Screen Printing with Rust

Screen Printing with Rust

My local surface design group started meeting again this past week. We always take of a couple of months in the summer but we were all raring to go when we met last week. Bunny had found an article in the October/November 2013 Quilting Arts Magazine by Barbara Triscari called “Controlled Rusting”. The article explained how to create photo-realistic rusted images. Essentially it is using thickened print paste mixed with iron powder and printing with a silk screen.

Ingredients for Rusting

You can use a ready-made print paste mix or sodium alginate to thicken and then you add super fine iron powder to the mix.

Mixing in the Iron Powder

Here’s Louise mixing in the iron powder. You get something that almost looks like cement. It takes a bit of stirring as it clumps up quite a bit. You also need to make a spray bottle of water with vinegar and salt.

Screening through a Paper Lamination Screen

Then you can use any kind of silk screen, stencil or even stamp to apply the iron paste to your fabric. Here Carole is screening using a paper fabric lamination screen on to previously dyed cotton.

Printing with a Stamp

Here is an example of stamping the paste on to fabric.

Busy Working

And here is everyone hard at work. You can see my blue fish piece in the foreground.

After Screening, Ready to be Sprayed

Once the piece is screened, you apply the chemical water mixture. The center of this photo shows two pieces of felt (made from pre-felt) that were screened with the iron paste.

Spraying with Vinegar and Salt Water

And then you spray the iron paste with vinegar + salt water and let it sit until it rusts. It actually happens pretty quickly. We used a variety of fabric including felt, cotton, canvas and silk as well as paper. The paper worked especially well but I forgot to take any photos of my sketch book pages that I rusted. Sorry.

These are the felt pieces that I rusted.

This is a silk scarf that was previously dyed with gradations of blue. I used a screen that Louise had originally made from a photo of peeling paint.

Here is the blue cotton that I used my fossil and fish screens on. I found that you need to get quite a bit of paste through the screen or it doesn’t work very well.

This is a piece of dyed osnaberg fabric that was the red violet color to begin with. I had three ginkgo leaf resists that I put down on the fabric and then painted the iron paste over the surface of the fabric.

This is a piece of light weight cotton that was previously dyed yellow and then I screened all over with a “texture” screen. I didn’t get enough iron paste through the screen as it only came out in certain areas with heavier printing. You will see a spot of green at the bottom right of the full piece. This was from ironing my piece on my print table where I had previously done some dyeing. There was green dye still on the table and it soaked right into the cotton. Oops.

And these last two are printed on a heavy canvas. I used two different screens that I made with Pellon Matte Vinyl Fuse that are the same design but are positive and negatives of the design. You can see a few spots of blue dye on these as well from my print table. Guess I should pay a bit more attention to cleanliness 🙂

So we had a great time and I really like the “controlled rusting” process. You can have any type of design with rust this way and the process is really fairly simple. I am working on another online class about screen printing now. You can learn how to make some of these types of screens in the class. More information coming soon.

Don’t forget that today (September 16, 2015) is the last day to sign up for the next session of Wet Felting for Beginners online course. Register here.

19 thoughts on “Screen Printing with Rust

  1. Very versatile process. Does the rust change the surface of the fabric making it stiff or something? Does it actually penetrate the fabric like dye? How do you think it will hold up to felting or other surface design processes?

    1. The rust does make the fabric slightly stiff but not bad. Just a slightly different hand. The rust will penetrate light weight fabrics like dye but not the felt. All of these have been put through a wash cycle so I don’t think they will change with felting (although the felt pieces are completely felted at this point) and you could certainly add other layers of surface design on top of the rust. I will probably add other layers on to these for sure.

    2. Cool, thanks for the additional info. Can’t wait to see what you do with these pieces.

    1. Thanks Kim! It was really interesting to watch the pieces beginning to rust. It really happens pretty quickly. And yes, we do have fun 🙂

  2. Ruth, I love the rust patterns you are creating. I have been rusting iron objects onto paper. I would like to be able to control the patterns more, so I would like to try the iron powder. Where can I buy it?

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