I’ve been working with paintstiks and rubbing plates for almost 10 years. In that time, I’ve almost always overlapped the images and made an overall print on my fabric — much like making a batik. But after making samples from the new Happy Holidays plates, a little idea popped into my head. I really liked each of the images just by itself.
I took photos of my rubbings and spent some time playing around with them on the computer, and decided the blocks would make a great little quilt. Then I got to work making up a bunch of blocks for a real quilt. (Those Photoshop quilts are tough to hang in a booth at Quilt Market!)
Of course, I promptly discovered that making a rubbing of a single image (what I’m calling a portrait) is a bit different than working in overall patterns. I wanted my blocks to be really crisp and clean, without a lot of mistakes around the edges. It took a little practice, but I came up with a method that works pretty well, and I’d like to share it with you.
Stop the Slip with Grippy Mats and Sticky Spray
I know I’ve talked about this before, but our Top Tips for Great Rubbings are incredibly important if you want to make rubbing plate portraits. (You can download a copy of this docmument from our Learning Center.) Rubbing plates are slippery and you have to tame them to get nice, clean rubbings. A Grip-n-Grip mat on your work surface will keep the rubbing plates from moving around while you work, and a coating of 404 spray on the top of your rubbing plate will keep the fabric where you put it. (Now, if only I had figure this out 10 years ago!)
The side benefit of using 404 spray on your plates is that you can press your fabric onto the plate and actually see where the plate is under your fabric. Here’s a a piece of silk that has been gently pressed onto a sprayed rubbing plate. See what I mean?
Make a Ghost Image
The next step is to make a very light rubbing to make sure you know where all the edges are. Think of this as a “ghost” image. It’s easy to add more paint for a brighter image because the sticky spray is holding the fabric in place.
Add More Color
Once you have a ghost image, it’s time to add more paint for a brighter image. This is the time to use multiple colors, or just make the image darker. You know where all the images are, so it’s easier to avoid running off the edges of the plate. At least that is the theory. In the real world, I usually end up with a few boo-boos, and it’s almost impossible not to have some drag marks between the rubbing plate images.
Clean Up Any Mistakes
Since I’m a bit of a fuss-budget when I’m making quilts for photography or to hang in my booth, I’ve found a few tricks for cleaning up my little messes.Here’s a photo of a few mistakes I want to clean up.
The first trick is to use masking tape to pick up excess paint from around the edges of the rubbing.
Lay down a piece of take, and rub it with your fingernail.
When you pick up the paint, most of the color will come with it. You may have to repeat this a couple of times, but this really is a handy way to fix a mistake. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well when the excess paint is in the middle of an image. So, after a bit of experimenting, I found another neat trick.
I set my rubbing plate aside and put the fabric directly on the Grip-n-Grip mat. I pull most of the cotton off the end of a Q-tip and rub over the drag marks. I don’t get the last bit of paint off the fabric, but it looks better than it did before. Here’s a photo of the fabric after I cleaned up the image.
Now you know all my secrets! The mistakes aren’t totally erased, but the images are cleaner and ready to put into a quilt. Armed with these tips, anyone can make beautiful Paintstik Portraits like these.
Heidi Lund says
Fabulous tip Shelly, thank you so much… I can’t wait to try it out on some yummy fabric I just dyed ‘imperial purple’.
Imperial Purple sounds like a yummy color! Any special plans for it?
WOW, I never knew about the sticky mat and spray…now, I can be more of a fuss budget. I usually am a loose artist…thanx for the tips
The sticky mat and spray are my “secret weapons” for working with paintstiks. They make all the difference in the world. It’s like the old TV commercial that says “we don’t make the product … we make it better! The mat and spray really do make our rubbing plates and paints “better” by making them easier to use. And I like that!