Monthly Archives: November 2010



The three primary colors, red yellow and blue, can be mixed endlessly to produce new colors, some shown on the color wheel in my last post.  Fabric paint can be mixed in a container (as done for the color wheel) or directly on fabric.  This is the first experiment with mixing transparent paint on fabric.  I used ProFab Textile paint on unbleached muslin.  It may be difficult to see the subleties in the color changes, but I will explain, and you can try these explorations on your own.  I started with wet fabric because I love the blending that occurs.   The first 3 strips of color are dry (paint straight from jar) on wet(fabric).  The last 3 strips are wet (diluted paint) on wet (fabric), and there is very clearly more blending when using “wet on wet”.

FIRST STRIP on the left:  Layer 1 is yellow.  Layer 2 has red over the yellow resulting in a red-orange hue; the red, though darker than yellow, is transparent enough to allow some yellow to come through and blend.  Layer 3 has blue painted over one layer of yellow, resulting in a blue-green hue.

SECOND STRIP:  Layer 1 is red.  In layer 2, yellow is painted over red, giving an orange hue; painting yellow over red produces a lighter orange than painting red over yellow (1st strip, layer 2).  In layer 3, blue is painted over the second layer of red and yellow, resulting in a brown hue from blending of all three primary colors.

THIRD STRIP:  Layer 1 is blue.  In layer 2, yellow is painted over blue, resulting a green hue.  In layer 3, red is painted over blue, producing a violet hue.

Looking at the right half of this fabric, first notice the difference between the left side and the right side.  The left half was done with “dry” paint (right out of the jar) on wet fabric, producing some blending due to the wet fabric.  The right half was done with wet paint (water-diluted) on wet fabric, producing even more blending.  Diluting the paint with water causes spreading and bleeding (think watercolor); colors mix, creating new colors.  In addition, you can see that the colors, being diluted, are lighter in value than the deeper hues on the left.

The same color sequence was used for the set of strips on the right, this time wet/diluted paint on wet fabric.  Working with “wet on wet”, there is so much blending, it is hard to differentiate between the 3 strips.

FIRST STRIP, right side:  Layer 1 is yellow, layer 2 has added red, and layer 3 has added blue.  Similar to the “dry” results, layer 2 has a red-orange hue and layer 3 has a blue-green hue. 

SECOND STRIP, right:  Layer 1 is red.  Layer 2 has yellow painted over red, producing an orange hue.  Layer 3 shows yellow painted over the orange, resulting in a blending of the three primary colors which produces a brown hue.

THIRD STRIP, right:  Layer 1 is blue.  Layer 2 has yellow painted over blue, producing a green hue from the blending of yellow and blue.  Layer 3 has red painted over blue, resulting in a violet hue.

You can begin to appreciate some of the different results that can be achieved when using wet vs dry paint, using wet vs dry fabric and depending on which color is put down first.  The next exploration will be with dry fabric.

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My plan is to spend a good amount of time during the coming year exploring materials and techniques for using paint on fabric – and to document these studies in this blog.  I will share my processes, thoughts and some exercies.  So here is the first of many… 

To begin understanding paint, it’s a good idea to make your own color wheel.  Mixing from the 3 primary colors can yield an infinite number of new colors, depending on how much of which color is added to your mixture.  My color wheel started with the 3 primary colors – scarlet #30, brilliant yellow #11 and blue #46 – placed approximately equidistant from each other.  I mixed red and yellow to make orange, red and blue to make violet, and blue and yellow to make green; these are the secondary colors and were placed between the primaries.  Next, tertiary colors were mixed by adding more red, blue or yellow to each of the secondary colors, and these new colors were placed in their appropriate places on the color wheel.  You can take this exercise further by adding white to each color to get a lighter hue, or “tint” and/or by adding black to each color to get a darker hue or “shade”.  I used transparent colors for this wheel; opaque colors can be used as well.

For my explorations, I will be using ProFab Textile Paint and ProFab Opaque Textile Paint, both available online from Pro Chemical & Dye.  These paints are offered in transparent and opaque – differences to be explained in a future post.  They are the perfect consistency for screening on fabric, and they can be thinned with ProChem base extenders.

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Filed under Art Stuff, Fabric painting, Fiber Art