Getting Words on Acrylics & Layered Art Journal Pages

How on earth to write words on acrylic paint?A question echoed by art journalists around the globe! We create these deliciously decadent, chaotic, busy, layered pages with paper and paint and all of the goodies and we want to bring it all together with a snappy quote from Ray Bradbury, maybe some David Bowie lyrics or free form poetry. But the page is overflowing with grungy stripes or high contrast flowers or maybe it's just super intensely dark! What to do!?!?

A ginormous list of ideas for getting words on the most difficult of art journal pages.

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Ⓓ = 𝓛^3×[1.5÷(2-ℍ)+1/℉+℗(♫÷Ͽ)]
Ⓓ=Drying time
𝓛=Layers of paint
℉= Temperature in Fahrenheit
♫ = Time signature of background music
℗ = Elapsed level of patience
Ͽ = Daylight Savings Time adjustment factor

OK, I'm not a scientist but I have played + experimented + painted with acrylics for many years and I'll paint on anything, including paper, cardboard, books, index cards, canvas and wood.

How do you write on acrylic art journal backgrounds? 

Be sure your paint is dry before you use a pen or marker to add words or doodles or whatever! Keep in mind that while a thin layer of acrylic paint dries quickly, paper with layers upon layers {paint & collage} can take hours to days {if not weeks} to dry through and through. Definitely not minutes! When the paint starts to dry, a film forms on the surface, and it seems like it is dry but inside the paint is actually not dry. The moisture gets absorbed into the paper as well. 

The good news is that you can use a brush dipped in acrylic paint or opaque ink to paint words on a background that is dry-to-the-touch, but not dry deep down. If you try to write with a pen/marker on the surface and the paint below is still wet, the pen can get some of that gunk into the tip or it will smush down into the paint below the thin dry surface. The surface that "seems" to be dry. The surface that you see and touch. The surface that destroys your amazing pen!

The yellow page, lettered with a brush and Golden High Flow Acrylics. Tutorial Here. 

The yellow page, lettered with a brush and Golden High Flow Acrylics. Tutorial Here. 

a) An ordinary #2 pencil

Sometimes when nothing else works, a #2 pencil does the trick.

b) White gel pen

 Sanford Uni-Ball Gel UM-153 gel pen or Sakura Gelly Roll

The Prism Page from the Daisy Yellow Novel Approach Workshop. Lettering in Uniball pen. 

The Prism Page from the Daisy Yellow Novel Approach Workshop. Lettering in Uniball pen. 

c) Neon or Metallic pen

Sakura Gelly Rolls are quite handy for both dark and light backgrounds. For dark backgrounds {including black gesso and black acrylics}, try neon moonlight, metallic silver and gold. For light backgrounds, try the medium nib, moonlight and darker metallic versions. 

d) PITT pen

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are permanent and dry quickly.  The M nib & brush nib & Big Brush nibs provide thick lines. Try dark gray, black, navy & sepia for light backgrounds. Lighter colors won't show up on dark backgrounds; they are not opaque. 

e) Rapidograph technical pen

Fill your rapidograph with india ink or Golden high flow acrylics and off you go. There's a bit of a learning curve, so do some research before jumping in.

f) Dip pen 

Draw your words with a dip pen nib with india ink, i.e.  Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay White ink or J. Herbin inks but also with Golden high flow acrylics!

Here's a quick review of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay inks

g) Paint markers

Sharpie water-based Poster Paint MarkersWork quite well especially on the most challenging uneven, rough surfaces.

h) Acrylic paint

Write words with a small brush and opaque india ink, fluid acrylic paint or Golden high flow acrylic paint. 

i) Alphabet stamps, hand-carved stamps & stencils. 

Add titles, words & phrases to your pages with alphabet + number stamps or stencils. You can also carve symbols, icons, motifs, doodles and words into pencil erasers or linocutting material with an x-acto knife or lino-cutting tools. Here's a stamp carving tutorial.

j) White correction tape

Roll out the tape and write directly on the surface of the tape! 

k) Paper

Write on any paper, including index cards, then glue to your journal page.

l) Found Words

Cut words from magazines and glue to your page. Here's an example of found poetry.