Wednesday 27 July 2011

Colour Sketchbook :: 3

Another way of making bold images in your sketchbook is by printing.
There are several different ways of making print blocks but something that is often overlooked yet can be very effective is the potato!

You need to slice the potato in half and leave it to dry slightly by turning it face down onto some kitchen paper. When it has dried a little, place the potato onto a sheet of paper and draw around it.

 Then within the drawn outline you need to draw your chosen shape or motif. I've continued with the poppy heads but any bold shape will work - we're not looking for subtle or intricate designs here.

You then need to cut this shape out, place it onto the cut surface of your potato and cut around the outline with a sharp craft knife.

When you have gone all around the outline you need to cut away the excess potato - the part you do not want to print.

You can add some additional detail at this stage but nothing too fancy as it gets difficult to cut.

You will then need some acrylic paint. One of the advantages of working with a limited colour palette is that you can buy just one or two colours to try out the different media.

I find that the best way of applying the paint to your potato print block is simply to paint it on or sponge it on - no need to get a roller dirty! It is good to combine colours - here I've used a rich burgundy together with scarlet.

You then press down firmly with your potato onto your page. It is worth doing a test run on a scrap of paper before working into your sketchbook to see if you have put enough paint on or possibly too much.

You then lift up the potato without dragging it and you should have a lovely bold print.

I used the second half of the potato to make another print block which I combined with my first one...

And printed this double page spread in my sketchbook. You will need to reapply the paint to the potato every time you take a print. Notice how I have filled up my page! You could if you like just leave it like this, but I like to add more colour...

When the prints are dry, using inks or other water colours apply a wash of colour over the page. The acrylic paint will offer a certain amount of resist to the watercolours.

The red on red looks a little bit boring so I've livened it up by adding a bit of green. Green is the complementry colour to red (as it is made from the other two primary colours - yellow and blue). When we put complementry colours together they can make a painting "sing" but the trick is to get them in the right proportions. Red and Green are a similar intensity so if we use them in the same amounts they fight each other, but by using a little bit of one with the other we can often lift a painting and make it look more interesting. Other complementry pairs are blue/orange and purple/yellow.

I'm not sure I've finished this yet, I could work into the page with pencil or pen, add text, maybe some more colour. The point is to keep working on your sketchbook pages until you are happy... and knowing when to stop! Also experiment with shades, tints and tones of your chosen colour, overlapping prints, working on to pre-painted pages instead of white... experiment and have fun!

You can see what other people are doing with their sketchbooks here:  Moogsmum, Ragged Old Blogger, and Zaz

And one last little thing... the winner of of my blog birthday sketchbook giveaway. I was overwhelmed by the number of comments and I had to abandon ideas of random number generators and resorted to bits of paper as some people had two or three entries (whose idea was that?). No photos of me folding up or picking out bits of  paper but the winner is...


  1. As usual, another inspiring post but I wonder if I will just get up and try it? I hope so. The potato prints do look very tempting, very tactile.

    Congratulations to The Mermaid's Purse.

  2. Wow! that's fabulous... Potato printing taken to a new level! Penny (Planet Penny)

  3. Congratulations to Mermaid's Purse - lucky lady.
    I haven't done potato prints since my children were small - I shall have to have a go. I have some nice big spuds and will happily donate one to the cause!

  4. Oh wow!! I've only got silly little baby potatoes so I'll be out first thing to buy a nice baking potato - I can't wait!

    I love those pages - who would have thought the humble potato print could look so amazing?!


  5. Very cool! I've got to try potato stamp carving sometime soon, it looks like a lot of fun.

  6. I bought some baking potatos today but Neil is expecting them for tea tomorrow. I think he might notice if I served them up covered in paint! I will just have to go and get some more because I think this could be fun.
    Congratulations to Mermaids Purse.

  7. your potato printing is marvelous.

  8. OK, here's me with my rustic shopping basket at our Breton market: Plougastel strawberries, local chevre, peaches, BAKING POTATOES!

  9. You have made something stunningly beautiful with a technique so simple that I had forgotten all about it - wonderful! I am not sure any potato printing I did would come out so well, though.

    Pomona x

  10. Congrats to the Mermnaids Purse - and I can;t wait to have a go at the spuds! (I also can't believe you did all that this afternoon. All I did was finish the sequin picture and referee 6 year olds).

  11. Many congrats to The Mermaid's Purse, how lucky is she?!

    I'm SO lovin' those potato prints! I will have to have a go...........


  12. I just love the effect the green had on your print!
    Well done Mermaids Purse!
    Vivienne x

  13. Gina,
    The good old potato can often get overlooked as people seem to think it's for children but I have seen some very sophisticated designs produced with them. I love the shot of where the green paint runs alongside the printed poppy heads and just blends together.

  14. Congratulations to Mermaid's Purse. You've used the potato to great effect here. Have you tried printing with a broccoli floret cut in half? Nothing to do with poppies, but effective nevertheless.

  15. Wonderful inspiring post Gina - I'm off to find a suitable spud!
    Hearty congratulations to Mermaid's Purse.

  16. ooh i love that idea, may have to try it out with the kiddies like I did you spaghetti painting idea :-) Well done Mermaids Purse, she will love love love your parcel of arty goodies.

  17. once again, I've really enjoyed seeing how you're projects develop Gina. you have such a stash of ideas.

  18. Congratulations to Mermaid's Purse! Your potato printing is really fabulous Gina - you are seriously tempting me to join in! Lucy xx

  19. You make that all sound so easy it looks lovely - I threw out all our potatoes as they were going green - should have kept them!!! I bought a sketch book - I got out my paints !!!! watch this space !!!

  20. I am enjoying the sketchbook challenge and have started posting about my own version on my blog

  21. Thankyou so much for the lovely art stuff Gina. I've a black display book that's been sitting empty for a few years now so I'm going to get going and start trying to fill it this week. The potato printing is gorgeous - so inspirational. Thankyou again xxx

  22. That is the best potato block I have ever seen!!! How on earth did you manage to cut it so neatly? I normally have a chunk fly off at just the moment when I think I have finished it. I am off to catch up on your other colour posts. How did I miss this!! Oh, I know....that day job thing. Have you seen the sktchbook challenge? I signed up in january and I am trying to keep up with it.


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