We’re knee-deep in November, so it’s time to start thinking about holiday projects. I thought it would be fun to do a holiday-themed Studio Saturday Create Along, so today we’re going to make monoprinted papers, as seen in the article “Hand-Painted Papers” by Elizabeth St. Hilaire in the November/December issue of Cloth Paper Scissors (If you don’t have it, download it right now here, or order the print version here.).
When I saw these papers in person I could not take my eyes off of them. The vibrant colors and designs were so gorgeous, and I knew I wanted to make them. I go a little nuts when it comes to wrapping gifts, and the idea of printing over maps to create one-of-a-kind gift wrap was too great to pass up.
In Part 1 of this Create Along we’ll make the paper, and in Part 2 I’ll show you some cool things you can do with it, in addition to using it as giftwrap. And be sure to check out Elizabeth’s new book, Painted Paper Workshop: Easy and Colorful Collage Paintings, to get even more ideas and techniques for painting and printing papers and turning them into stunning collages.
One thing to note before we begin: This project is all about experimentation. Try mixing various paint colors and incorporating different color combinations, printing techniques, and layering options—you never know what serendipitous results you’ll get. If you’re not sure about something and don’t want to risk trying it out on your paper, try it on scrap paper first. If you create a print you don’t like, you can easily cover it over and try again (more on that later). This technique is truly goof-proof, so dive in and have fun!
Here is what you’ll need to make the paper: A monoprinting plate (Elizabeth used a Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate, 8″ x 10″), fluid acrylic paints in light and dark colors and metallics (Golden Artist Colors Fluid Acrylic paints are recommended), a brayer, a palette knife (for mixing paint), and a palette or some palette paper. Optional supply: acrylic glaze medium (I used Liquitex Glazing Medium). Not shown below are an apron, paper or plastic for covering your work surface, and a printing baren. The baren isn’t a necessity, but it does make printing with some objects easier.
Also, grab some baby wipes for cleaning your hands, the printing plate, and some of the tools. I only cleaned my plate when there was a lot of paint left over and I didn’t want to create mud with the next color. I like leaving a little bit of paint on the plate; when it transfers to the print it adds great dimension. I cleaned the Catalyst wedge and the wood grain tool right after using them—acrylic paint sticks, and it’s hard to get off afterward. I never clean my stencils, just FYI.
We’ll be doing two rounds of printing. The first layer needs to include light colors, or metallics, and the second layer needs to include dark colors. Elizabeth recommends Golden Fluid Acrylics because they’re translucent, which is important—we’ll be printing over patterned paper, and you want to see that pattern through the paint. I couldn’t find all the colors I wanted in fluid acrylics, so I used regular acrylic craft paint and added acrylic glaze to it, in about a 1:1 ratio. This helped thin out the paint and make it more transparent, without diluting the color.
Also, think about a color palette you want to work with. For my first sheet I used fall colors, for the second I used blues, silver and copper, and for the third, pinks and bright greens (my favorite Christmas palette).
You’ll also need stuff to print with. Elizabeth uses an eclectic group of items, and as long as you’re not damaging the plate by gouging it with something sharp, you should be good to go. I used a combination of stencils and masks, string, a crocheted doily, a Catalyst wedge, wood graining tool, bubble wrap, a rubber sink mat, and sequin waste (also called punchinella).
Consider also using leaves, mesh bags, wadded-up plastic wrap, the rounded end of a paintbrush, and toy car tires—all will create cool patterns.
The paper for this project is very important. What makes Elizabeth’s printed wrap so special is that she starts with paper that’s already printed, which contributes to the layered effect. She used maps and flight charts, and I did the same—inexpensive maps are easy to find at flea markets, online, and in thrift stores, and most are large, making them great for giftwrap. They’re also the perfect weight. Paper that’s too flimsy will rip, and paper that’s too heavy won’t fold well.
Quick tip: If you find vintage maps that have tears in them, repair the spots with small pieces of lightweight Japanese paper or mulberry paper. Adhere the paper with PVA or a thin white glue, repeat on the other side, let dry, and then print.
