Friday, September 11, 2015
I've been playing with Versatex Printing Inks (made by Jacquard). I got these after running across a mention on the Gelli Arts blog. (See? They're costing me money!) I was looking for a good fabric paint that I could print with that wouldn't make the fabric stiff. I've seen some very cool things done with gelli printing on fabric, and wanted to try it out myself. I got some white skirts (from Dharma Trading Co.) for myself and Kate, not long ago. I have big plans for these skirts, but I'm too nervous to just jump in and see how they turn out. So I've been experimenting.
These colors are super bright. I used them on the kids' shirts at full strength, but wanted to see what would happen when I tried mixing them. And I wanted to try using a small gelli plate upside-down like a stamp, so I could be more precise about placing the image. (I recently got a 5x7 gelli plate and an acrylic block for just that purpose.)
I got a piece of test fabric, and some little screw-top jars for mixing and storing colors. I started out with some purple with a little complementary yellow added, to brown it down a bit. (I was going for something earthy and dusky.)
First I tried the big plate (on plexiglass), turning the whole thing upside-down on the fabric. It didn't really work. You can see the design around the edges, but the middle didn't really print.
I sprayed some water on the plate and then laid the fabric on top, and rubbed it all over. That was an interesting effect. I'll bet I can use this.
Other attempts yielded different results--too dark, too light, too contrasty--using more or less ink, and adding water or colorless extender. This one turned out pretty close to what I was going for. Just depends on what look you want. Play around with it!
(You can iron freezer paper to fabric to stabilize it, and to keep the paint from soaking through, which works great if you're able to keep the fabric flat. If you're working with a big piece that you have to pick up and flop around to lay on your gelli plate the freezer paper just doesn't stay on. Oh well.)
The next day I tried some stamping with my 5x7 plate. I really wanted to be able to use it upside-down on the fabric.
It worked, but not as well as I'd like. I keep getting one spot in the middle that's not printing completely. I'm still working on that. I may try just sliding my hand underneath and rubbing the fabric from the bottom. The fabric does seem to stick to the wet plate pretty well, so it might stay in place well enough to do that.
I was going for a patchwork collage sort of look. I like how it turned out, except there are a few spots that I think are kind of ugly, and I wasn't able to be really precise with some of my positioning.
After I finished experimenting with my fabric I made myself a color sampler card. These are full strength and then mixed with the colorless extender and with opaque white. The last two pretty much just look the same, especially on white paper. (Colors may look different on your screen!)
Next I made some color mixing samples. I think this will be useful; some of these colors have undertones that react in unexpected ways. (These aren't all 1:1 ratio mixes--I went heavier on the yellows.)
My verdict on mixing colors--yes it works, but test your colors first. Make sure they look good together.
I'm excited now about working on these skirts. I'll probably use a combination of gelli printing and direct stamping.
Generally I'm pretty happy with the inks. They're a nice texture to work with, smooth and creamy (except for the opaque white, which has more of a pasty consistency). They probably don't stay workable for as long as the Golden Open acrylics. I haven't really tested that. They don't make the fabric stiff, though it does have a slight plasticky feel to it. Like a silk-screened T-shirt.
The inks do need to be heat-set after they dry. You can put some aluminum foil on an ironing board, place the fabric on it painted side down, and press with a hot iron from the reverse side. I washed the kids' shirts with the regular laundry after heat setting them, and they look fine. Seems like good stuff!
Versatex Printing Inks are available in individual colors or in eight-pack starter sets. (I got both of these... just couldn't resist!) Here are the Amazon links for the starter packs and the colorless extender: