I wanted to personalize my new backpack with some paint. It being green to start I decided on a garden theme. The idea is to use garden clippings like stamps to apply paint - thus getting very realistic sizes and shapes.
Step 1: Find Your Inspiration
First I headed out to the garden to decide on which plants I might like to paint. I decided on strawberries (no berries, but a few flowers so maybe some day), lavender, and daisies. I collected a few clippings from these.
Step 2: Gather Materials
In addition to the backpack and clippings from step 1 you need:
Gesso (this is a primer - it is essential if you don't want the canvas to soak up all the paint so you can't see it)
Acrylic paint (colors according to the plants you chose in step 1 - a few different shades of green are a good idea)
Fabric paint pens are also handy
Paint brush and plastic tray to use as a paint palette
Clear packing tape
Old bag for practice (grocery totes are great for this)
If you like, you can also use actual rubber stamps. I have an alphabet set which is handy for labeling. I'd like to find one of a bumble bee to add later.
Don't forget to cover your work area. Soap and water cleans up but it is all permanent after it dries.
Step 3: Test Techniques and Colors
Try a few different techniques on the grocery tote (see steps 4-6). Everything has to be done in gesso first - even the fabric paint markers - otherwise the paint will soak into the canvas and kind of disappear. Whether you are using plant clippings or actual rubber stamps to apply the gesso there will likely be gaps. You will have to fill these in with gesso either by reapplying the leaves or stamps or using a paint brush, unless you like the gaps and want to keep them. Remember, anyplace there is a gap the color will not show as well.
After the gesso has dried you can paint on top of it with a brush or paint marker to test colors and blending. You can paint on wet paint for better blending but let the gesso dry completely before starting to paint.
Step 4: Technique 1 - Rubber Stamps (hidden Test Spots)
Backpacks are full of little hidden corners. Pick one or two to paint something small.
I tried two different styles of stamp for applying gesso. The alphabet stamps are small and have very fine lines. For these I smeared a thin layer of gesso on the bottom of my paint tray and pressed the stamp into it and then onto the backpack.
The clover stamp has a larger area and no fine lines. I just painted directly on the stamp and then pressed it to the backpack.
After the gesso dried I used fabric paint markers to color it.
Step 5: Technique 2 - Painting on Loose Leaves (lower Front of Pack)
I started with the lower front section of the pack because it is less conspicuous for a first time project. I did practice on that old grocery tote but it is still a little scary to start painting on a new backpack you are hoping to have for a long time.
I decided to do a few strawberry plants, since ground cover seemed appropriate to the location. I masked off the area and laid a few leaf sets on the pack to see where I wanted to place the painting. The leaves are pretty sturdy so I painted gesso directly on them and then pressing them onto the canvas. Doing a set of three seemed like a good idea to preserve the shape of a natural arrangement but reapplying to fill gaps in the gesso was tricky and I had to use a brush instead. I switched to individual leaves and that was easier. I took a break to let the gesso dry completely. I painted the leaves with several shades of green, mixing wet paint as I went. Since the shapes were very realistic, I was less concerned about being true to the colors. After it all dried I decided it still needed something so I added a few flowers by hand (first gesso, then paint). You can always add or even paint over, but you can not remove.
Step 6: Technique 3 - Painting on Fixed Leaves (side of Pack)
By this point I was gaining in confidence and decided to move on to a much more noticeable spot - the side of the pack. This is an elongated area perfect for the lavender and a daisy. These being much more fragile clippings than the strawberry leaves I pressed each clipping onto a piece (or two side by side to get it wide enough) of packing tape. I experimented with positioning these on the side of the pack. When I found a placement I was happy with I painted the clippings with gesso and pressed them onto the pack. I did this one tape section at a time to avoid having the gesso dry too much on the clipping. I still had to reapply once (which was easy because the tape is holding the clipping) and do a little fill work with a brush. It is better to have too little gesso, and have to reapply, than too much, and have to figure out a creative way to color a mistake. The daisy did not deal well with being pressed onto the tape so that was mostly shaped and filled with the brush. After another break to let the gesso dry, I used a brush to color everything in. A paint pen added some fine work to the daisy petals, though honestly it is not noticeable unless you get really close.
Step 7: Repeat
If you want to go all out you can keep repeating this process:
- Cut clippings
- Decide how to arrange clippings on a section of backpack
- Use clipping to apply gesso in that arrangement
- Use paint (with brush or pen) to color
until the whole pack is covered. The more you paint the more distinctive your bag will be.