Saturday, June 18, 2011

Deb Corder: Tyvek Backgrounds

The last couple of weeks my Gingersnap Creations have included a piece of Tyvek background. So for my first tutorial, I decided to share with you how I created those little pieces of goodness!

Tyvek is a synthetic fabric (not a paper) that you can't tear but you can cut. About the only thing can damage Tyvek is heat. Which makes it a great packing material for envelopes. I'm not suggesting you deplete you local Post Office of Tyvek envelopes...but if you get one in the mail why not recycle it?? (wink)

I had an extra envelope in my postal stash, but you can buy a package of Tyvek envelopes at an office supply store. I had planned only to use Lumiere paints but in the end tried all sorts of coloring methods. (But I have to say that the Lumiere paint gives the best result!!) You will also need an iron or heat gun, and Teflon craft sheet.

CAUTION!! Since Tyvek is a synthetic material heating it will produce fumes when heated. If you're at all sensitive, you might want to wear a protective mask. Also be sure you're in a well ventilated crafting area.

Start by cutting smaller pieces out of the main envelope. I used paint brushes to add color to the front of each piece. You can see in the lower right that the Lumiere covered the painted logo. This will only work with a thick paint. But you can use either side of the Tyvek. Set aside to dry. If you try to heat dry the paint at this point your paint may move around as the Tyvek shrinks.

I also didn't paint all the way to the edge. As the Tyvek shrinks you will end up with irregular sized pieces anyway. I just cut off the white sections when I was done heating.

Some of the other types of "ink" I tried:

Distress Stains - Great color but you can see that it's transparent. So the logo would show thru in this case. Which could be ok depending on the look you're going for.

Alcohol inks with applicator - With the applicator I could control how much color was going down, but I liked the directly applied AI better.

Alcohol inks direct and blending solution - Tyvek wicked the AI thru to the back, so be sure you're working on your craft sheet.

Acrylic paint will give you good coverage. After heating the end result will be a matte finish.

I placed two blobs of paint and then just started folding edges until I was happy. I also used a paint brush to blend the color. The fold marks will disappear when you heat.

So let's turn to heating methods. You can use either an iron (I just have a regular iron but a craft iron will work too if you can control the heat setting) or a heat gun. They work equally well. I found I had more control over heat with the iron, but more control over where the heat went with the heat gun. Bottom line - you'll have to see what works best for you. In either case, 1-3 seconds is about all the heat you need to start the shrinking/bubbling process. So go slow.

Lumiere & Heat gun - You can see that some sections had large bubbles and other sections there are almost no bubbles. The longer you heat the Tyvek, the smaller the bubbles will be and you will start to get holes.

Distress Stains & iron - Since Tyvek is synthetic, I didn't want the iron to get too hot. I set it to the Polyester/Rayon setting (3), which was almost too hot. Also turn off your steam. To protect my iron, I folded the Tyvek inside my Teflon craft sheet.

Using either heating method, if you heat from the back your bubbles will be convex (bump up). If you heat from the top your bubbles will be concave (bump in). The easiest way to remember - the Tyvek is going to move away from the heat source.

Here are all the paint samples heated. (Clockwise top left to bottom left): Acrylic paint/heat gun (note that's the only matte finish); Lumiere/iron; Distress Stain/iron; Alcohol Ink/iron; Alcohol Ink/heat gun; Lumiere/iron; Lumiere/heat gun.

Close up of finished bag front. Note that all the white is cut off. I also cut one of the pieces in to smaller sections - so I could put them on the tag too.

To get the Tyvek to adhere, I used red line tape.

Finished bag & tag.

I hope you have fun playing with Tyvek, heat, and paint!! It does make a beautiful background!!


  1. I can hardly wait to give this a try! Thanks!!

  2. Thank you for the reminder of this great material with this great tutorial XOXO Zoe

  3. This reminds me of the first time I saw a piece of heated Tyvek - someone had sent me a piece as a swap goodie. It was colored olive and gold, and frankly, at first I thought there was mold growing on it. Then I showed to to some of my stamping pals, and some of them were so freaked out they wouldn't even touch it!

    I had fun with it, though. It has a great texture - you just have to be careful how you use it.

  4. Great tutorial--I've been wanting to try this, and have all the stuff, just haven't done it!

    Thanks for the inspiration, Deb!


  5. Great tutorial Deb--this looks really interesting, will have to raid my postal stash. ;-)

  6. Careful tat the fums are slight but they are toxic when heating tyvek

  7. Incredible tut...I must try all of them. LOL, gerri

  8. Wow! I had no idea Tyvek could look that way. Once again, an interesting turorial here at Gingersnap.
    Love Lumiere paints. They really zing up just about any project.
    Your work is really has a lot of dimension--which makes it more unique and worth keeping, I think.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. WOW I love this!

  10. Wow, this is so pretty, I've never seen anything like it! This post alone is definitely worth the follow. :)

    Check out my new craft blog, Made Especially For You. It's still in the early stages but I promise it'll get better! :)


  11. How cool. I've never tried using Tyvek. On my bucket list now! Great tutorial!

  12. Wow, I will have to try that. My dh was manager in the tyvek lab at dupont here but I didn't know about using it in art. We bought a roll of tyvek about 40 years ago. It's almost gone. We use it for everything, but especially for raking leaves onto. I can't imagine life without tyvek. Now I can use it for art using your technique.


Thanks for your wonderful words!

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