found if I taped it over the alcohol ink panel onto a piece of scrap cardboard I could bend the cardboard slightly to make sure stencil stayed pressed onto the wet alcohol inks. I just popped the piece in the right sized container to keep it bent while it dried.

This one is a mix of denim, cloudy blue, silver and a tiny bit of stream down in the right hand corner. I added a sentiment from the DD ‘tall flowers’ set.

As you can see my fascination with this technique continues. I did pick up a couple more detail stencils the other day for this very purpose. I will also give it a try with some watercolour paints and paper. I’m sure the result will be different as the watercolour paints soak in but I think there could be a pretty and subtle pattern. Stay tuned!

Supplies


Checkered Bookmarks

For a change and because I’ve seen a few beautiful stamped and painted bookmarks lately, I decided to make a few of my own. My preference is always a very flat bookmark. I have had fancier bookmarks over the years with layers and lace but I like the book to close nice and flat over the bookmark. These ones are one layer of hot press watercolour paper without even the raised surface of embossing.

I taped a piece of watercolour paper to my glass mat using washi tape and the grid on the mat to keep the tapes even as they divided the panel into three strips. I blended distress inks through the Darkroom Door small checkered stencil onto the panel, two colours for each strip then blended more ink to fill the spaces. I chose a different theme for each bookmark but used reading quotes from the Darkroom Door ‘Bookworm’ set for each one. (all the stamps and inks are listed below)

After painting over all the images with distress ink I used a black pen to darken the edges and a white gel pen to add highlights and dots.

I am always keen to hear book recommendations so feel free to leave them in the comments. Last time I asked several readers suggested authors who were new to me that I ended up reading and enjoying.

Supplies

(Compensated affiliate links used when possible)

Art de Fleur

This card is the cardmaking version of going down a rabbit hole. I know how easy that is on the interwebs, but apparently it is possible with a card as well. What started out as a vintage style two layer card became a little more than that. I just kept thinking of stamps and papers and techniques I wanted to add.

I decided an insert would be nice; I don’t usually put anything on the inside of my cards so an insert is quite the departure. An insert turned into two inserts which is more like a little book when you count both sides of the pages!

The front panel, which was initially going to be the whole deal features several Darkroom Door stamps: scratches background stamp, sheet music background stamp, global postmarks, art de fleur vol 1.

For the whole card I stuck with four Papertrey ink cubes (listed below); I used them for stamping, watercolouring, splattering and blending with a blending brush.

The inside pages are not watercolour paper but handmade paper from a Hanji gifts in Toronto. It is handmade paper with rose petals embedded in it. It was very white straight out of the packet so I smooshed some brown and pink inks on my glass mat, diluted with water then swiped the paper through the ink. This resulted in the colour I wanted but removed the sizing and wrinkled the paper. I ironed it, which did the trick then added little bits of stamping on every page. I used a couple of sentiments and some quote stamps, all from Darkroom Door and reused the same background stamps plus the floral stamps from the Art de Fleur set.

To join it all together I poked holes and used some fine twine for a little ‘book binding’. With all the ‘vintaging’ I did on the front panel and pages the card base itself looked very stark so I swiped that through some smooshed ink too so everything would co-ordinate.

I was so deep down the rabbit hole by this point I realised an ordinary envelope was just not an option so I pulled out another sheet of the handmade rose petal paper, inked it, ironed it and used my envelope punch board to create an custom envelope, which I failed to photograph. All in all a very satisfying but surprising creative project. Now, back to work!

Supplies


Painting atmosphere

I’ve done some more playing with watercolours and clingwrap. Quite a lot of playing actually; it’s addictive. I don’t even remember if the panel above was painted initially with brusho powders or pan watercolours or both. I do know I started with a large piece of cold pressed watercolour paper taped to a glass mat. I wet the panel then added the paint and let it move around and blend a little before I placed the cling wrap on top. I did remember to take a photo of the panel after it had dried and I’d removed the cling wrap. The card above which looks a bit like some hydrangea flowers was painted on the bottom right corner below.

The butterfly card below was made from the top left corner of the large panel and the flower card was made from the top right corner. I did work on the bottom left corner but didn’t end up liking what I’d made.

For the butterfly card I used a stamp from Darkroom Door ‘wings’ set and stamped it on the panel in blueprint sketch distress ink. After stamping I blended the ink plus some pearlescent paint from a finetec palette to fill the butterfly’s wings. It’s not obvious in the photo but the wings shimmer.

Once the butterfly was dry I did some water stamping using a fern stamp from the DD ‘leaves ‘ set.

