Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TerraSkin Experiments

After Jeanette at Illustrated Life posted about using a paper called TerraSkin, I set off to find out all I could about it and also ordered some samples. (Note: start with Jeanette's December 2, 2009 blog post on Rocky the Snowman and work your way forward so you don't miss anything!)

TerraSkin is a paper made from ground stone (mineral powder) and a small amount of non-toxic resin binder and is supposed to be highly "green" and good for the planet. Of course, I was very hopeful that it would be good to use for my favorite art media so I did some very quick experiments. You can click on the pictures to see them larger but they may not show very large even then. The samples I received were about 6 x 6 inches and I squeezed the different media onto one of the sample sheets. I received about 10 samples, each a different weight from almost tissue thin to a very heavy-weight sheet. I used the lightest weights in the examples above.

OK, where to start. I guess with the print since that picture shows up first. The TerraSkin is not supposed to print well with inkjet printers but I thought this came out very well. I was using an old Canon bubblejet type printer to print with and I didn't have any problems at all with it. It came out quite a bit darker than usual but that could have been the printer also.

As for the different art media, I'll take them one at a time and give my impression of how they work. I will say that I was most surprised at some of the results I got!

At top left is a very quick soft pastel sketch and I only added it as I had a bit of room left on the paper. I had tried my pan pastels on another square of the TerraSkin and was impressed that it went on so well and actually adhered well to the surface. Since the paper is almost slick, you wouldn't think pastels would work at all. The soft pastel sticks went on well also and also seem to adhere well. However, layering was something of problem. I don't know if workable fixative would help or not, but I do think this paper would work for glassless framing using the PVA glue between layers as the paper is almost plastic-like and does not seem to be very absorbent.

Moving down, I used some Twinkling H2O's that I had and they also worked fairly well which, again, was surprising. They're waterbased like watercolor until they dry in your painting then they become more or less permanent. There was still some beading up and they needed to be flooded on to cover well.

The same was true of the acrylic inks, the tube acrylics, water soluble oil and the gouache which all worked in a similar manner - the color would bead up and sort of crawl unless globbed on (that's an artistic term, btw).

Since Jeanette had already tried watercolor and colored pencils, I didn't repeat her experiments with those. I did try the Inktense pencils though. I used them dry then dampened with a moist brush. If I got the color too wet, it would also bead and crawl but otherwise was a surprise in that it worked better than I thought it might. I was disappointed in the color intensity though - I couldn't get it real bright or saturated at all.

Last, but not least, I used some plain ole Crayola markers and was super impressed with the way those worked on this paper! I have never used markers in a professional capacity so have no idea of how to use them properly or if professional markers would work in the same manner but I had a ball playing with the Crayola ones. I was able to layer and blend and change colors and the color stayed put - it didn't bead or crawl at all!

So, if you're a marker artist, you might try this paper to see if it works for you. If you're an artist who uses wet media, you'll probably be a bit disappointed with it. However, a lot depends on your methods and how wet you work and how detailed you are.

I think acrylics or oils would work ok, again depending on the way you work. I don't think I'd advise using pastels unless you're going the frameless route because layering and blending is very difficult. And I'm not sure it would be any better using the PVA between layers. The pastel smears but doesn't really blend.

One note repeating what Jeanette said - marks do not come off of this paper. I used every eraser I have (except the Magic Eraser) and the pencil marks especially were just barely lightened. (I just tried the Magic Eraser and it does work but takes some effort. FYI, according to the ingredients listed, there are no chemicals in the Magic Eraser brand I have.)

In summary, I don't think this paper will work for most artists but if you like the look of art on Yupo or watercolor canvas or other supports that tend to make your media bead up and crawl, you may love this paper. It's so great that it uses so little of the earth's resources and breaks down into non-hazardous elements when we're finished with it. It would be wonderful if we could trade some of our less earth friendly supports for the TerraSkin and perhaps the inventors will eventually make it so that it works better for artists. Perhaps a little texture or something. I say go play with it and see how it works for you!


Jeanette said...

That's a very comprehensive analysis of the terraskin paper Jan. Great stuff.

Like you, I think it has possibilities in several mediums and of course that depends too on the individual artist's style and the desired effect.

I'm still in experimental mode - I just need more time!

Natishia (Tish) Chacon said...

I love your drawings, you should think about selling your designs to fabric or paper product people. Or better yet Embroidery designs. That is so popular now.

Christine said...

Interesting Jan...I'll have to read what Jeanette has to say about color pencil on this support.
Hope you are doing well!
~ Christine

sue said...

Well between you and Jeanette there's been a very thorough testing of this paper it seems!

I couldn't find a UK supplier on their website so have emailed to ask if their products are available here (and if I can have a sample(s) to test) :o)

Jan said...

Jeanette, I too think it depends on the artist and the way they work as to whether TerraSkin will work for them. I found there's another "stone" paper called FiberStone also.

Welcome to my blog, Tish, nice of you to visit and thanks for the kudos on my art.

Hi Christine! Yes, Jeanette started a lovely cp on the paper. It seems similar to a vellum paper I once used which was ok for cp but didn't take many layers - also like drafting film.

sue said...

Hi Jan
I was convinced I'd left a message on this thread this morning but it doesn't appear here???
Anyway, thanks to you and Jeanette for publishing such great reviews of this paper.
Following your tip off about this paper recently I checked the website but couldn't find a local supplier. TerraSkin have now confirmed they do not have a supplier in the UK and whilst they would be happy to supply a free sample pack they can't ship packages outside USA under their contract .... so I'll just have to wait till that situation changes before I can sample the paper.

Jan said...

Sue, you evidently did leave a comment but I've been out most of the day and didn't receive it for moderation until now.

I don't think you would like it unless you're into markers so you haven't missed much by not trying it.

Glad the reviews have helped anyway and maybe they'll get a supplier in the UK soon. Oh, did you look up FiberStone? Maybe there's a supplier for it there.

Emily said...


I was wondering if we could use your photos on the TerraSkin fanpage and in groups.

We will of course give credit to you and provide the link back to your blog, but I wanted to ask before doing.

**Also you should look us up on facebook as we are posting other artwork that has been done on TerraSkin

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

The reason that Terra skin is not erasing like you would see on a fiber based paper is because an eraser is actually working to remove the top layer of the paper in order to remove the pencil. This removal of fibers cannot happen with the resin based stone paper.

Jan/ said...

Thanks, Anonymous, I've never even thought about how an eraser works but your explanation certainly makes sense!

The TerraSkin is fun to play with and I wish it were available to just buy in a local store! Unfortunately, it hasn't quite caught on that well yet.

Ranjana Dasgupta said...

Hi I tried doing an oil on Terraskin.. the end result looks good but as you mentioned blending is not all that easy