Today’s post is a guest post from the wonderfully inventive teacher, Amy Bunger (I’m in love with her shop). I’ve learned so many great things from Amy and I know you will too. This article is from her most recent newsletter (read it here) and is reprinted with permission.
There are times when the painted canvas you love just does NOT come in the colors you want. Sometimes you can just change the color of the thread with no changes to the painted canvas. [The original canvas is at the top of the article and the recolored canvas is immediately above.] Successfully to cover one painted color with a different color of thread, you must select a thread that offers full coverage for the canvas mesh on which you are working. You also must select a thread color (hue) in the same intensity (light to dark) as the paint color you are covering. In a perfect world you would always want to cover a medium blue with a medium green (both medium intensity and both cool colors), but in real life you are going to want to cover blue with orange, black with yellow, or white with bronze!
Changing Colors with Threads
If you stitch medium green over medium blue, you probably would not even notice a speck of blue showing between the green stitches because the colors are similar and the colors blend well. If, however you stitch a warm color (orange) over a cool color (blue), light thread over dark paint, or dark thread over light paint, you must change the painting BEFORE you stitch the canvas.
Changing Colors by Painting
There are various options to fix the base color on a canvas before you start stitching and each option has a strength and a weakness. If you were going to change the blue to orange and did not want to run the chance of blue flecks of paint color showing between your stitches, you could paint the canvas using acrylic paint. Painting with orange acrylic paint over blue painted canvas, will most likely give you brown or a brownish orange. Unless you paint with acrylic full strength with no thinning agent (very hard to do without completely clogging the holes of the canvas), the paint is translucent, letting some of the blue show through, which mixes with the orange color, making brown. The best way to thin acrylic paint is to use a thinning agent (usually alcohol based rather than water based) sold in hobby and art stores, below. This agent allows the paint to keep a more opaque look. If you are stitching orange thread over a brown or brownish orange color paint, the color will hardly be noticeable as any flecks showing through would blend much like the green over blue.
If you want to work an open stitch over the area, which calls for a close match in paint color to thread color, you may need to paint the area with a mixture of appropriate color acrylic paint with acrylic gesso. Gesso, below, is an opaque medium which dries flexible and commonly used as a base coat on artist canvas before applying paint. Gesso is available in white, black and ecru or cream colors, but you can mix it with acrylic paint to get the color you want. Take into consideration the color of the Gesso will change the color of the acrylic pigment. Cream might be the best color to mix with orange, but it will still lighten the intensity of the color.
Gesso covers the best, acrylic paint covers pretty well but both are thick and there is the clean-up to be considered. Colors are limitless on these, but you need to know a little about mixing paints, or go through a great deal of trial and error.
If you paint the canvas I recommend purchasing the least expensive paintbrushes possible because the canvas destroys them. If you use a Round Bristle Size 000, you will be able to paint vertically and horizontally covering the individual canvas threads without clogging the holes of the canvas for small detail areas. If you are filling in larger areas use a Bright Bristle Brush no more than a 1/4” wide. A Bright Brush has a flat end with short bristles opposed to a Flat Brush which has longer bristles. The Bright will bend less so you are painting with the tips of the bristles hopefully depositing paint on the canvas threads and not in canvas holes. Acrylic Gesso and Acrylic Paint are both a soap and water clean up if cleaned immediately. I have also used rubbing alcohol to get a smear of acrylic paint off of a canvas with great success. I am told that vodka works too, but I have never tried it (on a canvas). Once these acrylic paints are dry they are very hard to get out.
If you get paint clogged in the holes of the canvas here are a couple tips. If the paint is still wet, you can blow on the area with a strong puff of breath keeping a rag behind the canvas to prevent splattering paint on something else. If the paint is dry, you can poke out the holes of the canvas using a tapestry needle the same size you would use to stitch that mesh canvas.
If you wish to stitch a pale color of thread over a very dark color of paint, you might consider painting over the original dark color with a light color of Acrylic Gesso before stitching. If you wish to stitch a dark color thread over a light color paint, your best choice might be to use a permanent WATERPROOF marker, like Identi-pen by Sakura, above, or Faber Castell Pens. These markers are fast and easy to use, especially if you have a large area to change, like a background area. Markers do not deposit a thick covering to the canvas or clog the holes of the canvas, like acrylic paint and gesso can if used too heavily. These markers are very translucent and can be layered to make other colors. If you color the area with a yellow marker and then apply a red marker, you will get orange. The pens can also be used to cover an existing color of paint to change the color. A yellow marker can be used over blue paint to make green.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Whitney Little says
Is it best to do small areas of color first. Can I mix different stitch types within the same canvas? Thanks!
Janet M Perry says
The best method for stitching colors is to stitch from light to dark colors. Yes, you can mix lots of different stitches on the same canvas. Look at the pictures & free projects throughout this site & you’ll see plenty of examples. In my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/napaneedlepoint) you can find lots of great projects that mix stitches.