Napkin Art – heard of it?

Hi everyone!  Amy here.

Did you know that the simplest of items can contribute to a durn fine piece of work?  Of course you did – that’s why you come on over here to Gauche Alchemy, right?

Being that we focus so strongly on reusing and “upcycling,” it surprises me how many of our own designers were not familiar with the concept of napkin art.  I personally think no one explains it better than Sharon Tomlinson, who has graciously given permission to re-post her napkin art tutorial here. Definitely give a clickie on the link to her blog – she is really a fantastic artist – I’m always thrilled to see articles by her, and her blog is a treasure trove of creative inspiration.

I discovered Sharon when I read about her napkin art technique in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine sometime last year (my favorite mag, by the way)… if your reaction is anything like mine, you’ll quickly be squirreling away spare napkins at every social event you attend.  You’ll be looking for napkin sales.  You’ll be picking up a Napkin Art Kit at the Gauche Alchemy store.  (My sincere apologies to those of you for whom the word napkin = diaper.  It’s not a diaper kit – because reusing stuff really can only go so far… a line has to be drawn somewhere!)

If you’d like to see more examples of Sharon’s fabulous napkin art, go here.  It’s amazing what a napkin can do.

Thanks, Sharon, for allowing us to republish your wonderful demonstration!  Without further ado:


Napkin Play by Sharon Tomlinson

If you haven’t discovered the fun with napkins, give this a try.

First decide what part of the napkin you will use. You may use all of it or little parts of it.

In this case I just need a few flowers. So, I used scissors to cut around them.

Then, notice that I tore part of the napkin. When the napkin is applied with Golden Matte Medium, the torn edge feathers out and disappears….almost.

[Note from Amy: any transfer gel medium will work – we offer Omni-Gel through the Gauche Alchemy shop.]

Cutting or tearing just depends on what effect you want.

The cut edge was where I wanted more control.

Mostly, napkins have three layers. Gently separate the layers because you only want to use the top layer.

Clue: the cut edge is sometime hard to separate. Hold the edge between your fingers close to your mouth and blow. It will separate enough so you can pull it apart.

You cannot apply the medium to the napkin because it is too fragile.

Apply an even smooth amount of medium to your art.

This picture shows too much and was only for photographic purposes.

Gently lay the napkin in place. You will not be able to move it once it makes total contact. You can hold it up and gage where you want it.

When you are happy with the placement, use the brush that still has medium on it to gently smooth the napkin.

Be happy with a few wrinkles.

Then with your finger very very very very gently rub it a little more.

You will discover after only a few moments, the napkin is biodegradable.

It just kinda wants to melt away. That is the good and the bad and sometimes the ugly.

I have to relearn this with each napkin that if play with.

Since placement is sometimes critical, just let the edge hang over. You can decide if you want to remove it or leave some.

When there is an area like the little violet on her chin that you are not happy with, you can just rub it off.

This point is made because I sometime collage napkins into my altered books. The hang over part will tear right away along the paper edge and leave a beautiful edge.

Now let it dry. After it is dry, you can use other mediums over it. You can paint over it which I usually do. It want get wet and be fragile after it has dried.

So here she is. Notice that I added more napkin at the bottom and in her hair. It is the transparent quality that is so appealing. Don’t you think?


16 Responses

  1. I love napkins and use them a LOT with my duckies. As soon as a new holiday like Valentines or Christmas comes around I’m down the local supermarket raiding the napkin section to see what’s new *g* Love how you’ve used them – never would have thought to add them into a painting.

  2. Cool, I remember that artical and rememeber thinking on the edge of my seat {that I use napkins toooo}.

    If I like a napkin a lot , I will buy the whole pakage and use four or five of them to make a huge piece of paper.

    Maggi, the black and white polka-dot paper you have on your C-journal pages is from a whole sheet that I made just for that-to give it an aged feeling I put some vanilla extract in the glue mix.
    Be worned that you might have to go color copy if you make paper, there are a few that I CAN”T cut up and they become ‘paintings’.

  3. Oooooo I’ve used napkins before but not this specific technique! Thanks for posting this!

  4. P.S.-Joyce, you are amazing-you have the best techniques!

  5. Very, very cool! Yup, I think I’m going to fall in love with this technique and particular material! =)

  6. this is awesome tutorial.
    may i bookmark it ?

  7. Carmen, you’ll have to do a tutorial for us on your duckies! I think that could gain a quick cult following!

  8. That rocks! Thanks for hunting that down & reposting for us! I’ve heard of this before, but never actually tried it… I’m only just now finding time to create more than just cards! {And I generally keep my card-making fairly ‘dry’ – I typically hate waiting on wet stuff!}

  9. Beautiful, thanks for sharing this technique!

  10. What a gorgeous piece of art-and great step by step.
    I LOVE using napkins -if you look on my blog there is a gallery of napkin layouts, and also on the tag links you can see my use of napkins. Here is a tutorial to:

  11. […] Hi everyone, Maggi here! One of my favorite Gauche Alchemy posts from the past is the Napkin Art, Ever Heard Of It? post where we shared a tutorial written by Sharon Tomlinson. There’s also a great paper […]

  12. […] started out knowing I wanted to try the Napkin Art technique with this pretty swirly napkin and some Ouchless Cardboard.  After that was dry, I […]

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