Monday, October 27, 2008

Tutorial: Simple Watercolored Roses

This weekend, SplitCoast Stampers held the “Mini” Cabaret VSN – a "teaser" for the November extravaganza scheduled for November 14th and 15th. The coordinators, Jean (naturecoastcrafter), Stacey (Little Lou's), JoAnn (sarahzoe), and each of the hostesses did a phenomenal job of putting together an exciting theme and 7 fantastic challenges.

The first challenge, the brain child of Michelle (shaddybaby), was to create a frame for a picture. Coincidentally, I happened to have a 5x7 print of my husband and me that was taken this summer at our annual family reunion. It had been sitting on my desk, begging to be framed. This was the perfect opportunity to make a decorative mat for it.

I use a method to create these lovely flowers that is similar to the technique demonstrated in Beate’s SCS Tutorial, “Stained Glass”. The main difference is that the images are embossed in gold and painted on the front of the vellum, not on the reverse.

The goal of this technique is to create a beautiful flower with a splash of color, not to create a shaded water colored masterpiece. Since the coloring is a very small part of the process, (the cutting takes longer!), they are simple and quick to make.

Tools and Materials:

Embossing Pad

Gold Embossing Powder


Watercolor Pencils

Paint brush, water, paper towel

Detail Scissors (I like CutterBees by EK Success)

Heat gun


The kind of stamps that work best in this technique are very detailed ones – the more detail, the better. And those with “smoother” – less detailed or irregular edges – also make the process easier and quicker. For this project I used a cluster of roses from “The Country Garden Collection” and rose leaves #A2491E, both from Rubber Stamped, and the rose from the “Classic Botanicals” collection, #96701 from Inkadinkadoo.

The rose on the left works very well for this technique, where the rose on the right, which has less detail, less overall “lines” to emboss, is much better suited to traditional watercoloring. The leaves, which are almost solid, are perfect for this technique. They will take little if any coloring, depending on the thickness of the embossing powder and your heat gun. I didn't color them at all for my mat project.

Stamp the images with an embossing pad and dust with gold embossing powder and heat to emboss. It doesn't matter if you catch an edge of your stamp or have any other imperfections because once they are embossed, you'll be cutting them out. You will see variations based on how thick the ink is and how much powder it grabs. I try to ink some lightly but thoroughly so I can add more color. Different thicknesses and colors give you more variety when it comes to designing your placement. After they are embossed, cut around them, leaving a wide margin. You want to have at least a half inch between the images so you can easily cut them apart to paint. When you paint, paint on the top side of the vellum, the side that you embossed.

Watercolor pencils can be used in two different ways. If there are large areas, you can put the pigment in the area, the same way you would with a regular colored pencil, but you don’t have to be very particular or exacting about it. You can always add more pigment as you're painting. The goal is just to get color in the image. Then, spread and even out the pigment with a damp paintbrush. Once my brush is damp, I just touch the last third of it into the water and that is usually enough water for this process. If you find that there is too much water on the image, you can blot it with a paper towel.

If you have to add more color to an already wet image, you’ll get better results lifting pigment from the paintbrush (described below). Some brushes drink more water than others, and if you find that you are consistently getting too much water on the brush, touch it lightly to a paper towel to drain and that usually gets enough of the excess off the brush.

If the areas are tiny, it’s almost impossible to get into the nooks and crannies with the pencil. When you can’t color onto the vellum with the pencil, get the color onto the paintbrush and apply it that way. To do that, wet your paintbrush and touch it lightly to a paper towel – you want it wet but not dripping. Brush it back and forth against the end of the pencil and lift the pigment right onto the paint brush. You’ll see the color on the end of your paint brush. If your paintbrush is not wet enough, you won’t be able to lift the pigment onto your brush. If you have too much water, it’ll puddle on your image. This is not a problem - just blot with a small piece of paper toweling. Paint over the image and don’t worry about getting the pigment on the gold. It won’t adhere and you can wipe over it with a paper towel and remove it.

What I did with this particular rose was to color in the larger petals with a dry pencil just to get pigment in the areas and then I wet them just a bit, minimally spreading around the pigment. Next, I loaded a fairly wet brush with a generous amount of pigment directly off the pencil. When you are loading the pigment off the pencil, you can see it thickening on the end of your brush. I painted over the entire rose with a large swirling motion. If you have enough water and pigment, you can spread it generously over a fairly large area. The paint doesn't adhere to the embossing so you don't have to worry about details - just cover the entire image with color. With a fairly small brush, I'm able to cover about a third of the rose with each loading from the pencil.

You can go back and swirl a darker shade of pigment if you want to give the images a little interest, but it really isn't
necessary with this technique.

Let the paint dry before you cut the images. If you are doing this under time constraints, you can use your heat tool or a hair dryer to dry the paint quickly. Then cut with detail scissors along the outside embossed edge. You can also use an Exacto knife, but I find that scissors go much more quickly, especially if the edge isn't very irregular.

Moving Day!!

As I have acquired more materials, supplies, stamps, paper packs, tools of the trade (I now have a Cricut Expression
and a Cuttlebug, plus everything that goes with them), I’ve outgrown my little “studio” – one of the smaller bedrooms in our home. Even more of an issue for me than the size of the room has been the lighting. My little room had no ceiling mounted lights and both windows look out into the shadiest parts of the yard, so natural light wasn’t in abundance either. I tried task lighting, all kinds of lamps, but not with anything close to satisfactory light for working. And working in cramped quarters in a dark room was definitely getting in the way of my creativity.

