Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Big ATC Tutorial - part four - painting with water soluble crayons

Can you believe this is part four already of my five part atc tutorial? Time flies when you're having fun. And I sure had fun making this last set of atc's! I used some techniques I hadn't in a while and also some of my favorite materials in the world. So let's get going, shall we?

The Big ATC Tutorial - part four - painting with water soluble crayons

Materials used:
  • some atc backgrounds that were made in part one of this tutorial
  • some sheets of a good paper that can take wet media (I used 200 gsm Fabriano paper)
  • gouache or watercolour (use any cheap brand you have, we're not using them for fine art)
  • a spray bottle with water (I used a mini spritzer)
  • a design source book (I used one about flowers and plants), this one is not mandatory, you can just draw from your imagination, but I put it in so you knew there is stuff like this out there if you need it
  • a pencil
  • an eraser
  • a drawing pen (waterproof)
  • several brushes (for watercolour, but also for brushing on gel medium)
  • watersoluble crayons (you need a good quality for this to work, I have cheaper ones than the Neocolor II's I'm using here, but you can't use the brush technique with those so it's a matter of trying them out and seeing if it works), however if you don't have water soluble crayons just use any other kind of material for colouring in your images
  • a black glaze pen (or another black marker)
  • acrylic gel medium (or any other good permanent glue)
  • scissors
  • eyelets and an eyelet setter (I used a crop-a-dile, but there's plenty of alternatives out there)

This time I did not alter the surface of the background much. Here's a reminder of how the original background looked. As you can see I  added a dashed line around the borders in a black glaze pen to prepare the cards for what was to come. I wanted to ad an extra layer in the form of an extra piece of paper. A little background on top of a background you might say.

So now I had to make a second background. I got out a piece of one of my favorite papers, Fabriano artist's paper. This one is 200 gsm and it works well with most media.

I started by getting out my gouache box and a mini spritzer full of water. I spritzed the paper until it was soaking wet.

Then I dipped my watercolour brush in water and started adding several colours of gouache. Because the background was so wet the colours really ran into each other.

I reinforced that effect by holding the paper sideways and letting the colors run over the page even more. You have to be a little careful with this and take care that your colors don't get muddy, that would ruin the effect. So try not to mix too much together. After this I lay this sheet of paper aside and left it to dry while I moved on with another part of my atc's.

As I've already said in the previous parts of this tutorial, the atc's that I've made all had the same theme: flowers. I knew I wanted to put a big flower on these atc's and I knew I wanted to draw it myself. But I also wanted to draw someting different from my usual flowers. Whenever you find yourself faced with a need for inspiration and ideas for imagery you might want to seek out so called source books. They come in all kinds. The above is a source book that's fully dedicated to drawn flowers. It is absolutely fantastic and when you buy it you also buy the right to use the images in your art. How cool is that? a

This is a sample of what the pages inside look like and also the spread I used as inspiration for my flowers. A lot of sourcebooks have cd's included with all the images on it, so technically you could also just print out what you want and colour it in, but I wanted to give a bit more of a personal touch to these flowers, so I decided to draw them by hand.

I got another sheet of Fabriano paper and used one of the background atc's as a template for drawing four frames. That way I could make sure my flowers would be the right size.

I drew the flower of my choice in pencil first so I could erase some lines if they were not to my liking. I used a mechnical pencil by the way. I like using mechanical pencils for line drawings, where you don't need shading and stuff like that.

Then I traced the flower with a drawing pen (make sure your pen is waterproof, because we will be colouring the drawing in with wet media) and erased all the pencil lines.

Now it was time to colour the flower in. I wanted to do a technique I used a lot in the past for coloring in faces, namely using watersoluble crayons as watercolors. What you do is you hold a wet brush to the crayon and so get the colour on the brush and paint with that like you would with any paint. The difference is that these crayons are more velvety and opaque in nature and just go down a little thicker, so they have their own 'personality'. What I also like is that I have a huge amount of them (84 colours) and so hardly need to mix colours when using them and I'm a lazy colour mixer. Anyway, I started colouring in the flower this way.

