Sunday, January 8, 2012

Creating a "Crackle" Background

I am always on the lookout for a creative and new way to use my media in my art room, so when my first graders were creating some tissue paper collages and kept getting "Kool-Aid" fingers with the wet glue, I decided to try a little experiment that made for a pretty cool Halloween project.
Now, please don't feel limited to Halloween for this project, I will show you how to make the background, you may choose how to incorporate it into your own lessons.  To begin with, you need to decide the direction you want the tissue to go.  We used strips of paper that I pre-cut before class and our haunted houses were supposed to be tall so we used a portrait orientation.  I also used watercolor paper - about 80 lbs or so to be sure the water doesn't make it wrinkle terribly.
Next, choose your color combination and lay the strips across your page.  I encouraged my students to slightly overlap each piece so they didn't have a stripe look - unless that's what they were going for!
Keep adding strips until you cover as much as you need for a background.  We covered our entire pages since we would be drawing our houses with a sharpie.
Next, use a spray bottle to lightly mist the tissue.  Here's where students will get a variety of results.  Lots of water=smoother color, Very little water=great crackle, but not much color, so there's a happy medium to find.  I suggested my students spray one section, then gently lift up the edges to see if they liked what they saw, if not, add more water.

I also used a paper towel to blot the tissue to make sure it has good contact with the paper below.  More blotting gets more color on the page, while less keeps more white showing.
Then simply lift off the tissue to the trash can and let dry!

Once dry, our students who had been studying architecture, penciled in then added Sharpie to their own haunted house designs.  I hope you enjoy creating this crackle with your own students!
See Slide Presentation:


  1. Mrs. Claypool,
    The crackle project idea is a great one with it's automatic results and color intensity. It is a technique that I have students practice with even at the 2ndary Art level. It lends itself to other media such as watercolor, wax and salt resists, and even with experimental photographic printmaking.
    The advancements in digital technology also allow one to create similar effects with photographic imagery in Adobe Photoshop CS3 or higher. Though one loses something of the kinesthetic benefits digitally the visual results are striking.

    Thank you for the post,
    a fellow art teacher,
    Jim Barkley