Tyvek Part I: Painting

by Marjorie Lee Jin En DeQuincy

Tyvek is a multi-use Dupont-made material that is commonly used to wrap and weatherize houses during the construction process. Tyvek is also used to make novelty fashion garments or safety suiting, but we most readily recognize it in the form of envelopes used by the U.S. Postal Service. We can purchase Tyvek yardage and envelopes or recycle the postal priority/express mail envelopes that we receive.

Once we get our tool kits out, we can start to play with Tyvek. Today we’re layering the surface with rubbings or scribbles using crayons, markers and paint.

Start with a manageable Tyvek piece about 18″ x 12″. Yes, all that blank space can be intimidating. So let’s get out our crayons and get busy rubbing a few impressions or making a few scribbles.

Practically any flat item can be placed under the Tyvek for rubbing.

Take a leaf from your garden.

Place the leaf under the Tyvek. Now rub the crayon over the Tyvek to catch an impression of the leaf below. Continue to move the leaf around to form patterns that please you.

Or take a crayon or Sharpie and make scribbles on the Tyvek’s surface.

Now take out some acrylic paint and a foam brush to paint over the rubbings or scribbles.

In this instance, I sprayed the surface with water to dilute the paint. Tyvek is not  absorbent, so the diluted paint puddles. Yikes! Not to worry. Just keep a paper towel handy. Mop up the puddles. Let the piece air dry. It will take 2-6 hours.

The drying time depends on the amount of paint dilution, whether it’s dried inside or out in your yard and how MUCH you really want to touch it. Solution: paint several pieces. When you’re done, the first piece could be dry or your testing finger will leave a smudge on it! Smudges are design elements which add visual texture. It’s your art! Have fun!!

Note: DO NOT try to speed up the drying process with an iron or hot blower. The heat will melt the Tyvek and startle you when the material begins writhing before your eyes! Also the fumes are not good for your health. This heat/melt characteristic will be explored in another article.

Different paint patterns appear as a result of your mop up process. The pattern shown here is the result of patting the towel up and down on the Tyvek surface. Experiment with your own mop up procedure to determine which pattern you like best.

The next example of painting uses undiluted acrylic paint casually swiped across the surface with a foam brush. It dries in 2-4 hours, dependent on the thickness of the paint.

Unpainted space is left so a second color can be added after the first color has dried.

Once the paint has dried, the Tyvek surface can be painted or marked over again.

The process of layering more rubbings, paint and markings on Tyvek can continue until you are satisfied with the results. Caution: too many mixed colors can turn to mud.

When you are satisfied, the Tyvek can be cut into postcards to send out as is or embellished even more with appliqué and quilting. Have fun playing!!

Postcard 1Postcard 2