Why use chalk in your paper crafting?
Chalk can be a wonderful medium to use in your craft projects, giving them a lovely soft look that can be difficult to achieve with inks alone. Chalks are also very forgiving, you can blend together, add more colour to achieve depth and in fact you really can’t go too wrong with them.
With ink, if you add too much, you often have to start again but with chalks, you can usually just rub them a little to soften things and then go ahead and do it right! Most people can achieve pretty professional effects using chalks, so you don’t need to be an ‘expert’.
There are many different ways to use chalks in your card making and other paper crafts and we will look at some of these in future articles. For this first article on chalking, I wanted to cover the use of chalks to make your die cuts come alive! As die cuts can really look flat and without depth, chalks can be added to make them look solid and real.
What Chalk Should I use?
When crafters talk about chalks, they are not referring to those sticks of chalk we all used to colour the pavement with as children. There are special chalks for crafting,which come in a myriad of different colours and finishes, they are soft and easy to blend and produce lovely rich colours on your project. If you are using our die-cuts on scrapbooks, it pays to find acid free chalks, rather than just using your standard artist chalks, which can contain acid pigments. Look for the ‘Acid Free’ claim on the packet.
Before you start
Before you start working on your die cut, make sure you wash your hands, to get rid of any excess oils. The chalk will stick to this and you may well end up putting chalk on parts of the die cut that you don’t want it. I speak from experience on this one!
I have read elsewhere that you can recover from misplaced oily spots by adding some white chalk, letting it rest and then rubbing the whole lot off. The theory is that the white chalk will absorb the oil. I have to say that I usually just throw my die cut away and start again, so I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of this.
What you need
Have your choice of chalks ready, a pen to outline, some sponges or eye make-up applicators and a white pen for highlighting.
A note about applicators
There are lots of opinions around about what type of applicator to use. You can get special chalking sponges, in lots of different sizes and shapes but my own personal opinion, is that cheap make-up applicators, from the $2 store, work fine. I like the fact that you usually get a thin sponge and a thicker one, which allows you to add chalk to detailed areas and across larger areas. They are also cheap enough that you can throw them away regularly and have one for each colour.
You can use cotton wool but it is much harder to control when decorating detailed areas, so I usually use this when I am chalking large expanses across the front of a card for example.
I have also used cotton buds in the past but I do find that they can drop cotton from them,which is annoying and can end up being too hard, which makes blending the chalk more difficult. You can also end up with a dark blob of chalk which is difficult to blend in. In addition, the cotton wool can come off quite quickly too, so that you can end up marking your die cut with the plastic stick.
Outlining your die-cut
I tend to like too utline my die cut with a pen before starting to chalk. This highlights the detail of the die cut and makes it stand out better on a card. Most die cuts will have perforated lines which you can follow but if they don't you will need to add some lines to give your die cut some features.
You can use whatever colour pens you like to do this, I just like to use black. I generally use a fine pen for this, such as a 0.1 grade. This one is a Faber Castell EcoPigment, which is permanent and lightfast.
For the nose and eyes, I have used a Sharpie pen, as it is quicker to colour in and gives a nice rich black. I then like to add a little highlight on the black, to bring them alive a bit. I have used a white Uni-ball pen for this.
Chalking your die cut
Now I am going to move on to chalking my die cut. As I am really intending to add depth, rather than colour, I usually choose 2 or 3 tones of the colour I want to use. For this teddy, the base card is a light brown, so I am choosing a slightly darker brown and a much darker brown.
Tip: Start with your lighter colour first.
If you dive in with the dark colour, you won’t be able to build it up and achieve the depth that you want.
You can add chalk to your applicator and test it on a spare piece of card, to check that you haven’t overloaded it, if you are feeling a bit nervous.
Work around the edges of your die cut with the applicator, working in soft circles and following the natural shape of the die cut. You can then go in and add some more detail, like under the chin, in the ears, under the arms etc.
When you are happy with this, you can add in your darker colour to the areas which would be more shaded. Leave the centre free of chalk, to provide a highlight. For example on the teddy, the tummy and the forehead would stick out and would be light compared to the underside of the chin. This will give your die cut real depth.Remember, you are just trying to make your die cut look three-dimensional.
Now you can go back around and add any additional colour you want. If you think you have overdone it a bit, you can use a cotton wool ball and blend it out. I have also used an eraser in the past but this can lead to you taking so much chalk inan ‘unatural’ way so that it ruins the finish, so only do this if you are desperate. You can get chalk erasers that would probably work a lot better!
I’ve then added some circles of pink/red to the cheeks and finished it off with another whitehighlight.
Fixing your chalk
Once your die cut is chalked, you are going to want to make sure that the chalk doesn’t come off and your time hasn’t been wasted. I lose count of the amount of times, I have made chalked embellishments for putting on notebooks for the school fairs, only having to go back and re-chalk them again and again before taking them to the sale. I eventually realised that I couldn’t get away with not fixing them in some way.
You can get special fixative sprays but as I generally use my die-cuts on cards rather than scrapbooks, I find that good old hairspray does the job very nicely. If you are going to use them on scrapbooks, you might find that a specialist fixing sprayis better. You may not even need to fix your chalks, if you work is going to be displayed behind a plastic sleeve.
A note about the hairspray - You will need to spray evenly across your die cut, without overloading the paper or card. Don’t hold your can too close to the paper, the idea is to get a good light spray across the whole piece. Don’t worry about missed bits, you will usually get a good enough coverage.
The die cut will look dark and wet initially but don’t panic, as this will dry out and your die-cut should return to more or less normal after a minute or two. Here is my finished die cut. Not the best photo, I will admit, as this tutorial was done at night, but you get the idea.
You can get this gorgeous teddy die cut and other die cuts in the web store,so that you can practice your chalking!