A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pencils, Papers, Prints and Pictures to See

I wouldn’t like to appear as a parrot, but pencil and computer happen to be my favourite tools as well. So I just thought to pick up a few aspects and tell, how I use them – apart the obvious.
 Never has any idea come to me just like that, ready-made. It takes time and consideration until the „first flash“ becomes visually ripe. My numerous sketchbooks are the witnesses of it. So pencils, especially soft pencils are my absolute favourite tools. Always I have a few with me, ready to use. One exercise I like to do, when the idea is still very new, just like a tiny flash on my mind: I take a piece of paper, big enough, and several pencils, mostly soft ones, and a charcoal as well, close my eyes and try to see inside, where the new idea is still hidden away, and draw … I change my pencils, draw as I feel like and take my time before opening my eyes again, because I would like to let some hidden ideas come to the surface, if possible. Surely I don’t expect to see any artwork before me afterwards, but I examine the quality of my lines, my marks because they might give me an new clue, where I’m heading. Half of the time I might discard the whole paper and repeat it another time again. But I have realized, even without producing anything “useful”, this kind of exercise just calms me down and helps me focus on my goal.
Now I have to admit, that I spend more time at my computer than I do at my sewing machine or at my drawing table...
Is it a bad thing? Not really, because computer has so many advantages, none of us would like to be without. I don’t want to list them, because so many of them are too obvious. But I would like to point out two things I use the computer for.

Have you ever wanted to visit the Louvre in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, the MoMA in New York, or whichever great museum comes to your mind? Even if you have visited them, haven’t you wanted to go again, just to check out something on whim? Most museums have their collections accessible on the web, often with additional information about the painting and the painter. So why not use them? Why not spend some time browsing through these great collections? I used to collect pictures of inspirations in my notebooks. Now I just collect URLs of the pictures I like. It’s easy, it’s free and it is fun.

The second is a simple way to convert your photos into screen patterns for a thermofax machine without using Photoshop. Even though I have Photoshop, I still use this method, because it is much faster and easier to work with. For a thermofax screen you need to have a black and white print, without any grey hues, because you never know if the greys will be burned out or not.
If you have a photo with strong contrasts in it, than that is already enough.
Like this one of a tree trunk. 
I Insert Picture into a word document, right click on the photo to get short menu and select Format Picture; here select Picture tab; under Image Control change Colour from Automatic to Black and White, print it on a laser printer and it is ready to use with the Thermofax.
Another example, a timber floor board.
And converted into black and white.

Time to time I would like to use a photo without strong contrasts. I use the same steps as last time but at Image Control I can also increase the contrast of the photo - this time I used 70 %. Usually 60-70 % works well but experiment with it.

Sometimes I have a photo which - turned into black and white - gives me the impression of a negative picture. This happens for example, because of the light is on the leaves and the background is dark, like on these bamboo leaves.

The black and white screen pattern gives the impression of being a negative. So I put the image in whatever picture editor program I have, turn it into a negative and this negative is the one I copy into the word document and proceed with it as written above.

Often I even use both the positive and the negative image for printing.


  1. Thanks for the tutorial on using word to change images, Beata! I have not tried that before, and think I will need to experiment with it. I especially like that I can change an image to black and white, as I have wanted to have some thermofax screens made up, but didn't have any b/w images to use! Great tool, right at my fingertips!

  2. In the past, I have wondered if I had been born at the wrong time. Now I have no doubt that my time is now with all the wonderful digital goodies out there starting with the computer. Photo manipulation is also loads of fun and can spark some great ideas. I have met some amazing people through blogs as well. My creative life is so rich. Thanks Beata for your insights into developing ideas through sketch!!

  3. Oh gosh. Now you've got me wanting to play with pictures!

  4. Thank you, Beata, for the information on how you edit a picture for use with a Thermofax. I had never thought to use Word. I'm in an Advanced Independent Study class right now with Jane Dunnewold, and I will be sharing this information tomorrow. Of course, I will be referring them to our blog and your VERY informative post.

  5. I love Word too, besides Photoshop, because it is so much easier to work in layers, as you can point out one colour to turn totally transparant. To my opinion Word is underestimated as a very easy-to-use design tool!! Maybe we should post our 'ways of using Word as a design tool' one month to share with the blogvisitors?

  6. That would be certainly an idea, Nienke. You made me really curious about YOUR tools now. Maybe we just have to do some brainstorming about it.

  7. Judy, let me know, how you're doing with the BW pictures and certainly ask if you need any additional help.


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