Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Week 17: Paper Casting with Kleenex

You've probably found plenty of uses for Kleenex. Nose blower, makeup remover, spill wiper - but how about art material?

The finished piece, with embossed suns created with . . . Kleenex.

Paper casting involves making dimensional forms with paper pulp and molds. We're going to do faux casting here, with Kleenex and rubber stamps. Much easier, less messy, and uses materials you already have around the house! The smooshiness of the Kleenex lends itself perfectly to embedding in the grooves of a rubber stamp. Using multiple layers of tissue, you end up with a 3-D, embossed image that you can then affix to paper and seal with a medium. Painting over it with metallic paint gives it a look similar to pressed-tin ceiling tiles.

This project is based on techniques learned in Teach Yourself Visually: Collage and Altered Art by Roni Johnson.

What you need

  • Kleenex
  • spray bottle
  • rubber stamp
  • pigment inks
  • polymer medium (Golden)
  • paintbrush
  • acrylic paints of your choice (I used antique bronze metallic paint, alizarin crimson, and hansa yellow)
  • cardstock

What you need, clockwise from left: spray bottle, polymer medium, Kleenex, paintbrush, acrylic paints, rubber stamp, pigment inks

Start by turning your rubber stamp face up and inking it thoroughly. The darker or more saturated the ink you use, the clearer your final image will be.
Cut pieces of Kleenex so that they overhang the edges of the stamp. Then press down a piece of tissue over the stamp and mist it thoroughly with the spray bottle.
Add another piece of Kleenex, mist it, and press down (don't rub; it'll tear the tissue). Keep pressing over the entire image; you'll see the stamped image start to show through. Continue adding tissue, misting, and pressing, using five tissues altogether. 
Pull up the wad of tissues. Your image will be clearly inked and embossed. Here, I inked the same image with four different inks. Clean your stamp pad with baby wipes in between colors, and let it dry.
Let the tissues dry for a while till they're damp but not soaking wet anymore. If you let them dry completely, then the tissues will separate, and your nice thick impression will be lost.
Once the tissues are damp to the touch, brush polymer medium on a piece of cardstock and press the casting down onto the cardstock. Then brush carefully over the top of the casting, sealing it down onto the paper. The medium acts as a sealant for the casting so that it doesn't separate, and it also enables you to paint over it later.
The sealed casting should dry overnight. The next day, you're ready to proceed.

Here are the sealed castings after drying. They're looking pretty good but they still have that "Kleenex-y" look around the edges. Time to fix that.
Using watered-down acrylic paint, start painting over your castings. Here I mixed alizarin crimson with metallic antique bronze. The metallic works particularly well on the castings, really highlighting the embossed texture.
At this point the casting is just about ready. I added some yellow to the castings after taking the preceding photo; as you can see in the finished picture below, the yellow was that missing touch that really helps the images pop out and gives the stamped suns some warmth.

When you're happy with the look of your casting, you can cut it out and use it for card-making or mixed media projects. I turned the castings into a little art piece here, using some leftover bits from other projects: a fused glass oblong and an art metal frame that's embossed and inked with alcohol inks (read more about that technique in Week 13).
The finished piece, using leftovers from other projects.
You can do paper casting with other materials besides Kleenex, but the few other options I tried - tissue paper and gampi paper - just don't have the pulpiness of facial tissue, and didn't come out as three-dimensional.

Besides, this is probably the prettiest Kleenex ever gets. Have fun!


  1. looks really cool!! What a great idea!!

  2. What a great project! You've inspired me again!

  3. Thanks so much, guys! More fun than you'd ever expect to have with Kleenex!

  4. Oohh...gonna have to try that for one of my house projects...thanks for the inspiration

  5. Cool Andrea, that would be such a fun technique to try for your houses! Look forward to getting a peek when you've tried the paper casting!