Art Journaling 101 – Background Techniques

Oh yay, we’re on to the fun stuff now! Today I want to share with you a couple of my favorite background techniques for art journaling. They are all super simple and fun to do. When you find yourself stuck and not knowing where to begin you can always start prepping your pages with these and many other background techniques!  

This first technique can be applied in so many ways. Gel medium acts as a resist, so you can stencil, stamp, and paint with it on  your surface, then go over it with a wash of paint to reveal the resist. My pages are rather thin, so I put a layer of gesso on my page first, although the technique works better on a non-gessoed surface. I then stenciled on some circles using semi-gloss gel medium (gloss might even work better!) and a hand cut stencil that I made.


The gel medium is clear, so its a bit hard to see where and how well you are working, you kinda have to watch it at an angle. Once dry, paint over it with watercolors or slightly watered down acrylics. If the paint is sticking to your gel medium, you can lightly dab it with a paper towel and it should come right up. On this page, I used a lot of water with acrylics, then lifted the book to let it drip. So fun!


You may remember this next technique from grade school. Wash your page with 1-3 colors of watercolor, sprinkle with some table salt, and then watch the magic happen! If you aren’t using watercolor paper, you may want to put a base coat of Absorbent Ground like I did, so that the watercolor flows better on your page. Absorbent Ground helps the paper act more like watercolor paper, making it easier to spread wet mediums.


One of the easiest and fastest ways to create a background is to simply squirt some paint onto your page then move it around with an old credit card or key card. With this technique your paint will dry super quick, you waste little to no paint, and it creates a neat printmaking effect! Scrape the paint up and down, then scrape side to side, letting the colors mix slightly. 


When dry, you can add another layer of color like I did here with the black. 


One of my absolute favorite ways to add dimension  texture, and interest is to first collage some paper onto the page. You can use just about anything such as old dictionary pages, pages from a phone book, scrapbook papers, magazine clippings, and more.  Here, I ripped up pieces of an old dictionary and glued them down with soft gel medium. Once it was dry, I painted over it with watered down blue acrylic paint. I dabbed the page with a paper towel here and there to create a mottled effect, then once it was dry I painted another layer in the same way with purple. 


This last technique is super fun, but it takes a long time to do. Squirt a generous amount of gesso onto your page (I like to use Liquitex Basics Gesso), then spread it around with an old credit card or key card.


You want a nice thick layer, almost like spreading spackle.  You’ll get a nice texture just by spreading it around, but to take it further you can draw into it with the back of a paint brush, stamp in it (a thick, deep etched stamp works best), scratch it, and more to add texture. With my page, I wrote the word “love” with the back of a paint brush, and stamped into it with a circle stamp.

Then comes the hard part… letting it dry! With such a thick layer, you’ll probably have to leave it out overnight to dry. It will take hours! Once its finally dry, add a wash of color. Here, I used red and orange acrylic paint thinned with water. Before the paint dries, wipe off some of the excess paint with a paper towel. You’ll see how the recessed areas stay darker, and the raised areas get lighter showing off your beautiful texture! With mine, I added a little more paint around the edges to finish it off nicely. 


Playing around with different techniques will usually lead to a “happy mistake” or two.  Below is an image of one of my happy mistakes trying to do the gel medium resist technique. I put a layer of gold on the page first, then stenciled some small circles with the gel medium. I then did a wash of blue over the top… but the gold paint must not have been dry enough because my blue wash started to turn an ugly green color and got the page all messy. So, I sprayed it with water and rubbed with a paper towel. This lifted most of the paint off the paper, even the gold layer underneath. But, it left the gold circles in tact because they were protected by the gel medium!


Many weeks ago I discovered another way to create texture on the page using gesso. I had just finished prepping my page with a layer of gesso, when I accidentally turned the page. Of course, with the gesso being still wet, the pages stuck together. I was horrified! But after peeling the pages apart, I got excited to see such a neat texture form from the pages pulling apart. 


There are infinite amounts of techniques and ways to start adding color and texture to your page. Heck, you don’t even have to start with color and texture… maybe you want to work on a white background! Just play around, and experiment. Sometimes, a technique you learn online or in a book will never work out for you, but perhaps you will stumble upon a “happy mistake” of your own! 

