Water stained and painted tissue papers

July 11, 2010

Page of decorated tissue papers

I discovered this technique by accident. I came across some old deep turquoise colored tissue paper stored in the back of the attic. The roof had leaked and the tissue paper had been stained in a most beautiful way. The reason for this is that the dyes used in tissue paper are non-permanent and water-soluble.
I tried water staining some myself and one thing led to another. I use them primarily in collage, as wrapping papers and to give as gifts.

Here is the procedure:

various colours of tissue paper
water jar
comb or twigs etc.
designers colours (gouache)

I do this outside on a calm day, it spatters too much to do in my studio. 
Lay down plastic first. Have your other materials ready. Lay out full or half sheets of tissue paper on the plastic. From standing or kneeling position, spatter and drip water on the sheets. Puddles are fine. At this stage you can let them dry,apply designers colour or go on to dyeing paper with paper. I also use a comb with some missing teeth or twigs etc to draw patterns with the water on the paper.

Dyeing paper with paper
On the just spattered sheets of paper on the ground,lay over a dry sheet of a contrasting colour and let dry. When they are completely dry separate them and you will have splotches of purple paper, say on a blue background. And bits of the blue will have bled into the purple sheet as well.

Further treatment with designers colour
When the sheets are still wet, I mix up several little pots of designer colour, it should be quite fluid. I prefer working with metallics like silver gold and bronze, they sparkle on the finished papers. Spatter, paint or apply the colour any way you want. And let all dry.

CAUTION: when using designers colour, don’t sandwich papers on top of one another, because when the designers colour dries it will stick them together. You won’t be able to get the sheets apart without tearing them.

You may need to handle the sheets before they are completely dry, this is a delicate operation but possible if you are careful. It takes some practice.  Good luck.

Martha Marshall has a blog with more about treating papers for collage and other uses.

2 Responses to “Water stained and painted tissue papers”

  1. Beautiful, beautiful!! I will definitely add this to my repertoire. And you got me thinking . . . what if they did try to stick together but you gently peeled them apart when half-dried? Maybe you would get some peeling but in a good way.

    Thanks for the mention too!


    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hi Martha, Yes it is certainly worth a try. The metallic colours I use tend to be quite brittle when dry, but it is possible one might get some good extra effects by peeling when half dry. The paper is really fragile when even a little wet though. But of course my suggestions are just starting points, the more everyone experiments the more we’ll all discover! thanks.

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