Salted Stars on a Painted Sky

Feeling blue? Is your mood indigo? Maybe you adore the midnight blue Crayola crayon or just the night sky in general. Anyway, if you feel like seeing stars and want to try out or develop your painted paper skills, here's a painted project idea for you that can become a galaxy book.

Here are some tools and materials as well as ideas for how you might approach the painting (detailed instructions for washes, wet-on-wet, layering, sgraffito, and other techniques may be found in Painted Paper: Techniques & Projects for Handmade Books & Cards). Blue is a great pigment to use for this since it is a color that spreads rapidly in water.

Paper: Rising Stonehenge, 22 x 30, white OR 90 lb. watercolor paper
Inks: Daler-Rowney FW acrylic inks, Matisse (Australia), or equivalent—Indigo,  Prussian Blue, Payne's Gray, White, one pearlescent color such as blue or white or silver; white gesso
Tools: 3-4" wash brush; eye dropper (if inks don't have dropper tips); toothbrush; spray bottle; kosher (coarse) salt; skewer, toothpick or pencil; water container; vinyl tablecloth or similar to protect work surface; hair dryer

General painting instructions
Using the wash brush and plain water, dampen your paper so it is wet but not puddly. In a circular motion, squirt drops of ink over the dampened paper. Use the brush to spread the color randomly, leaving some unpainted areas. Add other colors and move the ink around. Use the spray bottle as needed to add water and to create water spots. Sprinkle the salt over the page. Wait and watch: little bursts will begin to appear and the salt will dissolve. 

When the page seems saturated with ink, color, and/or water, use the hair dryer to dry it out. You can layer more color, more salt bursts, more ink drops, and more water spots here. Spraying water over dry ink spot will make the color expand like crystals. Dry it again with the hair dryer, then put a few drops of white or pearlescent ink on a dry toothbrush. Holding the inky toothbrush over the paper, pull the bristles back quickly to spatter randomly. When the paper is completely dry, turn it over and repeat for the back, if desired. After cutting the painted paper into strips for pages you may choose to paint over one strip with gesso for the cover as I did for the Crossed-Structure Binding shown.

Salt bursts (I don't think this is a technical term)

Salt bursts, Spatter with white ink, Blue ink drops sprayed with water

Water drops, White ink spatter

Crossed-Structure Book

Detail of Cover: strips woven in, painted with gesso, sgraffito, sewn

Sewing tip: Draw shapes in pencil with a circle (or other shape) template, poke holes with an awl or needle, and then begin to sew once the holes are in place. You will need an even number of holes if you want to start with a knot on the back and end with a knot on the back. (More sewing ideas at the previous sashiko post.)

Some Binding Suggestions
(paint both sides of paper)

(paint one side of paper)

Fun fact for the day in this article and the Crayola website: the midnight blue crayon was called Prussian blue until 1958 when it was changed since educators felt that children did not identify the blue color with the Prussian military uniforms and it was hard to explain the Thirty Years' War (1733-1763). As of today, it ranks as favorite color #4.


Anna said…
A lovely post, the book is beautiful. Interesting about Prussian Blue, my Caligo lino printing inks have a Prussian Blue and it is my favourite colour, just yummy!