How to Use Watercolor Art in Surface Design

A note from Vivika: Today our topic is mixing fiber art with wet media (specifically watercolor) to use in surface design. So, I called in my mixed-media colleague Cate Prato, Editor of Cloth Paper Scissors Today, to serve as guest blogger. Take it away, Cate!

I don’t know what it is, but whatever kind of artwork I do or see, I’m always wondering what it would be like with a fabric component. Drawings, paintings, collage, encaustic, monoprinting: it all leads to fabric, in my mind.


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Jane LaFazio’s mixed-media collage using
tissue paper tracings of her original artwork.

Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to artists like Jane LaFazio. Jane is one of the best there is for combining drawing and painting with mixed-media techniques. She has a genius for taking her watercolor paintings from her sketchbook and turning them into some kind of fiber art. Embroidered fabric collage images, transfers, fabric painting, paper quilts, thread painting . . . Jane does it all.

Jane usually uses fabric paint (often thinned to watercolor consistency) on fabric. But she has also figured out ways to get that watercolor look on fabric by using water-soluble crayons, transferring the painting onto fabric, and applying the original artwork via paper collage.

Here are five ways Jane can take a watercolor painting (or drawing) and use mixed-media art techniques to create surface design for fiber art.

Note: Start by tracing the original artwork onto artist tissue paper using a permanent pen. To do so, place a clear sheet of plastic over the original artwork, then a layer of artist tissue paper or rice paper. This will keep the ink from bleeding through onto the artwork.

1. Paper Collage. Cut out your traced drawing and use soft gel medium (above and below) to attach it to a collage. Color the traced image if desired.

2. Printmaking. Rub the back of the tracing with graphite from a pencil. Place the graphite side down onto a soft stamp carving medium and traced over the drawing again. This will transfer the impression of the drawing onto the carving medium. Use lino-cutting tools to cut the stamp.


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Jane’s floral artwork transferred
and collaged onto fabric.

3. Stenciling.

Trace the outline of the drawing onto freezer paper, cut out the negative (or positive) elements of the tracing, and use the drawing as a stencil.

4. Inkjet transfers. Scan the painted image into your computer and print it out onto Transfer Artist Paper. Then iron the image onto fabric, such as a vintage napkin.

5. Mixed-media stitch. Glue the tissue tracing onto fabric as in the paper collage technique above. When dry, free-motion stitch around the outlines of the drawing. Color with oil sticks, permanent pen, colored pencils, etc.

Jane’s details her ideas and techniques for incorporating your original art into mixed-media and sewing projectsin the Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop video, From Art Journaling to Art: Drawing, Watercolor, and More Techniques for the Mixed-Media Artist.

Anyone whose interested in exploring watercolor techniques in detail should subscribe to Watercolor magazine. The tips and techniques from expert watercolor artists will help you develop your painting confidence and inspire your fiber art. It’s a great resource!

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog