A few weeks ago, I started playing around with printing my coloring book line art on scrapbook paper. At the time I was running low on inspiration for a winged horse design I was working on for my Etsy shop and couldn’t come up with a background I was especially happy with. I sketched out quite a few different ideas but nothing was clicking. A few hours later, I printed a copy of the horse on white paper and left it on my desk for the rest of the day. Still nothing. As I was falling asleep that night, I realized I had a few sheets of specialty paper stashed away in a file cabinet.
The next morning, I found the paper and ran a sheet through my printer with the horse design. The faint pre-printed leaves and flowers looked interesting behind the horse even though a fern leaf made the horse look like a unicorn. I pulled out the Polychromos color chart from my Creative Companion and picked out a few pencils that matched the colors of the pre-printed paper and started to play around. The paper was a bit too thin for my liking, but the process of coloring this horse got my wheels turning.
In light of thinking about my friends in the coloring community being in isolation during the corona pandemic (with all the potential stresses about getting sick, losing income, not having enough to eat, etc.), I decided to give the design away as a gift and also encourage others to find some non-white, pre-printed paper to print the horse. Sort of a scavenger hunt and art challenge wrapped into one to help focus on something positive and creative during these uncertain times. So I let the horse go and added it to the collection of freebies in our Ruby Charm Colors Facebook community.
A few days later, colorists in our little community started posting beautiful winged -horse colorings and that inspired me to try printing different designs on pre-printed paper. I pulled two boxes filled with scrapbook paper I bought several years ago for a special project and printed the winged horse again—this time on Tim Holtz Idea-ology scrapbook paper. Then I printed my Botanical Crab on paper featuring the Eiffel Tower and handwriting. And the giraffes (which is a new design I recently listed on Etsy) on paper that looked like elephant skin (or maybe marble?), and a cat on a map.
I got busy coloring. It helped take my mind off the Rona and gave me a chance to mull over a few ideas while having fun with the whole concept of incorporating pre-printed scrapbook paper backgrounds with my own art. Collage art in a way.
There are times I truly enjoy filling up a whole page with color and putting a lot of thought into a background, but there are also times that coming up with a background presents a challenge—lack of ideas, lack of time, etc.. Having the background already done can give us the ability to focus on the subject and also give us some degree of direction when it comes to choosing a color palette. For example, with my first winged-horse coloring, I tried to pick up the colors of the flowers and leaves with a few additional colors to make the horse stand out.
More colorings of the winged-horse started appearing in my social media feeds and colorists seemed like they were having a lot of fun working with pre-printed paper, and some even went a step further and created their own patterned paper as a backdrop. It then occurred to me that having a collection of simple, single designs for printing especially on scrapbook or other specialty paper might be a lot of fun for colorists to experiment with.
Scrapbook paper seems to work well because it is fairly thick like card stock and can handle a bit of water as well as colored pencils. I have a few packs of paper designed by Tim Holtz (Crowded Attic, French Industrial, Destinations, Wallflower and Kraft Resist collections which each have a mix of about 36 pages). I also have two large packs of scrapbook paper made by Recollections but the paper is a bit thin and a little on the slick side. Not impossible to work with, but not as luxurious as the Tim Holtz Idea-ology papers when it comes to colored pencils and watercolors. You can find lots of different designs and collections of scrapbook paper by the sheet or pad at Joann Fabric, Michaels, the Scrapbooking-Warehouse and even Amazon. There are so many different styles and themes you are sure to find something that inspires you.
One of the Tim Holtz pages I found (not positive which collection since some of the papers in my boxes got mixed up) featured a map. Since the background was filled with geological features likes hills, lakes and rivers, I used those features to adorn the cat by simply drawing over them with sharp Irojiten pencils over a layer of Polychromos.
Once finished, I trimmed the page even further—from 8.5 x 11″ down to about 7 x 9.5″ so it would fit in my Creative Companion notebook (a pretty pale blue Franklin Planner and you can see how I did this here).
Choosing the perfect piece of paper to print a design on can be a little daunting. Some of the patterns may be too dark or too busy, or maybe the style of the art itself presents challenges. Like a collage, though, you can come up with some really unique and interesting juxtapositions and variations. The next challenge is figuring out where on the paper the design should print. Since my scrapbook pads are 12 x 12″ sheets, I knew I had to trim them to fit my printer.
