Last two pictures are courtesy of Columbus North High School and John Johnson, director. Artwork copyrighted.
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Painting on Chameleon™ Scrims
Many of our customers expressed interest in a how-to article on painting on Chameleon ™ . This page summarizes how we paint on Chameleon™ and offers tips and suggestions to make the task easier. Chameleon™ can be painted on in a 'dye style' (the way you paint watercolor paintings) using diluted, easily found paints.
A comparison to painting on regular scrim (shark's tooth scrim).
Sharkstooth scrim is cotton, and so is absorbent. Chameleon™ is a synthetic fabric, and so is not absorbent. Sharkstooth scrim can be painted with dye, Chameleon™ on the other hand is not absorbent, and so needs a binder (a binder is essentially a glue). Paint is dye plus a binder. So we usually paint Chameleon with an Acrylic/ Latex paint diluted.
Painting Chameleon™ and preserving translucency
Using Latex House paint or artist's Acrylic paint would fill the holes in the scrim, and make the material opaque. We dilute the paints to a consistency of 4:1. So if using ordinary household latex paint, we use 4 parts water to 1 part paint. We then test a sample to make sure that the paint solution when dry is still translucent. We adjust from there. You can dilute the solution further to allow use of a Hudson spray tank (an ordinary garden sprayer) to apply the paint, but you must be aware that the more dilute the paint, the less binder. If you dilute too much, the paint on the scrim will be adversely affected by moisture. So don't dilute much further if you expect the scrim to be used outdoor and be exposed to rain or dew. (Note: we don't recommend using painted scrims outdoors. The techniques cited here mitigate the issue, but don't solve it.)
If you prefer an opaque painting, you can use latex or acrylic full strength.
Note that scenic paints are more intense and create a more intense color when diluted.
Steps to paint a large translucent painting'
- Prepare artwork to scale and representative of the colors to be used. It's easiest to use a limited pallet. Typically, 5-6 colors is manageable. If possible plan the composition to easily hide mistakes.
- Choose the painting area. If you paint vertically you must take care to not let the paint run down the painting or kraft paper. If you paint on a horizontal surface or the floor, you must have a large cleanable area. You must also be careful to not track the paint from one spot to another, by walking through a wet spot and leaving footprints elsewhere.
- Choose the background color. Usually this color is a light color that is a predominant color in the composition. Don't choose a dark color (too difficult to cover an intense or dark color). You don't need to choose the lightest color, but pick one of the lightest.
Cut and tape kraft paper (available at hardware stores) to the size of the final painting.
- The kraft paper serves several purposes: 1.) it is your roadmap to the composition once you sketch the composition on it. 2.) protects the surface below the painting-to a certain extent. 3.)kraft paper will absorb the runny diluted paint and prevent it from running elsewhere.
- Use charcoal to lay out the painting on the kraft paper. This is called cartooning the painting. Charcoal is easily erased, and allows you to correctly lay out a painting to scale. Some artists choose to outline the individual colors; some choose to just sketch the outline of the paintings.
Tape the outer edges of the scrim to the kraft paper. You should be able to see the cartoon through the scrim.
- Mix the colors, test the dilution on samples.
- Apply the diluted paint, one color at a time, working from dark to light colors. Allow the painting to dry between paint applications lifting off of the Kraft Paper (so it doesn't stick). You can use brushes, rollers and in some cases Hudson sprayers.
- Once you've completed the painting, lift the painting off of the kraft paper.
A 27' x 29' painted scrim in use by Heritage High School Marching Band.
Keep in mind that the kraft paper colors the painting before completion. Since kraft paper is brown, the painting will look more brown while in work, than when complete. Actual colors of the finished piece depend on lighting and the darkness of the space behind the painting. Dark space behind the painting will make the colors less intense.
If you make an error in painting, immediately wet the area by pouring water on it. Water is the eraser in this style of painting. Allow this area to dry and try again.
Advantages of painting Chameleon™
Disadvantages of painting Chameleon™
Easy to paint, no stretching or shrinking of material, so no sizing or priming is necessary. This cuts time, effort, materials.
No need to stretch the canvas or anchor it to the floor beyond simple weights or masking tape.
Using a carefully chosen base color can really cut painting time (Chameleon™ comes in 14 colors)
You can cartoon the kraft paper, leaving the scrim pristine, no charcoal marks.
Latex paint is available as house or accent paints. It's cheap and since you dilute it, you use very little materials. Latex paint is considered to be non-toxic and is easy to clean up.
The surface is flat, takes paint and can hold detail if you don't dilute the paint too much.
Similar to painting any scrim, it's a one shot deal. You can't easily fix mistakes once dry.
Dilutions can be runny.
Can I print Chameleon™Scrim?
'Yes' and it's easier and costs less than people think it will. Read about printing on Chameleon Scrim.
Like this article? Try Types of Theatrical Backdrops. or try Types of Scrim.
More detailed examples of projects in work:
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