Now let me say that if you don't have water soluble crayons you could of course just as easily colour in these flowers with any media you like. The principle is still the same: draw a flower and colour it in. The end.

Well, not exactly the end, because after that first layer I added a second to spice the flower up a little. Sometimes I also added dots or stripes or other marks in a second colour. It really made the flowers pop. What's nice about the crayons is that you can use a lighter color on top of a darker one.

And to make them pop even more, guess what I did? Yup, I got out my trusty black glaze pen and outlined the whole flower all over again. You can't see it very well in this picture, but the glaze pen next to the velvety crayon makes for a really nice contrast.

Now it was time to cut out the flower. I used tiny scissors for that. I'm not an obsessively neat cutter, so there are little traces of white here and there. For this alone I will never become one of those 3D card makers. ;-)

After that I made three more flowers in the same manner and cut them out. I must say that I was a little in love with them. So bright and cheerful they are!

By the time all that was done the second background paper was dry enough for use. I cut out four rectangles that were slightly smaller than an atc.

I put a dashed line on the borders of these second backgrounds too, of course again in glaze pen (what else?). Then I attached the center of these rectangles to the original background with a little glue. Only the center mind you, I wanted the sides to stay 'loose'. I just wanted to make sure the rectangles didn't move during the next stage.

See, I really wanted to attach the rectangles with eyelets. So I got my crop-a-dile and my small selection of eyelets and got to work. If you don't have a crop-a-dile, you really don't need one. There's all kinds of (cheaper) eyelet setters out there. It's a handy tool, but only if you use it regularly is it worth the cost.

I put a silver coloured eyelet in every corner of the rectangles. Now they were firmly attached to the background.

Now all that was left to do was glue the flowers to the new backgrounds. I used acrylic gel medium for this, however this time I did not seal the image in. This because the crayons are (as their name clearly states) water soluble. If I would have gone over the flowers with the medium the colours would have smeared and the image would have been ruined.

And here's how my four last atc's turned out. As you can see I could have planned the flowers a little better here and there as they sometimes cover the eyelets, but still: it's such a colourful bunch that I don't really mind all that much. We learn as we go. ;-)

And that concludes part four of my tutorial. I now have twelve brand new atc's! 

I'm quite happy with how they turned out. But... we aren't fully finished yet. Tomorrow in part five of our tutorial we will talk about the finishing touches. Hope to see you then!

For now I wish all of you a wonderful and artsy day.


  1. Thanks for this great tutorial and for mentioning this book. I didn't know such a thing existed. I just went over to Amazon and ordered it ;)

    1. Glad you like it, Danielle. Hope you enjoy the book, it's got some great ideas.

  2. These are really gorgeous, Caatje! I didn't think I would like anything better than the collaged ones, but these look amazing. I love how the flowers look when they are cut out, and the way your frame the card is genius. That top left one is my very favorite. I would love to trade for that! :-)

    1. I love those cut out flowers too. I think they would look really cool if they were elevated a little from the background. I might try that some day for a little 3D effect. I'll contact you privately about a trade.

  3. Wat mooi weer! Ik had nooit bedacht om een extra achtergrondje te maken als de achtergrond al zo mooi is, maar het resultaat is prachtig.

    1. Tja, het is altijd een beetje eng om iets wat mooi is toch te bedekken, maar het is meestal wel de moeite waard. Dank voor je compliment.

  4. Love your blog and art, thank you so much for sharing. Discovered you first on flickr. :) I love the book you shared, looks fantastic! I looked up on amazon and I am wondering if you have any other books by same author, or other pattern books you recommend. I will be going back through your blog, but I'm sure it will take some time :) Love these Atc's and the flowers!

    1. Thank you Cynthea. I know the author made more books, but I don't own any of them so really can't say anything about them. Just google or search on amazon for source books or pattern books. One of my favorites you can see here it is full of all kinds of designs from all kinds of civilizations. It's fascinating. Hope this helps.

    2. Before I forget, you might also like the many many imagery books published by dover publications. You can find them at


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