Rusting Textures


Rusting Textures
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I use rusted papers and fabrics in a variety of mixed media collages. Here are some of the processes I use to rust stuff.

1. In “Hacking the Digital Print” by Bonny Pierce Lhotka, she describes how she creates rusty textures. I used a lot of these steps in my rusting.

a. Gather steel wool in various grades, containers for rusting, Cascade, TSP (or its substitute), water, salt, hydrogen peroxide, 300 lb watercolor paper, 100% natural fabrics. I definitely do this outside. I set up sturdy plastic containers that are fairly large and shallow on a flat surface in a sunny area. The first thing to do is wash the steel wool in a container with Cascade and TSP. Rinse and let dry. Put hydrogen peroxide in the clean container and 1 tsp of salt per pint of peroxide…(I’m writing this during the pandemic, so it will be harder to find the hydrogen peroxide. I buy one at a time when I can find it). Let the salt dissolve and you’re ready to rust.

b. You can just let the liquid rust and use the liquid to paint, draw with or you can rust fabrics/papers while the steel wool breaks down. I pull the steel wool apart and lay in patterns on top of papers. I also put metal shapes on top of the papers/fabric and they will “rust” onto the surface. For fabrics, I have used vintage linens – doilies, handkerchiefs, etc., 100% cotton sheets from thrift stores. Wash and dry before using. You can fold and wrap the fabric like you are tie dying it (put steel wool inside). I have used other weights of papers, but the 300 lb works best. Check the progress often….it will be lighter once you’ve rinsed it. I often keep fabrics in overnight, but papers work in a few hours.


c. Once you’ve pulled the paper or fabric out of the rust liquid, rinse and let dry. I do rinse outside with the hose so the steel wool doesn’t get all over the house. The fabrics, once dry, I wash in the washing machine just to get out any bits of steel wool.








I rusted over fabric that I had tea stained and fabric painted. The processes work well, no matter which order you do the different techniques.

2. Using vinegar to rust - I had some leftover hydrogen peroxide that I added to the mix, but I poured/sprayed vinegar on paper and laid metal objects on top. They created textures and designs really well. The trick is to keep the paper wet. If not, it will stick to whatever it’s on and tear apart the paper.

I try and photograph the pieces wet, and then again dry.






Using the Rusted Textures

I have used rusted papers in mixed media collages and with cold wax medium. I have drawn and painted on top of them. For the rusted fabrics, I have done the same. You can sew the fabric, print images on top of them, iron images on top of them, etc.




Using the rusted papers for collages….in process work

ENJOY your own rusting and let me know if you find some cool, other techniques to rust. I’d love to try something new.



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