Tuesday 2 November 2010

Making an Impression

As promised on Sunday, today I'll show you the noisy technique for making impressions of shapes on cardboard - which I used in the skull card.

I saw it in a magazine, a French one called Histoires de Pages. They used fancy Melody Ross tools and chipboard, of which I had none, so I improvised.

First of all, take your cardboard shape (I used the cardboard that backs a pad of paper), and lightly wet it by going over it with a wet brush or sponge, or mist it with a spray bottle. Then take your tools - you'll need a hammer, a board on which to hammer, and something to make an impression with. Melody Ross has some steel stamps which give a deep deboss, but as I had nothing like this that was suitable for the skull card I went with an emboss by using what I think is a backing sheet for sequins (that is, it's thick foil and has tiny shapes punched out of it, and I'm assuming these shapes became sequins).

Start hammering. This was the noisy part: I really went to town to get a deep impression. My table is inlaid with tiles which began to ring slightly with the impact, and a combination of no carpets and very high ceilings topped it off by echoing and amplifying the sound. Sorry, neighbours! This is what it looked like as it started to dry:

The next step is to paint LIGHTLY and haphazardly over the cardboard with gesso. You can see how I used the area that wasn't going to be on show (the middle section) to unload my brush to the desired point before going over the shapes. The key is to really only highlight the embossed parts and not cover the debossed parts too much. If my example had been made with Melody Ross's tools or anything else to get the deboss effect, I'd be aiming to keep the stars relatively free of paint. But as I was embossing, I was trying to keep the negative space empty.

Then mix a paint or ink colour, and when the gesso is dry, paint over the cardboard in the same way as before. It doesn't matter if the white still shows through - that's the look we're going for.

After this layer has dried, mix 50/50 a dark paint or ink with some kind of varnish. In the magazine they used Mod Podge, but I don't have any of that fancy stuff, so I used PVA glue. Cover the whole piece of cardboard with this paint/varnish mix and allow to dry thoroughly.

When it's dry, you may need to sit it under some heavy books for a while to flatten it again. Leave it overnight, and it'll be ready to use the next day.

This technique was really fast, and looks really good. If you make something with it, let me know - I'd love to see what you come up with. Thanks for looking!


  1. What a cool technique - and I love your improvising. Fancy tools definitely do not always make things better!

  2. I love the fact that you've used what you had to hand ... and wow look how it's turned out. Fabulous.

  3. It is very interesting to know how you did that. I can just imagine how much noise it made! but how effective it is, and just goes to show, don't be put of just because you don't have the right tools.

  4. That is such an effective technique and it looks really easy to do! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. What a fantastic effect! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Me again :) Been trying to find a tab to email you but can't see it for looking. I write the Gauche Alchemy newsletter and I'd love to feature your technique this month. Would you be able to email me back with a yes or a booger off? Thanks :)

  7. This is seriously incredible! Love the end result!