The flowers are from the DD ‘tall flowers’ set and were stamped in festive berries, mowed lawn and wild honey distress inks. I also added gold paint to the flower centre. You can see some more water stamped ferns and some second generation stamping with the flowers also. The little circles on all three cards were made just by adding some droplets of water, letting them sit on the panel then dabbing them up with a paper towel.

The card above with the purple flowers doesn’t feature any stamping, the patterns made by the cling wrap made me think of a hydrangea flower head so I painted a bunch of little flowers using a purple watercolour pencil to draw centres then a paintbrush and water to blend the pencil into petals. While the petals were still wet I used the pencil again to add some darker areas in the centres.

The red shape on the left hand side looked a bit like a flower so again I used a watercolour pencil to add a bit more colour and followed the lines left by the cling wrap.

Whether painting or stamping over the panel, I love the patterns and play of light and dark in the background; I think it creates atmosphere. Have I finished with this technique now I hear you ask? No, definitely not. Have you tried it?

Supplies


Global Postmarks et al

The new Darkroom Door global postmarks set features on today’s cards, and if you look closely you can see I chose several Australian postmarks but there are different shapes and sizes from all over the world. It is a very cool set and once again these cards have made me want to create an art journal page.

I’ve had my gel press out after quite a break and I’m hooked again. In any one session I always end up with some duds and some winners but the more I print, the more I like what I;m printing. One of the lessons I learnt in my latest session was the beauty of restricting my paint colours. You would think I would know that by now considering how often I restrict myself to a limited palette when watercolouring.

The prints I turned into today’s cards were made with a turquoise, dark blue, gold, beige and purple palette. The first card was just beige, gold, turquoise and a bit of dark blue left on the gel press from the previous print. To create patterns in the print I used Darkroom Door stencils and stamps.

I won’t go into my gel printing process because there are videos aplenty that will show you. I brayered acrylic paints onto the press and used the new ‘brick wall’ stencil along with the diamonds and starry night stencils. I also pressed the mesh background stamp and the wavy line postmark stamp into the paint before pulling a print.

After pulling the prints I used black archival and black versafine clair inks to stamp the flowers, sentiments and dragonfly. I stamped several of the global postmark stamps in mermaid lagoon archival ink and tiny numbers from the new ‘number medley’ set lightly in black.

The flowers on the square card are from DD ‘tall flowers’ and are stamped in nocturne versafine clair then embossed in clear powder. The black stamping on the larger card is black soot archival ink. I tried popping up the sentiments from the ‘warm wishes’ set but it didn’t look right, the beauty of a monoprint is that it looks like it has depth and texture even though it is a single layer.

Supplies


Darkroom Door wedding cards

I’ve been creating with the tall flowers and nature walk stamps from Darkroom Door again, this time with a wedding theme in mind. Darkroom Door now has eight different sentiment stamps collections in list format, each one has a different theme. For two of today’s cards I isolated one sentiment by masking either side but on the second card I used a large chunk of the stamp as a feature over a soft blurry floral background. I am over on the Darkroom Door blog sharing these cards so make sure to pop over there for more details on my process.

This first wedding card made me think of a country style-decorate the barn type of wedding. I did a bit of masking to get the look of three daisies against a timber background and used twine to keep things natural and not too fancy. I inked the daisy from ‘Tall Flowers‘ set in worn lipstick, abandoned coral, forest moss and peeled paint distress ink, spritzed lightly with water and stamped in centre of a hot pressed watercolour paper panel, then used masks to stamp another on each side. I masked all three daisies so I could stamp the  Woodgrain Background Stamp in weathered wood and frayed burlap distress inks.

My second card features the ‘wet on wet’ watercolour technique. The watercolour panel was very wet before I stamped the daisy stamp in wild honey and forest moss distress inks. I restamped to get paler images then dried the panel before wrapping a vellum strip with gold embossed wedding sentiments over the stamped flowers.

The very blurry style is not for everyone but in real life it does have a soft romantic look to it.

My final card features wildflower silhouettes in blueprint sketch and milled lavender ink stamped repeatedly to get first, second and third generation images as well as silver embossed flowers and sentiments with some very sparkly silver ribbon.

Working with sentiment strips that have fifteen different sentiments gives me plenty of options, some of the ‘wedding’ sentiments are totally appropriate for other events too.

I enjoyed the process of creating wedding cards in three different styles and I know I could have gone even fancier. What’s the fanciest card you have ever made?

Supplies


Steps journal page

Are you a wee bit surprised to see a journal page here?  I’m surprised myself, surprised but pleased. I really enjoyed dreaming it up and making it. It didn’t end up looking as I imagined but that is the way with journal pages is it not?

