I decided to make two sets of marble art tile coasters for gifts. One is a Christmas gift for my husband’s aunt and uncle. The other set is a thank you gift for a friend. I worked on that project each day for the last three days. This time it was NOT without problems!
I decided to pull images off the web to use to make ice cream themed coasters. The couple who will be receiving this set collects antique ice cream scoops. I pulled the images off the web giving some thought to the copyright status. I didn’t see that the images were copyrighted. I altered the images in Photoshop making them black and white and touching them up. I re-sized them and printed them on my black laser printer. If I owned a color laser printer I would have left the images in color.
(I spent so much time on the downloading and image retouching for this and Set B that it wasn’t until after the tiles were baked that I realized I had forgotten to reverse/flip the image so the text was backwards. Sigh.)
My friend supplied me with wedding pictures from her wedding, her parents, and her in-laws weddings, and one formal photo of her children. She scanned them and emailed them to me. After touching them up I printed them off. I noticed that sometimes my printer puts a lighter line across the image. I had to print more than one copy to get one without a light line going across the faces.
I also realized this is an old printer with a poor resolution. I wonder how it would work if I emailed images to my local print shop and had them print them off and paid the 10 cent fee? Would the images look better? I should look into this. Also I wonder what he charges for color copies?
Since I botched Set A I needed to make a new set for the Christmas gift. Last week while in a dollar store I found some large sized hardback books which featured Victorian women and poetry. Actually it was a bit strange as the images were Victorian and from 1905-ish and the other illustrations in the book were art deco—aren’t those two different eras? I also noticed that the illustrator credited on the title page is not the illustrator of the ladies. I think those images were in the public domain. Anyway each book was $1 and I bought three with the intent of cutting them up to use in artwork. I want you to know I restrained myself as there were about a dozen more on the shelf that I could have purchased!
Anyway what I did was cut out color images of the women. The illustrations were large and I decided to use a close-up image of the faces to be on the coaster as that is what would fit. I fashioned a template out of scrap cardboard so I could have a window to view the image through to decide where to cut. I used a metal ruler with a little squiggly edge and tore the paper against that so the edge had a fine torn look to it. The image shape was a square, I didn’t cut out the image.
(Note: after the transfer was complete I realized the image was white ink on paper which means that because I didn’t trim the image right along the face edges, the white color transferred onto the tile. If the image is printed on white paper and the background is not printed with white ink then the paper would have lifted off and the non-face areas would have been the color of the tile. I don’t know if there is a way to know that this will happen ahead of time or not.)
I dusted off each tile. I selected tiles that had the same tints. I was surprised to see some of the tiles had a gray cast to them so I used those as one set.
I tinted acrylic gel medium with burnt sienna acrylic craft paint. I applied this to the tile and let it dry for 30 minutes.
I applied acrylic gel medium to the image and placed it onto the tile. I baked that for 15 minutes at 150 degrees. It cooled for 15 minutes. Note that I made sure the brush strokes were all going in the same direction so they would have a consistent look to them.
I applied water to the surfaces and let it soak it. I began removing the paper by rubbing it. The weather was cold so the heat in the house was on. It was hard to do this step as the paper kept drying out. Unlike the first time I did this, this step had to be repeated over and over, taking hours to get all the paper off. I rubbed so much with my finger that I rubbed my fingerprint off.
I got desperate and tried using fine grit sandpaper which ended up ruining the image. This was a chance I took. Lesson learned.
I did realize that rubbing with a dampened rough dishcloth also works well. The cloth cannot be so rough as to damage the surface.
In the end I turned the coasters upside down on a jelly roll pan and poured water into it. I let it sit for about eight hours. I then rubbed more and all the paper came off. Some of the transfers developed little bubbles under the transfer as a result of doing this.
To dry the very soaked tiles I baked them at 150 degrees for 15 minutes, and then let them sit overnight to dry further.
The images of the women did not work well. This paper was thick and glossy, unlike the copy paper and newspaper I have used with success in the past. No matter what I did there was a film of white over the image, except when wet. I decided to do an experiment. I applied a couple of drops of olive oil to the surface which made the image look ‘normal’ and not foggy. I let that sit for a while then I used a clean paper napkin to wipe off the excess. I let it sit for a while then re-wiped it. I let it sit overnight and saw it still looked good. I wiped it yet again and it seemed dry and fine. I did wonder if the oil would make the acrylic top coat not stick. This was a gamble that I took.
Finishing Them Off
For Set B I painted the edges and a border on the back with black acrylic paint. For Set C I decided to leave the edges showing the burnt sienna wash color.
I applied two coats of acrylic mat medium for the final coat.
I used my big paper cutter to make straight cuts in pieces of wool felt that I had on hand, for the cushion for the bottom. I used tacky glue to apply the squares of felt to the bottom of each tile. I let this dry overnight.
As I said this process was spread over three days. This time the project took many hours of work and was not as fun.
Lessons Learned About Paper
In my experimentation with these marble art tiles I realized that the thinner the paper, the better. The easiest transfers were done from images from the newspaper. I have a lovely transferred color image of the Nutcracker ballerina from a Nutcracker ad from my local newspaper on one coaster.
I wonder what these should price these at if I were to sell them. They took many hours of work, mostly the rubbing off of the paper part, which actually got kind of annoying and not fun after a while. (The issue is that if you don’t get all the paper off, when it dries you see a film of the white paper like a haze over the image. You have to re-wet it and try again.)
I will scan the coasters before giving them away and will post them here.