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No Tears Stippling

November 30, 2008

Update: I’ve now included a video on stippling. Please forgive the quality — we are still fighting to get the video camera fixed properly or replaced, so I used the webcam. Of course, part of the delay was also due to the holidays.

***Note: I started this post a while ago, and had/have every intention of adding a video on the stippling embossing technique. However, my camera was not working correctly, and is now being repaired. When I get it back, I will add a stippling video.

Stippling was one of the hardest embossing techniques I have come up against. Part of the reason it was difficult was that I have read and heard of different ways of doing stippling. Some folks say to use the scriber tool and some say to use the one-needle tool.

Here is an explanation of stippling that made sense to me:

as many equal sized tiny holes as you can get into an area of a pattern.

Making tiny equal sized holes is not easy, and it doesn’t work well with the scriber tool. So, before you go running into the night screaming because stippling has you down, let me share with you what I learned. This will probably be more helpful to those of you that are heavy-handed with your tools, as I have a tendency to be.

Let’s start with a scrap piece of parchment paper, with a shape of your choice drawn on the front. Turn the paper over and rub the back with your dryer fabric sheet (or your favorite medium to help the tools glide on your paper). Lightly emboss where you intend to stipple with the largest ball tool that fits in the shape, until it is a light gray. Now, put aside your embossing mat. From here on we will be using a craft cutting mat and a large dinner napkin (serviette) that is pre-folded twice, preferably green or other dark color (this is so that you can see your work). Unfold the napkin one time so that it is only folded once in half. Place your parchment paper, back-side up, on the napkin, which is on your cutting mat.

Now, with your one-needle tool, holding it vertically, start poking the paper within the shape over and over and over. The napkin allows the one-needle tool to pierce the paper just a little bit and the cutting mat stops the one-needle tool from going through too far. While most directions say to “hammer” your parchment paper, please don’t take that description completely literally. Pounding too hard on the paper will damage your needle tool, or your scriber (if you are using that). When I first started parchment crafting, I used the scriber and took the hammering description literally, all of which was to my detriment, because 1. I did not get good results and 2. I ruined my scriber.

Good stippling technique can make all the difference in your creations. not only does it give your piece depth, but also texture. Since many designs are taken from nature, good stippling will make a huge difference in the outcome of your projects.

Here is an old card I made, back in the late 1990’s. You can see in the curved curly-ques and little bell-shaped flowers, that my stippling is not very close together, or are the holes (in this case, dots) even.

Compare the stippling in that piece with the inside border in this card:

or, better yet,  these hearts:

You’ll  note that the hearts, which is a pretty recent practice piece, are filled to the edges with little tiny holes. When I hold the piece up to the light, from the back, I can see light in a zillion little holes. And this looks much better than the first piece I showed.

Once you have finished poking as many tiny holes into the area color the stippled area with white pencil on the back of your paper. This gives the finished piece a nice bright white color on the front.

Some areas that use stippling correspond to where the texture is found naturally. This can be the hearts of some flowers, such as sunflowers, daisies, and purple coneflowers. Some stamens would benefit from stippling, rather than straight embossing.

When done well, stippling embossing adds a new dimension to your project.

Now, here is my warning. Stippling, especially in large areas, can bother/hurt one’s wrist. If it does, stipple a small area, take a rest, come back and stipple some more. Whatever you do, please, don’t hurt your wrist.

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