Sunday, March 20, 2011

Using flour as a resist

Flour Paste Resist Tutorial

Leslie here.  I am fascinated with the effects of pressure on things:  cracks in surfaces are a source of endless inspiration to me.  I will often return from my travels with bizarre images of street surfaces and the sides of buildings.  I think this is the legacy of having an architect/structural engineer father.  How things fit next to one another (think piles of stones) is another  obsession.  But, I digress.
I tried and tried to get potato dextrin (potato starch) to play nice, but I never could achieve the desired results.  Enter the humble sack of flour.
Flour is cheap, accessible, and a wonderful surface design tool for the textile artist!  The results can vary depending on the thickness of the flour to water mixture.  For the following tutorial I mixed the flour paste to resemble thin-ish pancake batter.

The cloth I will illustrate is part of a round robin exchange.  The color was a bit muted for my personal taste, but a bigger concern to me was that the imagery on the cloth was of only one scale, and not really interconnected throughout the piece.  While not completely unattractive, it just didn't excite my imagination.

This is how the fabric appeared when it arrived in my studio:
cotton broadcloth with procionMX dye, DeColourant discharge, textile paint

fabric was tightly pinned to the padded work surface
that was previously covered with a dropcloth.
A thin layer of the flour mixture was spread on a limited area of the cloth with a squeegee.
Using a rubber-end tool for manipulating oil paint, I wrote into the wet flour mixture.
Note:  the tip of a brush handle works for this, too!
I might remove some larger lumps of flour mixture displaced during writing, but 
I don't worry about it too much.
The flour paste mixture begins to dry fairly quickly.
That is why it is best to spread the flour paste on areas of the surface when writing into the paste.
For an overall crackle, spread it on the entire surface.
As soon as the resist begins to dry, it will buckle.
Oh! Will it buckle!
It will pull your pins out from the print table, so you might as well pull them out as soon as you are finished spreading the flour paste and making your marks.
Once the piece has partially dried, you might want to gently lift it off the table and hang it someplace.
You want the resist to be completely dry before proceeding.
here is a detail of the dry resist on cloth
To create the crackled texture with dye, mix procionMX into print paste.
Push the dye mixture into the dried resist.  For this piece, I used a large round brush with plastic bristles and used a combination of brushing and "pouncing" motions to assure the dye penetrated through the open areas of the resist. process
Here is the back of the cloth during the dye application process
Once again, pick up the cloth (if possible) and hang it in an open area to dry.
If this is not possible, simply leave on the print table and allow to batch completely.
This is what the back of the cloth looks like after the thickened dye was applied.
dye painted cloth after drying with the resist still on the surface
It is very stiff and crusty!

To dissolve the paste resist, immerse the cloth into a bucket of water with a small amount (1tsp) of  synthropol or other surfactant, and soak.
Use care when disposing of the water mixture:  you may want to dump this out in the bushes near your studio rather than pour down the drain, depending on how new your plumbing is.  It is something to consider with many of the popular resists.
I soaked my cloth twice to remove as much of the flour paste and thickened dye as possible before washing in the machine.  A bit of synthropol prevents dye migration into the open areas of the cloth.

look at the beautiful crackled surface!
The script is lovely

so we went from this......... this

It just took a little flour and water, and a bit of time to dry between processes.

I am planning to try this technique on a variety of papers.

I hope you will try it, and let me know how your results turn out!


  1. I love this post .Thank you so much for this tutorial!!

  2. A big improvement. A nice detailed explanation. Ruth Issett's book 'Colour on Cloth' has some lovely images on this technique. Its on my list to try.

  3. Now THIS looks fun! Even though I don't work much in cloth, I want to try it. I wonder if acrylic paint would work in a similar way...

  4. Oh wow! What a great explanation - thank you! Your fabric came out so well. I have to try this!!

  5. WOW!!
    it's true art-alchemy - thank you so much for sharing this :)

  6. Fantastic, Leslie! B-E-A-U-tiful.

  7. your fabric came out really great! thanks for the tutorial...and reminder. i'd tried this once previously and now that i see it again it makes me wonder why i haven't done it over and over!!!

  8. and to jane davies...yes! the one and only time i've done this before...i used acrylic paint

  9. I intend to experiment with this technique using acrylic paint on both cloth and paper. I have no idea what to expect on paper, but why not play with it? Be sure to let me know when you do some experimentations of your own!

  10. That is such a cool technique, thanks for posting :)

  11. Wow! This is a really fabulous tutorial. Thanks for all the information.

  12. Totally Cool! Thanks for this tute Leslie!

  13. WonderfulWorkGoodCreations:)