Monday, July 16, 2018

Creating Texture with Stencils, Acrylic Mediums, and Embossing Powder

Hi all, this is Gwen and I'm excited to share my first column focusing on using stencils with Paint & Texture! It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a textured surface, so for today's project I've created a piece called "Sands of Time" - a piece of abstract mixed media artwork using stencils with a variety of acrylic mediums as well as embossing powder and a few other supplies to get lots of great dimension and texture.

Ready to see how to get these texture effects in your own work? I've put together a tutorial to show you step by step how I created this piece.

To start, I took a 6" x 12" x 1-1/2" cradled birch panel and coated it with a few shades of Matisse background paints (essentially colored gesso - you could also use white, black, tinted gesso, or craft paints.)

When the gesso was dry, I used the Swirl stencil by Seth Apter along with a light gray Archival Ink and stenciled the whole design, and then parts of it coming out from the top and bottom - I was envisioning kind of an undulating river of swirls down the length of the panel.

Of course, I couldn't have flat swirls; I was thinking lots of dimension. To get that, I took some Extra Heavy Gel / Molding Paste and mixed it with a few drops of Yellow Oxide fluid acrylic paint. (This type of gel is excellent for holding peaks - I wanted to make sure that the design wouldn't settle but would hold its shape after drying and this does the trick.)

I took my tinted gel / molding paste and put it into a plastic sandwich bag, then snipped off just a tiny piece of the corner. This is a little cake decorating cheat when you don't have a pastry bag and it works great for your dimensional mediums and pastes as well! I used that to pipe out the paste, roughly tracing over the stenciled lines, then I used a small silicon brush to smooth them out. I didn't worry about any stenciled lines still showing since I could cover those later.

I let the panel dry overnight, then pulled it back out and started in on some collage to create a different texture along the edges and spilling over onto the sides of the panel. I took a few types and weights of papers, tore them into pieces and crumpled them up, then just collaged them around the edges with matte medium, scrunching them a bit as I went to make sure I maintained some of the crumpled look.

Once the collage was done, I used some Titan Green Pale heavy body acrylic paint and a stiff bristled round brush and integrated the collage into the background. Mostly I just want to cover up the seams and dry-brush a bit over the peaks of the paper to start to make it all cohesive.

Of course, I still need more layers of texture, (more is more!) so I took that same yellow oxide paint and tinted a little light molding paste. I used this with my Decorative 6-Petal Flower Screen stencil and randomly added bits of dimensional pattern around the panel. As I worked, I made sure to stencil across the collaged image and onto the plain background to further integrate the collaged sections into the piece.

I set that aside to dry for a few hours... I was going to start painting next, so all of the pastes needed to be dry before I started working on top of them. Once it was ready, I used some Mars Yellow and Titan Mars Pale heavy body acrylic paints and started dry-brushing with a stiff-bristled round brush. I worked around the dimensional swirls and then brought it out to the collaged texture as well.

Next, I wanted to start bringing in contrast with all of the light colors I had in the background, so I got out my dirty glaze and coated all the dimensional areas. (Dirty glaze is basically any glaze mixed with Micaceous Iron Oxide fluid acrylic paint. My preferred blend is gloss or glazing medium with Van Dyke Brown, Micaceous Iron Oxide, and just a few drops of Interference Gold.)

I let the glaze start to dry, then wiped back with a baby wipe so that it stayed in the recessed areas but the tops of all the textured sections were still the original color.

To further enhance that contrast, I used Transparent Shading Gray High Flow acrylic paint in a Fineline bottle and traced along one side of all the dimensional areas.

I let that dry for a minute or two, then started to dab that back with a baby wipe, repeating the process until I was happy with how it looked. You can already see what a huge difference it makes when you add some glazing and shading - mega contrast!

I let the paint dry again, then got out some clear embossing ink and a sponge applicator and coated the entire panel, making sure to try and get it into all of the textured areas as best I could.

I put the panel over a piece of scrap paper, then sprinkled Vintage Beeswax Baked Texture Embossing Powder over the entire piece, tapping off the excess and returning it to the jar.

I heated that, melting the entire first coat, then repeated the process so that I had two complete coats of embossing powder. This particular blend has just a bit of a tint, making what's underneath look slightly aged while giving it a nice, thick and glossy coating of enamel.

On the second coat, I started to bring in even more texture using Prills from USArtQuest. I sprinkled them into the hot embossing powder (I melted it, turned the heat gun away and quickly added the Prills, then brought the gun back to re-heat the area and ensure they were nicely embedded.)

Once all of the embossing was done, I coated the entire thing with matte medium. (This is a great tip from Seth Apter who designed the Baked Texture powders - it makes the Vintage Beeswax look exactly like beeswax on an encaustic piece!)

When the matte medium was dry, I took some Treasure Gold wax from PaperArtsy and just used my finger to brush it on the tops of the textured areas - this helps to heighten the contrast even more, both in color as well as with the bright metallic vs. the grungy glazing and shading.

At this point I decided on what my focal point was going to be, and since it included a little hint of green, I decided to add a patina effect to the rest of the piece in order to integrate the colors of the elements I was going to add. I took some Vintaj Patina paints (from Ranger) and rubbed them onto the piece in a few places using a dry cloth. After that, I went back through with the gold wax and touched up any places where the patina was too strong.

Finally, I assembled my focal point elements: a large, sequined sari patch from India, a large vintage Kuchi button from Pakistan, and a brass elephant charm that I tinted with alcohol inks. With that in place, the piece was almost finished! I just added a few swipes of brown and black StazOn ink along the edges of the panel to frame it and I was done.

Here are a few close-ups so you can better sense of the different varieties of texture that I was able to achieve with the stenciling and all of the other elements and mediums I combined on this piece:

I really had a lot of fun experimenting with texture on this piece, and I hope you enjoyed it! I can't wait to see how you interpret these techniques in your own work!

Until next time, happy stenciling!


  1. Thanks so much, Gwen. The tutorial explains it all so well and I am so glad to see products listed that you use. I have a hunch that I can do this now. Also thanks for the information on Stencil Girl talk about the book using your new stencils for the month. Supplies should be arriving from Amazon on Wednesday. Can't wait to do the book. Your instructions are so easy to follow. Happy Day!!!!!

    1. Thanks Pat! You can totally do this! Just lots of layers of simple steps all piled up on top of each other :)

      Can't wait to see what you do with the StencilClub class - I'm sure your book will be awesome!

  2. You are without a doubt, Queen of Texture! I always learn something new from you and I picked up 2 things, the icing bag truck (genius btw) and embedding the prills with embossing powder. What do you NOT know? Seriously!! You are so creative!

    1. lol, thanks Sandee! Does that mean I get a crown? :D

      So glad you picked up a few tips! Embedding things into embossing powder is always a good time, and whenever I can use baking tricks in art, it makes me extra happy. lol.

  3. This is an incredible creation. So much texture. Thanks for sharing all the tips and steps.

    1. Thanks so much Seth! You know how much I love my texture :D

  4. Gwen, what a wonderful piece and absolutely fabulous instructions. Thanks for sharing your process.

    1. Thanks so much Cathy - I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Great tutorial,thank you for sharing!!

  6. Excellent work. Thanks for the many techniques! I'm new @ trying different artsy/crafty pieces. Look forward to doing something unique and creative.

  7. Loved it loved it clear instructions and beautiful finish very inspiring

  8. What a great project!!!!Really Artsy!!

  9. Very nice tutorial. Thank you for sharing. I love seeing how creative some people are, you are very talented

  10. interesting and artistic work. Loved it.


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