The best way to figure out where the design needs to be on the scrapbook paper is to print a copy of the design itself on regular white printer paper first. I used the “shrink to fit” setting on my printer as well as the “economy” setting so I wouldn’t waste too much ink. Why take this extra step ? You could print your design without checking first, but since scrapbook paper can be a bit expensive, and since the number of your favorite pages are limited (sometimes only one or two copies of a particular page in a whole pack) it would be a shame to muck it up. The fancy paper I am using for this design is from the Tim Holtz Paper Stash collection called Wallflower. If you have a really nice sheet of scrapbook or fancy paper you don’t want to ruin, learn from my mistakes and print on plain paper first!
Okay, next, I placed my white printed page over the nice scrapbook paper and carefully lifted it up in a few different directions to see where things would align and overlap. In the video below, I tried to make sure my bird design would not interfere with the pre-printed bird, a Robin, but I wasn’t as worried about my bird overlapping the egg or the tree.
Once I had the design where I wanted it, I simply traced around my 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper with a pencil (see below). I could have been more precise by using a ruler, but I wasn’t too worried about perfect edges. As long as it would feed through the printer, I’d be happy.
Below is the scrapbook paper cut to size with the new bird design printed on it. Tip: save the scraps of paper you trim off—they are great for testing your pencils and paints. Some brands will work better than others depending on the quality and surface texture of the scrapbook or other specialty paper, and some colors will be more perfect than others. I also test out which blender pencils and burnishing sticks work best on any given paper, and test my gels pens on the scraps, too.
For this bird page, I used my color chart to pick the Polychromos colors I wanted to work with. For the Tim Holtz Paper Stash papers, the Polychromos and Irojitens seem to work really well for me.
Build your pencils layers slowly and add depth as you go. And again, test on scraps first as this can save heartache when something doesn’t go right on your good paper.
All I colored for this project was the bird I printed, a little bit of green on the leaves of the tree, and a little purple and green along the left edge number chart. It didn’t take long at all, was very satisfying, and I ended up with an interesting coloring that would look nice in a frame on a wall. Might be sort fun to make a few of these for gifts, yes?
Part of the paper I trimmed off had a feather on it so I started cutting it out to maybe glue to the finished piece … just an idea for now.
The next few photos show the Jewel Beetle I printed on another piece of scrapbook paper and colored with Polychromos and Irojiten pencils. I also drew some extra designs on the body and wings, burnished the whole thing with a Caran d’Ache Blender Bright stick, added some detail with Karen Spencer’s gorgeous mica paints, then used a mix of gel pens for embellishments.
Next I played around with an octopus using the same method and materials …
… and finally, the horse. Can you tell I am a little excited about printing on scrapbook paper?
Want to give this a try? I now have a PDF collection of 22 of my designs on Etsy that focuses on singular creatures: mammals, sea creatures, insects and birds. Here are 9 of them, and the rest can be found in the Etsy listing.
Each one of these designs can be printed at 100% or enlarged or shrunk depending on your computer skills and available programs or apps, and on your printer’s capabilities of course. It really does help to print a copy of the design you like on plain inexpensive paper first. Try resizing the design by playing with the print settings from the PDF file.
You can even take a screenshot of the design and paste it into a program like Photoshop, Microsoft Word or Pages if you want to rotate or flip an image. I flipped my bird by doing this in Pages. Here are a few screenshots showing some of the settings I have in Pages. Once I took a screenshot of the PDF image (using Command + fn + Shift + 4 keys on my keyboard on a Mac) I pasted the captured image into a page.
From there I could resize the image, Flip it horizontally, and rotate it. Once I had it where I wanted it on the page, I printed a copy on plain white paper.
It took a few tries to get it where I wanted it, but again, printing a few copies on cheap paper saved my more expensive scrapbook paper for the final copy. And again, since there are sometimes only one or two sheets of a certain pattern or design in a scrapbook pad, you really want to make sure you get it right the first time.
I hope to put another pack of simple designs together in the future (maybe add a few plants and flowers) and am looking forward to playing around with this whole coloring on scrapbook paper even more in the future. Coloring is such an enjoyable activity, and taking it to the next level by experimenting with different paper can really elevate the outcome.