103finished01This week, I needed some brightly colored backgrounds for a set of Frida Kahlo inspired ATCs. I decided to create my own, using acrylics and some text pages pulled from an old Spanish paperback book.

I decided on a color palette of yellow, orange and pink. I have a pretty large collection of really cheap acrylics that are perfect for this technique. Cheap paints have a lower pigment to binder ratio, so they’re often more transparent than opaque. That’s a bummer if you’re trying to paint something a solid color, but ideal if you want some of your background to show through. Since my goal here is to let some of the Spanish text show through the color, cheap is good!

I started by squirting out a line of yellow at the top of my page.

Using an old credit card, I quickly dragged the yellow paint over the surface of the page, covering it completely. The goal is to get the whole page wet with a very light coat of color.

I quickly added a small dot of orange paint to the top of the page.

I dragged the orange over the page in random streaks.

Next, some pink streaks. It doesn’t take much paint to create these papers, since the page is always wet.

While I had my paints out, I made these papers:

Pink base coat with lavender and royal blue streaks over old dictionary pages.

Red base coat with gold metallic streaks over Korean text pages.

Ochre base coat with raw umber streaks, and ochre base coat with burnt umber streaks, over old map index pages.

A few tips:

  • To keep the coats light, I usually wipe off any excess paint left on the credit card. If I’m thinking about it, I toss some plain white cardstock ATC blanks on the work table to use as wipers—these can be used as ATC backgrounds later.
  • I keep all sorts of leftover papers for backgrounds. If I cut niches into altered books, I keep the portions of the pages cut out of the niche. This gives me a good variety of text papers to work with later.
  • Don’t waste your expensive artist colors on this technique! They’re too dense, and will obliterate your text background. The brands I use when I talk about cheap paints: Plaid’s Apple Barrel Acrylics, DecoArt Americana Acrylics, and Anita’s All Purpose Acrylics. Some or all of these brands should be available in any craft store.