Tooling around with Tyvek

As I mentioned in this blog post back in January, I’m working on a custom book that will be a gift for an as-yet-unnamed someone. Blank pages were sent to 100 artists to create artwork for inclusion in the book. They have two months to complete their pages.

Since I know the intended recipient, I got to participate as an artist. I noodled the idea around in my brain for weeks before I actually got to work. I decided to do a portrait of the recipient using layers of colored Tyvek.

I’ve only painted Tyvek once before and it was about five years ago – we used it for the binding of a book with wood pages. For this project, my goal was to create Tyvek in three shades – light grey, medium grey, and black.

Coincidentally, when I recently attended the Chinese Sewing Box workshop, Erin Sweeney talked about painting Tyvek. She said that when you mix the paint, add a few drops of dish soap. Apparently the stuff acts as a dispersant. And it makes the paint smell all yummy. 

I covered my worktable with paper to keep the surface clean and afterwards, started preparing the black paint. There was no science to how I mixed the paint – I just added water to it until it felt “done”. Then I added the dish soap (because Erin is the boss of me).

Bowl of paint and piece of Tyvek

I used a rag to apply the paint on both sides of the Tyvek, rubbing it into the surface until it looked like it wouldn’t absorb any more.

Black painted Tyvek

The patterning on the Tyvek is so cool – it’s all veiny and marbled.

Black painted Tyvek

After the Tyvek dried, I rubbed in two more layers of paint until I felt it was dark enough. I added more water and some white paint to the leftover black mixture to create the medium grey. I applied three layers of the the medium grey paint. Lastly, I added more water and white paint to the grey mixture to create the light grey. I only applied one layer of the lighter paint.

Here are the final products:

Three sheets of painted Tyvek

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out – they’re a good match for my project.

If you’re interested in playing around with Tyvek, here are some resources to get you started:

2 Responses to “Tooling around with Tyvek”

By Ellen - 29 April 2016 Reply

Thanks for this post. I sometimes add a squirt of dish soap to paste paint mixtures, but I haven’t ever done it with straight paint. I’m always curious how others use Tyvek in books.

Thanks also for the mention and the link. 🙂

By Elissa - 10 May 2016 Reply

Ellen –

Hmm…I never added dish soap to paste paper paint – that makes sense. I’ll have to give that a try.


Leave a Reply to Ellen

Cancel reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This