Using Tissue Paper to Make Background – Art on a Shoe String Re-do


Art on a Shoe String. You may be asking – what is that? When I was growing up whenever we heard the words ‘on a shoe string’ it was in reference to economics. Cost. Money. The price of an item. On a shoe string meant is was less expensive. It was more affordable. I know a lot of art supplies are expensive – making them unaffordable, or not a smart purchase for many people. Also there are parts of the world where it is hard to come by certain art supplies. So I wondered if I could help you be able to approach this through an on a shoe string kind of idea and my post series of Art on A Shoe String was born.

In my old blogging days, I had a bunch of these posts and they are here on this site as well – just buried way down. So my thought is to bring these out on the days I don’t have another post ready and re-introduce the longtime readers – and introduce the new readers – to them. For this particular post I was making affordable, beautiful backgrounds that could be tangled on, or used to make cards, or for art journaling or collaging – or just because they are really pretty and fun! Using tissue paper! Easy to find in most locations.

Tissue paper? Yes! Absolutely! The kind of paper you use to wrap gifts in. The trick here is to find tissue paper that bleeds when it gets wet. Most tissue papers do this, so that’s helpful. I believe this would also work with those awful crepe paper rolls we used to decorate with when we were kids. Cue the A. L. Bristol students here. I grabbed all the light to almost dark colors I had available and started cutting them into 3″ squares, then I triangled them. Any size will work, this is just what I chose to go with.

Supplies are easy – tissue paper triangles, heavy paper (mixed media or watercolor) and a spray bottle of water. And cover your work surface with something you don’t mind getting stains on. Let’s get started!

Spray that paper and cover it with water. If you don’t have a spray bottle, use a mop brush and generously cover the paper with water. It helps if you work one section of the paper at a time, then move on to the next section. And of course I did not do that. At all.

This was the first time I ever tried this technique and it was so much fun! I didn’t really have a clue if it would work – but it made sense in my head that it should. So, take your seriously wet paper and begin placing triangles from the bottom and work your way up. I tried from the top down, but that was too hard for me for some reason. Hahahaha! So bottom to top. It is fine if they overlap in places, if there is a gap in space, if they are crooked – it all works!

Keep placing the triangles until the entire paper is covered in them. Tap them down onto the wet paper if you need to. And if you feel there isn’t enough water – spray just a bit more.

Here you can see the coloring is already bleeding well. This is what you want. And it is bleeding from one triangle into the next. Little rivers of water are flowing from one space to the other. Happy dance! And all those wrinkles you see – those should cause some awesome texturing to occur!

Once the entire paper is covered and wet, let it sit for 20 minutes or so without doing anything to it. Just leave it alone. Hard to do because you want to peek, but resist and let it sit. You need to give the water and ink time to work.

After 20ish minutes remove all the tissue papers. And just accept that your hands are going to get stained. Realize that the tissue paper is still wet and don’t let it drip on your clothes, or your soda, or your carpet. It will still be wet! In my house this is a kitchen counter project. I have to say this was my least favorite of all the pieces I made. This was my first, my experiment piece. I learned that some of my tissue paper was waaaaay too dark, so I threw the extra triangles of those colors back into my basket. Just kidding. I totally threw those suckers into the trash and don’t miss them one single bit! This photo isn’t blurry, but the piece looks blurry. It isn’t defined. Mark mentioned all the white spaces, but I didn’t really mind those. So, keeping those points in mind I moved on to my second sheet of paper.

Now, go back to something I’ve told you before. Never throw out color. Hahahahaha! All these little pieces can be used for something else one day. If you have room to keep them – keep them. As you remove them from the paper, lay them flat so they will dry flat. Then one day you can use them for some beautiful collage work for art journaling! You may even be able to still pull some color from a few of them.

Second sheet of paper right here! After I placed all my little triangles, I made sure they were all good and wet. I had to spray more water in a few places and I made sure all the edges were tapped down and snug to the paper.

After 20 minutes, I had better results. More defined edges, no blurriness, and some of the colors were more dramatic like the red. But I still had lots of white areas because I let the papers bubble up too much with water under them. But overall I was much happier with this piece.

I stood here at my desk staring out at all my beautiful snow and wondered where I could go with this technique. To the right of my window is a box where I keep unfinished projects. Pieces I can pick up and work on for a few minutes here, a few minutes there. And this is the piece that sung out to me. I had been tangling on this piece off and on for a couple years. Seriously. Hahahaha! Dylusions Ink Sprays – of course. And they can be a little pricey, and sometimes hard to find. So I wondered if I could achieve similar results with my cheap little tissue paper. Game on!

