Painting Faces

painted face bagsIn addition to sculpting 3-dimensional faces using polymer clay, I like to draw faces on paper dolls, cloth dolls, eggshells, ceramics and on hand dyed canvas coin bags.

My husband formerly worked at a bank that was regulated into  non-existence by the  government, and they got rid of all sorts of things including white canvas coin bags that are very sturdy and that take dye and fabric paints beautifully. We also got the table I use as a workspace there at the dissolution auction.

Some of them I dye solid colors, some I tie-dye, and at the end of a dyeing session, I often use the rest of the dyes that are left to color a few dozen of these bags. I use Procion MX series fiber reactive coldwater dyes. Any natural fibers will take up these dyes with great results.

I get mine from Dharma Trading Co. and that’s also where I purchase Jaquard’s Lumiere and  Neopaque textile paints–their mini starter set is great but I quickly HAD to get several of the metalic colors in larger sizes.

I also use the extender to thin and mix colors, and Pro Chemical & Dye’s Lo-Crock mixed with water to make thin washes of the paints. They have a beautiful range of colors already made but I still like to mix.

You can also add tiny amounts of powdered dye to the lo crock and extender to make your own textile paints.  In addition I sometimes use Shiva Oil Paint Sticks, and even add touches of pearl-ex powders to my paints or use glitter fabric paints for extra shimmer-y highlights. When they are done, I iron all items as directed to permanently set the colors. Its one of the few times I willingly iron, other than when I’m sewing!


face bagI’ve been building up a stockpile of bags in an array of flesh tones from pale white to bronzed, and several shades in between, and I’ve drawn faces on 6 dozen of them.

I’ll be selling them at  the Houston International Quilt Festival and in my etsy store .

I’m leaving a several dozen with only the outlines so that people can color them in themselves and then many of the faces get painted completely by me.

On this page, I’ll show you how I like to do the painting part!

I start by hand drawing faces on the bags, using a squeeze bottle with adapter tips that give me lines of the different sizes–I like a finer line for drawing than the tip of the bottle all by itself.

Black Neopaque fabric paint is a bit thick for easy squeezing from the bottle, so I thin it with the lo-crock and extender until I get a “just right” consistency.

That’s when the paint that comes out in an even flow without clogging, but isnt so wet that it soaks through the cloth, or so thick it sits in a ridge on top. Neopaque and Lumiere fabric paints are very intense and of high quality. They  retain color after washing and don’t fade easily. I particularly appreciate a black that gives a good clear outline.

I practice on a scrap of cotton rather than on one of the bags. If I get a clog, smacking the bottom of the bottle onto the table can dislodge it, or I use the little wire to clear the tip. Then I always start out again on the scrap, just in case there is a sudden blob of paint.

I also make sure to use the little bent wires that come with the tips–put the wire in when not using the paint in the squeeze bottle and it won’t dry closed.

I like to work in an assembly line-style when making a lot of any item, and yet still make individual differences. Here’s how I do it with these painted lady face bags.

I started this bag lady session by drawing 72 of these over a 3 day period, so as not to strain my hand with too much constant squeezing and to let the black paint dry thoroughly. Here’s how a few of them turned out! Click any of the images to see a larger version.


painted face bag painted face bag painted face bag
painted face bag painted face bag painted face bag

Usually I do one step to all the bags at one time,  but I took pictures of one of them at each point all the way through for this page.

face-step1 I mix up fabric paints and do green, brown, purple and blue irises in the eyes.Next I make a thin wash of paint using bronze and black with the extender and the low crock (this is mixed with water, and thins the paints while still binding it to the fibers). This is brushed on the area over the top eyelid and under the lower eye line. face-step-2
face-step-3 Next I do the lips.I like to do several shades of reds, and add copper or even a little purple or black to change the tone so that aren’t all the same. I use some of the same paint diluted to a wash to color cheeks in underneath each eye area on either side of the nose.
face-step-5 After that comes another wash of color–this time bronze black and purple–onto the top eyelid and under the eye, leaving the first shadow wash color still visible.Sometimes I use green or blue instead of purple. The next step is to color the pupil with black. I do it now instead of when I draw the faces so that it is over the iris color completely. face-step-6
face-step-7 I use gold, copper, bronze and silver metallic paints to create some hair, either straight or curly, and after it dries I use the black to draw suggestions of the hair lines.Sometimes I add a bit of glitter fabric paint for highlights, or I will add microfine glitter to the paints myself for details in the eyeshadow or hair. I like Barbara Trombley’s Art Institute glitter the best. She has an AMAZING line of glitter in a variety of colors and sizes. Pearl white paint is used to add highlight spots to the iris of each eye, to the lower lip, and below the eyebrow at the outsides of the eye area. I also use it to paint in whites of the eyes. Sometimes I turn over the top edge and stitch a channel for a drawstring. Here’s the finished face painted bag lady. face-step-9