This art journal is a Fabriano journal; the paper is nice and thick but not watercolour paper so I painted over it with absorbent ground first. Then I grabbed a bunch of stamps from Darkroom Door along with three light coloured oxide inks and stamped mesh, stone and woodgrain texture stamps over the background. I spritzed it with water to soften the edges of the stamped images and dabbed some out too to make it subtler. Even after adding some water it was still bolder than I wanted so I painted another thin layer of absorbent ground over it.

I filled the bottom of the page with repeat stampings of flowers from the Darkroom Door ‘tall flowers‘ set in distress inks then blended some of the big flowers with water. They don’t blend as well as they do on watercolour paper but the effect is still nice.

I added grass and flowers from the DD ‘ nature walk‘ set, also in distress ink then a border with the mesh texture stamp in black soot oxide ink. It was a bit bolder than I wanted so I spritzed then dabbed with a paper towel ( as you can see I’m a fan of the ‘spritz and dab’ ). I splattered wild honey, forest moss and dusty concord diluted ink over the whole spread and it ended up looking like confetti. To boost a few of the flowers I outlined them with fine tipped black markers.

I wrote psalm 18:36 with a brush pen leaving a space to stamp the word ‘steps’ with the DD alphabet medley stamps.  I find choosing words for a journal page tricky, which words and how to add them. But the beauty of a journal page is the experimental nature of it. If I don’t like something on this page, I’ll try something different on another. Once the ink had dried I sealed the large flowers and the lettering with distress micro glaze.

Do you have any art journallers you would recommend for inspiration? I already follow Rachel Greig from Darkroom Door, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, Vicky Papaioannou and Maremi SmallArt who all have different styles and inspiring journal pages.

I’m hoping to create in my journals more often and will share pages here if possible. Even if you are not an art journal person the designs can usually be converted to a card and sometimes start out as cards anyway!

Art Supplies (all Darkroom Door stamps are linked in description)


Tall Flowers

I am excited to feature some new stamps from Darkroom Door today. The tall flowers are from the new ‘Tall Flowers’ set and the background flowers are from the delightful ‘Nature Walk’ set.  I am a guest over on the Darkroom Door blog today, if you haven’t visited you definitely should check out all the inspiration shared there.

My first card features a cold pressed watercolour panel filled with one of the stamps from ‘nature walk’ set inked in iced spruce and stormy sky distress inks. I diluted the ink with a spritz of water and stamped first, second and third generation impressions. Over the top I stamped the tall daisy from ‘tall flowers’ four times with wilted violet, blueprint sketch and forest moss distress inks. Because the stems are long and thin I was able to orient them in different directions. I used a mask a couple of times to overlap the daisies. Once stamped I blended the colours with a paintbrush and water.

I used a similar process to create the orange toned daisy card but this time I did the background foliage after the foreground flowers by using stamped and cut out masks. The daisies are stamped in peeled paint and fossilized amber distress inks. I added extra colours one at a time with spiced marmalade marker, rusty hinge marker close to flower centre and finally ground espresso marker on the centre of the flower. I blended the inks with water then after it was dry stamped the centres again to add some texture back in. The background stamping is another stamp from the DD ‘nature walk’ set stamped with weathered wood and tea dye distress inks. I added some splatter because, well, why not!

On both the daisy cards I decided to add the sentiment on a vellum strip. I liked the floral scenes too much to stamp words over them so the vellum seemed like a subtle way to do it. The recipient could even snip the sentiment off and have a picture to display if they wanted to. For this tall thin panel I used the kraft card base to frame it on two sides.

The last card is a little different; I used the small flower from ‘tall flowers’ and some little leaves from ‘leaves’ set to make a wreath.

To guide my stamping I traced a circle onto my watercolour panel. I sponged fossilized amber distress ink around circle then erased the pencil line. With the sponging as a guide, I stamped the small flower heads from ‘Tall Flowers’ set round the circle in carved pumpkin ink, holding the stamp so only flower(not stem) was inked and stamped. I repeated the process with small leaves and ferns from ‘Leaves’ set in  fossilized amber, peeled paint, forest moss and tea dye distress inks. You know I splattered forest moss ink over wreath because that’s what I do then matted the panel in orange cardstock, attached to a kraft card base and added a raffia bow.

I loved creating with these beautiful tall flower stamps and couldn’t help myself from using the ‘nature walk’ stamps again because they work so well together!

Supplies

Stamps: tall flowers, nature walk, leaves

Inks: stormy sky, iced spruce, blueprint sketch, wilted violet, forest moss (purple flower card)

fossilized amber, peeled paint, weathered wood, tea dye & distress markers: spiced marmalade, rusty hinge, forest moss, ground espresso (orange flowers)

fossilized amber, peeled paint, carved pumpkin, forest moss, tea dye (flower wreath)

Papers: hot pressed watercolour, cold pressed watercolour, vellum, kraft

Also: stamp positioner, raffia