I pulled out another sheet of paper and began placing my triangles in a similar color arrangement as what I had on that piece of art above. Please don’t ask where that green piece came from because I have no idea. Hahahaha! I added lots of water, tamped down the edges, I had plenty of hills and valleys and wrinkles for the water to move in, and I waited for 20 minutes.

OK, not exactly the same but I was getting somewhere. It was worth exploring further. And I still seriously love this page! And I still have it!

It made me think about this page of Dylusions Ink Sprays on a page I had made some time before that. I love the colors and the way they played with each other. I wondered, could I make something similar with my inexpensive tissue paper?

I was hopefully optimistic. I tried to do a better job with triangle placement on this one. There is some overlap but very little gaps or white space anywhere.

Here is a closeup of those folds and valleys I was talking about. Those little places where the triangle isn’t touching the paper. Those will make some incredible texture as long as they aren’t too big.

I felt the gap here was too much so I placed another triangle of tissue paper right over the top of the gap. If you need to do this, don’t worry about lining it up – just get it on there and make sure all your edges are tapped down. I even sprayed more water over the top of the whole sheet this time.

And when I removed the papers after 20 minutes, this is what I had. This and a huge smile on my face. I felt it was very similar to the Dylusions piece. And I think if I had used random, torn up bits of paper instead of the triangles – it would have even more closely resembled the Dylusions piece.

I wanted to try one more time. This is another Dylusions background I had made in the past. Just using two colors of ink – London Blue and Fresh Lime.

I took my time and used three shades of blue and one of yellow. I didn’t want the colors to run too much and the white paper was starting to curl, so I held it down in the middle with a ruler until the paper settled down a bit. I used the ruler to make sure all the edges were tamped down. I even had a little overlap of triangles on this one.

I used plenty of water and I covered up one gap. Then waited 20 minutes . . .

. . . then started peeling off the tissue papers . . .

. . . to reveal this. The closest I came to duplicating the Dylusions Ink Sprays with inexpensive tissue paper. I was super happy with the results!

What do you think? I’d say I was successful. Tissue paper that bleeds, some sturdy paper and some water. Voila! The Dylusions Ink Spray “look” duplicated for next to nothing! Now, it is your turn to play! I’d love to hear about your experience. And if you’d like to share, come on over to my Facebook group Tangle All Around and show us what you did! I am thinking we are going to be playing with this technique in the upcoming week for our I Dare You! prompts. Please let me know if the Art on a Shoe String posts are helpful and interesting to you. I will leave you with a couple links to get you started.

Dylusions Ink Spray, Joggles
Bleeding Tissue Paper
Tangle All Around

27 thoughts on “Using Tissue Paper to Make Background – Art on a Shoe String Re-do

  1. omg so beautiful backgrounds !! I have to find some colored tissue papers and try !!
    thank you for sharing !!

  2. Yes, I believe these posts will be helpful. Thank you it was fun to watch your playful experimentation and discovery.


  3. Those were awesome! Loved how they worked really well compared to the actual inks!

  4. Hi, Alice ~ great blog. I’ve done this and had forgotten all about it. Now, I just may pull out all my little scraps of tissue paper for a re-visit. I love your tangled piece. It makes me feel good to hear that sometimes your projects take a good bit of time!!

    • hahaha! yes, this one took forever! a little here a little there, just when the fancy hit! I hope you do pull out your color and try this.

  5. This process is awesome. I love dyelusions sprays but they can be very messy, much more messy than the tissue. Thank you!

    Oh my, I just input email in different cell and hit subscribe in error. I’ll be in the system twice now. Hopefully you can delete.

  6. Definitely those last two are my favourites & especially the final one. Amazing what that yellow adds to the blues & greens really lifting & lightening the whole.
    Thanks for the tutorial – shall be collecting tissue paper methinks……..

    • yes! please do and let me see what you make with them! this is a lot of fun! I will be playing again this week 🙂

  7. Looks like so much fun…..will be glad when things slow down for me and i can start to enjoy things like this! Thanks for sharing….

  8. Late to comment – but a great post. It’s taken a fair bit of trial and error over the years for me to succeed with this technique – a fine balance between the right watercolour paper and amount of water. But the thing I like best about the results is that there is no residue on the paper to clock my microns which can happen with watercolour backgrounds.

    I find that torn edges of the tissue bleed more than scissor cut edges – which might get you closer to reproducing the look of your inked backgrounds?

    • worth a try, I had already planned to tear strips this next try. I’ll see if it yields color better <3

  9. I cannot wait to try this technique! Please keep the Art on a Shoestring Series going????

    • I will for sure. I have an idea I need to work on that should make a nice post. if it works. hahahaha!

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