Thats a Wrap: Mixed Media Background Painting Techniques

Now that I have a set of watercolor paints, I've been playing and experimenting with them. I like the idea of watercolor as an underpainting, so I've been exploring mixed media painting techniques for backgrounds.

Mixed-media collage painting by
Jacqueline Sullivan, from
The Cloth Paper Scissors Book.

Jacqueline Sullivan goes over this ground thoroughly in The Cloth Paper Scissors Book, with several techniques for creating a textured background with paint and mixed-media supplies. So I opened it to her piece, painted up some washes, and started trying things.

Looking at my results, one of my favorite painting techniques is making patterns with plastic wrap. This technique yields a geometric or crystalline texture. It works well as a background or under painting: The transparent color that goes over the original texture will allow the texture to show through.

Here's a detail of my experiment with
 watercolors and plastic wrap.

You can incorporate these background into mixed-media art including book covers, collage backgrounds, art journals, and cards. It looks great under lettering, too. The transparent color that goes over the original texture will allow the texture to show through.

Here's how it works.

1. Lay down a wash in a strong color or combination of colors.

2. Next, lay a crumpled piece of plastic wrap on top of your painting, making sure that it is in contact with the wet pigment.

3. Let the painting dry with the plastic wrap in place; this may take 24 hours or more. When you remove the plastic wrap, there will be lines in the wash left by wrinkles in the wrap. These lines can be enhanced with metallic colors or white ink to form more pronounced and decorative abstract shapes.

For softer lines, remove the plastic wrap before the painting is completely dry. You can also try this technique with wax paper or aluminum foil.

I love this technique not just because of the effect, but because you can line up several pieces of watercolor paper, paint on your wash, cover them with plastic, and go do something else while your background paintings "cook."

Jacqueline shows how to create so many watercolor art techniques for textured backgrounds, including using salt, sand, charcoal, powdered metallics, alcohol, Rit dye, absorbent ground, and more.

It's all in The Cloth Paper Scissors Book, along with scores of other techniques, tips, projects, and inspiration.

P.S. Do you mix it up with watercolor backgrounds? What techniques and tricks do you use to create texture? Tell me in the comments section below.

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