My DH decided that a change was necessary when I set up a work table smack dab in the middle of our living room for the World Card Making Day challenges (and left it there for two weeks!). I wanted to be able to take advantage of the bright light from the sliders (two eight-foot sets) and the overhead track lighting, and to be able to “spread out”. We decided that over Thanksgiving, when my DS would be home from college and could lend some muscles to this effort, we would swap rooms with one of the rooms downstairs that is much larger, brighter, and has a ceiling full of recessed lights. I’ve been looking forward to it, debating how to arrange and organize things in the new space, and planning how I was going to slowly pack to move, so I wouldn’t face the same chaos we had the last time my studio was shuffled.

Two weeks ago, DH got up on a sunny Sunday morning and with a cheery smile, told me he’d decided to move my studio that day, no packing, no preparation, we’re doing it now. Our son had come home from college that weekend to make his annual visit to Spooky World and DH snagged him to help with the project. Another friend was able to rush to my aid and help me to pack things for two hours. Thank goodness that Monday was a holiday and I had help to finish the last of the moving and unpacking.


Looking at the mess at the height of the move was enough to give me a panic attack. And this is with only half of my things moved down. The living room and dining room had piles of tubs of "things".... things I would have to sort and put away. Packing on the fly is never efficient. Everything was put in tubs and boxes, and everything from an area was supposed to be kept together. But in the interest of efficiency, when a tub was only 2/3 or so filled, my "helpers" tossed in anything they found that looked like it would fit. Still, we accomplished it in a day - and while it took an entire week to unpack, organize and get things the way I wanted, I'm grateful it's behind me!


Now, two weeks later, with all of my things stowed in their new places, I stand in my new work space in awe.

I couldn’t wait to get back to work in full swing, which I was finally able to do last week. (Lord knows, I’m, woefully behind LOL.) Having everything organized in a space that is so light and bright and cheerful is something I had been dreaming about for ages and I feel almost overwhelmed by the reality.

And it happened in the nick of time for the VSN Mini Cabaret this weekend. What a pleasure it was for me, and best of all, since I had only recently unpacked and organized things, I was very familiar with many things I’d forgotten I even had, and able to put my hands on things immediately.

We still have some more work to do. We are going to install some cabinets and counters at some point, and the closet move still isn’t complete (saving much of that job for next weekend).

But I feel like a fairy princess in a brand new castle. My favorite thing? Easily, the work table in the middle of the room. It’s so nice to have such a large area to spread things out and work. And having separate areas that I can leave all set up for cutting, stamping, embossing, and designing is a major plus.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"L'shanah tovah tikatevu" - A Tutorial

Chag Sameach everyone, as we celebrate the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest of the High Holy Days and most solemn holiday in the Jewish faith.

This year I made greeting cards for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with stamps I acquired at one of my favorite places to shop, Stamp Francisco. (See the link in "My Favorite Places to Visit/Shop" on the left.) Here are some tips and tricks for making these simple yet elegant cards which can be adapted for any holiday or occasion.

The sketch for this card is very basic - a smaller rectangle centered in a larger rectangle, both rectangles matted to match, and ornamentation on two or four corners.

The first example (shown above) is one of the simplest and easiest cards in my gallery. You can view my entire gallery at Splitcoast Stampers by clicking on the link at the left under "My Special Places".

The card is elegant and sophisticated, perfect for a solemn holiday or other serious occasion. And like the second card in this tutorial, it's simple to make and very versatile; you can use any color and any central image. The main card requires a half sheet (8-1/2"x5-1/2") of standard letter sized card stock and they are a perfect fit for invitation-sized envelopes (4-3/8"x5-3/4", size A2). Here are the steps for creating this look.

First, cut the background pieces - royal blue card stock, 4.25" x5.5", and white card stock a quarter inch smaller in width and length. Next stamp a flourish over the white card stock in royal blue and emboss it with iridescent embossing powder. I punched opposite corners of the blue card stock with a decorative corner punch (EK Success) but all four could be punched. Trim the decorated white card stock to fit and set it in place, securing with adhesive.

Stamp the center medallion on white card stock, clear emboss it, and trim it, leaving a narrow margin. Then mat it in royal blue. When I am matting images or photographs, I attach the image I'm matting to the paper I'm using for the mat with permanent adhesive, aligning it in a corner, and then I use my cutter to cut the other two (or more) sides after, not before, the image is affixed to the mat. For some reason, no matter how carefully I measure and cut, I simply don't get "perfect" mats if I cut them separately and then put them together. Matting first and then trimming insures even edges on your mat every time. For this card, after I attached the background mat and center medallion on the card, I stamped (royal blue ink) and clear embossed an inside message.

The second card (left) is slightly different, just as elegant, a little more ornate, and even less work than the first card.

For this card, I used an embossed paper in constructing the background. You can purchase embossed premium stock or emboss your own with an embosser (such as Fiskar's or Cuttlebug). I mounted white floral embossed paper on dark purple card stock. The corners were punched using an EK Success corner punch. The pieces were cut from a contrasting piece of card stock that was also used as the primary card stock for the card and as the second mat for the center medallion. I used brads to attach the corner embellishment and secure the embossed white and purple card stocks.

As a general rule, I make my card fronts separately and then attach them to the card (which in this case is gray). For this card, I stamped the greeting and then matted it like the central medallion before attaching it to the inside of the card.

I've made numerous note cards and thank you cards using this sketch and corner techniques. They come together quickly and slight variations in the central medallion and corner treatments mean the options are endless but the results are always the same: lovely. Try cutting and matting ovals, add lace and scalloped borders to mats, and use an ornate greeting or watercolored image in the center.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

L'Shanah tovah

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive New Year! I'll be posting a tutorial and directions for High Holiday cards later this week, so do drop back for a visit soon!

And may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.