Have You Tried Paintstiks?

At the November meeting of my art quilt group we played around with paintstiks, which are oil paints compressed into fat crayons. You can draw with them (though nothing too detailed), stencil with them, or do rubbings with them. You can blend the colors together using a special blender crayon. They can be applied directly like crayons or with stencil brushes. Use the shiny side of a sheet of freezer paper as a palette and you can customize your colors for stenciling.


Here’s a member doing rubbings from paintstik plastic plates. You can also use any textured objects that will leave a pattern – pressed glass, leaves, rubber matting, etc.

paintstiks_over_printingpaintstiks_brushesHere are examples of stenciling and rubbing with a stencil brush.

paintstiks_stencil_trivetThe trees were made with a stencil and brush, while the “brain” was made by rubbing a paintstik directly over a trivet.

paintstiks_more_platesThese rubbings were done from plates designed for paper embossing.

Paintstiks are less messy to use than paint, though you need to make sure little shavings don’t get on furniture, floors or clothes; as they will stain if rubbed in. It is oil paint. You let the decorated cloth air dry for 24 hours, and then cover and press the cloth at a temperature suited to the fabric. The paintstik crayons seal themselves with a protective skim coat over the areas you use. This needs to be removed the next time you use them with a paper towel, cloth, knife, or vegetable peeler.

I enjoy the versatility of paintstiks and the many iridescent color choices. You can use them to decorate prewashed fabric, or to enhance your piece after quilting. Check out The Painted Quilt by Linda and Laura Kemshall for inspiration. Here’s links to some online tutorials: Dharma Trading Post video, Craft Test Dummies, and Blue Twig Studio. We found that Dawn Blue dish soap works well for brush/stencil/stamp clean up.

If you’ve played with paintstiks I’d love to hear about how you used them.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

13 responses to “Have You Tried Paintstiks?

  1. Pingback: Adjusting the Contrast | Deep in the Heart of Textiles

  2. Parsley

    I’ve had trouble with the oil staining other things it came in contact with, even after heat setting. Anyone else experienced this?

    • After I read your message I took a paper towel and scrubbed hard at the paintstik images I had done. I found that I got a faint bit of color off my metallic brown paintstik butterflies. No color came off when I pressed the paper towel against the paintstik colored areas. I haven’t had any problems with staining on quilt tops where I’ve used paintstiks, but I applied the color fairly lightly and blended it in with my fingers. I suspect staining may be a function of how thickly the paintstik is applied. Were the pieces that caused the staining folded up against other fabric? Maybe allowing the paintstiks to dry more than 24 hours before heat setting would help.

      • Parsley

        All good thoughts. Yes, they were right next to other fabrics and fairly heavy, but I had let them dry for longer than 24 hours. Maybe I’m not heat-setting carefully enough, either. Thanks!

      • Well, the only variable I can think of we haven’t mentioned is the brand of paintstik you used. I’ve used only Shiva, but I recall there are other brands. Possibly the pigment/linseed oil mix is different and might cause staining.

  3. patty

    That is one item I have never tried using.

  4. Judy

    I noticed after heat setting them, that the colors brightened up.

  5. I HAVE tried painstiks! I took a workshop a couple months ago and had so much fun. And have even tried them since then. This is on my REALLY-WILL-DO list for future projects. I have one package of ? 5 or 6 stix, plus the 3 small crayons the workshop teacher provided. I’d like a few more colors to round things out. These were FUN. Thanks for the links. I’ll take a look.

  6. I just tried them for the first time two days ago. I was trying to make dragonfly wings look iridescent, and also color in the dragonfly body. I wasn’t very happy with my results. It looked like a bad coloring book. Also, the smell was so strong, even a day later. But, they didn’t make the fabric feel stiff.
    I am going to have to try again, going over an embossing surface like your samples.

    • Yep, they smell just like oil paints. Sorry your dragonfly didn’t work well. It may be you applied the color too thickly. Try a stencil brush, which should give you more control of the amount applied. You can also just rub the applied color with a paper towel to blend it or remove some of it.

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