Psychedelic Batik Cardstock

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batik[ˈbӕtik] ~ a method of dyeing patterns on cloth by waxing certain areas so that they remain uncoloured. [definition from]

My 9 yr old daughter and I painted the white cardstock strips left from trimming our handmade New Year cards with acrylics and a brayer to create the look of a psychedelic batik fabric. The batik look was created by masking sections of the paper with other paper instead of wax. Here's a tutorial documenting the process!

Project Ingredients:

  • Heavy Cardstock. Thin strips of white cardstock, any quantity. We used scraps of "110 lb" weight paper measuring about 1/2" wide by 8 1/2" - 11" tall. The paper must be strong enough to to be handled and moved around without wrinkling or buckling, and stay flat when dry.
  • Water-Based Block Printing Ink. We used Speedball Water-Soluble Block Printing Ink, which cleans up nicely from hands, brayer, and plastic containers using water. The color is rich and opaque. We use it for our block printing projects. It comes in just under 20 colors (including metalics); I bought 2.5 oz tubes of white, black, blue, turquoise, red, magenta, green, orange and yellow.
  • Rubber Brayer. We use two 2" Speedball soft rubber brayers; if more than one person is working on the project you might want four brayers to reduce clean-up while you are working. These brayers clean up easily and roll effortlessly.
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Here's the play-by-play, with photos:

1. Cut thin strips of white cardstock, or use strips leftover from a project.

2. Place the paper randomly on a piece of cardboard, roughly vertical, per the photograph below.

3. Place 1-2 teaspoons (you don't need to measure) of block printing ink in a square or rectangular plastic container. Note: on paper/cardboard the ink is absorbed and dries lightening fast, so use plastic.

4. Roll the brayer back and forth in the container. The ink should be spread evenly on the brayer and somewhat tacky (dry, not goopy). With your first color {mine was orange} roll the brayer across the strips 1-2 times at various angles. Hint: If you have too much ink on the brayer, roll it on another surface or better yet, on a page in an altered book or art journal as background color.

5. Repeat steps #3-4 with your second color {mine was magenta}.

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6. Mix another color {I mixed pale blue}. Pick up the paper and mix it up on your workspace. Keeping most of it roughly vertical. This block printing ink works like a dream for this project, as it dries quickly, especially when using a fairly dry brayer. By this point, my older daughter was magnetized to the brayer and focused on mixing the next color! Color mixing is one of her many creative talents.

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7. The process continues - mixing a new color, mixing up the paper, rolling a line or two. Try not to micro-manage the paper ~ just let it fall where it does naturally. We applied some yellow and then a nice bold stripe of pure red livened things up. We started removing strips from the pile and continued with other colors, so that they didn't all have the same colors.

Hint: Use colors you like and vary the colors. If you simply don't like the color when you mix it, you can waste a lot of ink trying to come up with a better color! I came up with some very dull pinks and mauves that were not used. Best to start fresh.

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8. Separate the pieces and place them, not touching, on a surface to dry overnight. Because of the weight of the paper we used, there was no need to press them; they did not warp. Thinner paper would likely warp, so grab those Harry Potter books and the World Atlas.

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The complexity of the colors on each strip is incredible. It was a huge success and my daughter wants to do some all her own next. Kid notes: It would be fun to do this with kids 6+; they will be tempted to roll the paint on thick, so show them how to keep it fairly dry... and not use the entire tube of color.

We took this one step further and added texture to the paper with one simple ingredient...

We rolled the soft brayer in a container of black Speedball block printing ink. Then we shook sea salt onto the brayer and scattered salt on the pile of cardstock strips. We rolled the inked brayer on the paper and the salt created a rustic waathered texture while absorbing on on the color of the ink. We continued by mixing up the cardstock, rolling the brayer in a new color, salting the brayer, and rolling at random until we liked the look of the papers.

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What to do with hand-colored cardstock?

  • Collage elements
  • Use in art journal backgrounds
  • Weave into an ATC
  • Make bookmarks
  • Make a folded accordian book
  • Punch a hole in the top and attach ribbon for gift tags
  • Start with strips 1-2" wide, cut into 1"x1" (inchie) or 2"x2" squares, frame & display