Bonus Tip: Having a separate journal like I do for experimenting and practicing techniques is a fun way to collect everything you’ve learned and discovered.

Now get out your paints and go play!






 
This lesson is part of a free
art journaling e-course.
Click HERE to sign up
for the whole course!





Spread the Love!

    22 comments to Art Journaling 101 – Background Techniques

    • Great post, Kristal! This really helps me to have a place to start – Thank you!

    • Such wonderful ideas, Kristal! Can’t wait to try them! Thank you!

    • You’re welcome girls! Have fun with it! :)

    • Irene

      Enjoyed seeing this! Great ideas and looks!

    • Tahnea

      Hi,
      Such great background ideas!
      I’ve just finished reading all of your AJ 101 posts! Thank you so much for these! I’ll be watching eagerly for more.
      i’m a virgin Art Journaller and I also suck at all things arty/crafty, but I am determined to give it a good go.
      Thanks for posting!

    • Kristal, thanks for this wonderful display of background ideas. I love how you describe the process (or mistakes ;) for each one. I love how what might be thought of as mistakes is instead so unique and beautiful. Saving this link as I continue to play and explore with art journaling. I already have the credit card one figured out, now on to the others. :)
      Suzanne McRae recently posted..A few new photograph prints in my Etsy ShopMy Profile

    • Sue

      Kristal,
      So glad to have found your posts here on Art Journaling. I too love to paint in my journal although I usually am just a plain old watercolor and ink journaler. I’m excited to try out some of these techniques too. You’ve done a great job in describing them and with your videos!

    • Linda

      Thank you for these! I can’t wait to try them.

    • Janelle

      This was awesome – I am so excited to get started… I have two questions I would like to ask you.
      1. On the dictionary page, what did you use when you came back with the colors to apply it?
      2. An friend of mine that has been painting for years so I asked her what gesso was, she replied just get a can of white latex paint. So that is what I have been using. How different is real gesso from this?
      Thank you so much.

      • Hi Janelle! For the dictionary background, I painted over it with Golden liquid acrylic paint mixed with a little bit of water using a wide paint brush.

        As far as using house paint in place of gesso, I personally would never do it. They were created with a different chemical formula for different specific uses. Gesso is made to last many lifetimes, whereas latex will degrade over time and may or may not be archival. Furthermore, latex dries too stiff for paper or canvas which needs some flexibility; so there is increased chance of your artwork cracking.

    • Barbara

      These are all great inspirational ideas. I especially liked your last “mistake”.

    • Lizzy

      Im so glad I found you. It’s all starting to come together!

    • sarah hluchy

      My current favorite background method is to use oil pastels. I cover the page with the oil pastel color, letting some of the paper color show through. Then I might add another pastel color. It ends up looking like some of the backgrounds I’ve seen you come up with–but less messy than acrylic paint! Lol. I do have to spray some sealant on the page eventually, the pastels can mess up other pages.

      A word on spray sealant vs mod podge…. where I live, mod lodge is sticky. Mod podge brand spray sealant is not. But there must be some reaction between the podge and the sealant because spraying sealant over the mod podge makes the stickiness worse. I hope my exasperation ends up helping somebody make their decision.

    • rubi rogers

      I want to Thank You Kristal. I fell in love w mixed media art after seeing the artists on Etsy. Looked for art classes in my area, but times didn’t fit my schedule.
      Then I found your classes. I could not be happier or more inspired to create. Iam still in the process of gathering supplies.But I just wanted you to know how much I love your classes, thank you.

    • Thank you Kristal! This lesson was awesome! So many interesting ways to make a beautiful background!

    • Kristol,
      I thank you for all the inspiration and beauty.
      You’re very kind and very creative!. Please let me know how you made those circle stencils out of the old Greeting card?.
      Thank you very much :*)

    • christine

      Awesome! Great tios and techniques never thought about wiping it off! Genius thank you for everything its truky been a blessing! ((Hugs)) – christine

    • I too have a 2nd smaller art journal that I create things and journal how I did the technique. Kind of like having your own reference book. Great post!

    • I just love these. I don’t know if I will do anything like this but having a journal to play in sounds like fun. These are some great pages.

    Leave a Reply

      

      

      

    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

    (Includes a link to your latest blog post with your comment.)