What do you get when you use basic skeleton leaves as the base for digital prints? As it turns out, some pretty cool printed leaves that you can use to create amazing mixed-media art! In this step-by-step technique tutorial from our May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, artist Wen Redmond shows how to print an image on skeleton leaves, auditions some background ideas, and shares photos of her finished art pieces (including a mini-quilt and a digital collage). Enjoy!
Leaf it to Me! by Wen Redmond
One of the most exciting things about investigating alternative substrates is trying new surfaces to print on. You can use interesting papers, old linens, or even recycled book pages. I had a packet of plain beige skeleton leaves, and I thought, why not? Here is my process for creating printed leaves.
- Photographs or images (These can be black and white or color.)
- Printer, inkjet (I used an Epson. printer with UltraChrome or DURAbrite inks. This is not a suitable process for copiers or laser printers that use heat.)
- Skeleton leaves
- Freezer paper or palette paper
- Ironing surface
- Parchment paper
- Palette knife
- Chip brush(es)
- Digital ground (I used inkAID™.)
- Gel medium
- Recycled key or gift card
1. Choose a simple image. (FIGURE 1) Image choice is important for this technique. For best results, choose an image with high contrast, or convert it to black and white. Small details may not be noticeable in the transfer. I used my own photographs.
2. Upload the image to your computer. The image should show well, so you may need to enhance it by increasing the contrast or hue with photoediting software.
3. Select the leaves for printing. Skeleton leaves are delicate, so they need a carrier sheet to take them though the printer.
4. Place a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ freezer paper on your ironing surface, shiny-side up. Place the leaf on top, cover it with parchment paper, and iron the leaf to the freezer paper. Allow to cool. See if the leaf can be removed easily before going any further. Some of the leaves I tried worked well this way; some didn’t. Another option is to use palette paper instead of freezer paper. It’s slightly less tacky and releases the leaf a little easier than freezer paper. Experimenting is key to discovery.
5. Load the carrier sheet into the printer and print the image. (FIGURE 2)
6. Allow the printed leaf to sit so the ink will settle and dry. Using a palette knife or your fingernail, carefully loosen the edges of the leaf, and gently remove it from the freezer paper. (FIGURE 3)
TIP: If the leaf starts to tear when lifting, heat the freezer paper slightly with the iron. This allows the leaf to peel off more easily.
NOTE: Here is another carrier sheet with the leaves removed. (FIGURE 4) These carrier sheets can be repurposed in your artwork.
TIP: The ink left on the slick freezer paper’s surface will not be absorbed, but you can brayer it off onto an absorbent surface, such as interfacing. Try spraying the paper lightly with aerosol hairspray to encourage the ink to transfer or lift.
The first printing went well, but the image on the leaf wasn’t as strong as I wanted. I thought an application of digital ground would help. Remember, experimentation is key.
NOTE: Digital grounds are mediums designed to help inkjet ink adhere to a surface. They have greatly increased the creative opportunities for printing.
1. Place a skeleton leaf on a plastic work surface. Hold the stem and gently stroke the leaf with a chip brush loaded with digital ground. (FIGURE 5) There are several grounds to choose from, including metallic.
2. Lift the leaf and place it face up on a clean area of the plastic to dry. This step is necessary because the medium will sheet around the leaf, leaving residue. When you lift and move the leaf while it’s still wet, you are leaving the medium that was around the leaf behind.
3. Apply another layer of ground in the same manner, brushing it on in the opposite direction. The leaf will be a little stronger this time, as the medium makes it more durable. Move it again, and let dry.
4. Remove the leaf from the plastic, and place it on the shiny side of a piece of freezer or palette paper on your ironing surface. Cover the leaf with parchment paper, and iron it, ground-side up.
TIP: Be sure the edges of the leaf are firmly flat before printing. If not, dab a little glue stick under the loose edges. This will hold the edges long enough to print.
5. Print as before. I just loved how these printed. (FIGURE 6) They make a terrific addition for a fabric or paper collage.
6. Carefully clean up the edges of the leaf as needed, and use the leaf in a mixed-media project.
TIP: If the leaf doesn’t print as expected, apply white digital ground over it, and print again.
The backgrounds for the printed leaves can make a difference in the finished piece. If you choose a busy background, the leaf won’t stand out as much as on a simple or plain background. Audition several backgrounds to see what works best.
1. Paint gel medium on the area the leaf will be adhered to, or gently paint it on the leaf itself (note that you may risk tearing it). Position the leaf, and gently press it in place.
NOTE: Gel medium is the best choice for adhering the leaves; liquid medium is too runny.
2. Flatten the leaf completely, using a recycled gift card and a gentle squeegee motion. Allow to dry.
Wen Redmond explores her medium, fiber, focusing on experimentation and expanding its presentation. Her unique artistic work merges digital processes, photography, collage, mixed media, and surface design. Wen has been published in several magazines, featured on Quilting Arts TV, and has video workshops with Interweave. Don’t miss her book Wen Redmond’s Digital Fiber Art (C&T Publishing). Visit Wen’s website at wenredmond.com.