I wanted to make some Hanukkah paper but couldn’t find a menorah stencil or stamp large enough, so I made my own. I found a copyright-free menorah silhouette, printed it on copy paper, and traced around the design onto a 9″ x 12″ Inovart Presto Foam Printing Plate. Then I cut out the design and used it as a mask and a stamp. For custom images you can also carve your own stamps or cut stencil designs from Mylar or cardstock.
Let’s print! Cover your work surface with plastic or paper, and lay your paper on top. Cover a printing plate with the fluid acrylic paint—a little goes a long way, so start with a couple of drops. Spread it over the plate with the brayer, and add more paint as needed.
Press the plate to the paper, rubbing the back of the plate with your hands. Lift the plate, and you’ve got a print! Splotchy is fine, so don’t worry if the entire thing doesn’t transfer. A couple of things to note: I find it easier to move the plate around with the plastic sheet on the back, so you might try that.
When you press the plate to the paper, you should be able to see the pattern of the paper through the paint. If you can’t, you have too much paint on your plate. Remove excess paint with a paper towel, or gently scrape some off with a plastic palette knife. In the photo below, you can easily see the map through the paint.
For the first layer, you’ll fill the sheet with blocks of color. You can overlap some or leave small gaps between blocks—totally up to you. For a couple of blocks I created a pattern on the plate using a Catalyst wedge, making a wavy pattern.
This is how the printed block looked:
Here is the sheet after completing the first layer:
For the second layer we’ll use darker paints and add patterns, which will build up the dimension. Staying with the fall palette, I covered a plate with a dark green-blue color and placed a stencil on top.
Instead of pressing the plate to the paper for this technique, Ellizabeth recommends pressing the paper to the plate. I eyeballed where I wanted it (don’t try for perfection!). The block looked amazing:
But wait, there’s more! You can also make a ghost print from the same plate, since there’s still paint underneath that stencil. I removed the stencil and pressed the plate onto the sheet over another block. Here’s what I got:
I tried the wood grain tool next. Here’s how the plate looked:
And here’s the print:
I tried the doily next, combining deep red craft paint with the glaze medium. After covering the plate I pressed a crocheted doily on top, and used the baren to gently press it down:
After lifting the doily off and pressing the plate, here was the result:
As I kept working on the second printing, I began to see the dimension of the layers appear, and realized what this amazing technique could produce. I continued with even more experiments. Here’s large bubble wrap pressed into red paint, over a metallic copper block:
And here is a block I made after pressing the rubber sink mat into green paint:
I created one block that was a real mess, and wanted to cover it up. Elizabeth suggests two methods for doing this: Use an opaque layer of paint, like metallic, or mix gesso with paint on the plate, creating opacity that way. I used metallic paint with a stencil, and got a layer I loved:
Here’s the finished sheet—pretty cool, and you’ll never see another one like it!
For the next sheet I decided to start with a flight navigation map and turn it into Hanukkah paper. I loved the patterning on the paper, and thought the existing palette of beige and blue would work well.
I created my first layer of blocks in various shades of blue, silver, and copper, then added the second layer. Here I’ve inked up the plate with a deep blue, then placed the menorah mask on top:
I pressed the paper to the plate and got this image, printed on top of a silver block:
The ghost print came out great, too:
I added one more layer to this sheet: I covered a piece of small bubble wrap with copper metallic paint using a brayer, and randomly stamped it around the sheet. This unified the design and gave it some extra shimmer.
Here is a random detail:
And the whole sheet:
For the last sheet, I worked with pinks, greens, and copper, and did the same first layer printing technique. For the second layer I used stencils, masks, more bubble wrap, and because I wanted this to be more holiday-ish, an ornament stencil mask with a deep shade of red to make it stand out. Here is a detail:
And here is the entire sheet:
I guarantee you’ll have a blast with this. This is fun to do with older kids, and a great group project. Acrylic paint dries quickly, so you can get several sheets done in a short period of time. If you have any questions about the project, please leave a comment below and I’ll reply.
Next week, I’ll show you what you can create with this paper, in addition to gift wrap. We’ll make cards, gifts, holiday décor, and have even more fun, so be sure to come back next Saturday for Part 2. Pssst: We’re also having a special giveaway!
If I’ve piqued your interest about printing, painting, and collage techniques, here are some great books, videos, and digital downloads to fuel your passions, available right now in the North Light Shop: