A couple of people on the WOYWW blog hop wanted to know what puff binder was – I mentioned that it was on my desk. This is something I discovered on our recent holiday – those who visit regularly may remember we went back to my old school for a reunion, and spent most of the time in the art block being wowed by the talent of the current students – art college diploma standard from 16-18 year olds! I was intrigued by the many different textures they were producing, and in particular remarked on one, which was soft and rubbery to the touch, and bubbly, and was informed that this was puff binder.
I’d never heard of it before but determined to get some. Apparently it is a material used in screen printing. In the pot it has a creamy, semi-liquid consistency, and it can be spread on, or painted on, or squeezed out of a fine nozzle bottle, depending on the effect you want. To cure it, you heat it with a heat gun and it puffs up and gives the distinctive texture. You can mix pigments with it before use, or you can paint it afterwards.
During my researches I discovered that this is pretty expensive stuff, so decided on a small pot to begin with, which I ordered from Amazon. When it arrived I was very disappointed at just how small the pot was, and even more disappointed when I opened it to discover it was only half full!
As a result of this I determined to see if I could make some puff binder myself, but not knowing (and not being able to find out anywhere online) what it is actually made of, this was a pretty hit and miss affair. Here are the samples I created, together with some real puff binder.
I began by mixing some self-raising flour with some PVA glue. It needed a lot more glue than flour, to make a spreadable paste.
For the first two samples I spread it on pretty thinly, randomly and then through my small circles stencil. For the second two samples I repeated this process but spread it more thickly.
I thought that the raising agent in the flour, together with the water in the PVA, would cause the mixture to puff up when heated, and indeed it did, but not in the lovely bubbly way that real puff binder does; it was also not so soft and rubbery, but harder and smoother. However, it was flexible and didn’t crack or break away from the card substrate when I flexed it.
I tried adding an equal quantity of gesso to some of the above mixture, and this was the result.
It did puff up a bit – you can get some very interesting effects by heating gesso on its own – but I don’t think the result was quite as good as the mixture without the gesso.
Finally, the puff binder itself. Again, I made samples from thinly spread puff binder, and then more thickly spread, and finally very thick, and a medium thickness application through the stencil. This is the result.
Spread too thinly, it really didn’t puff up enough. Medium thickness seems to work the best; the very thick one puffed up a lot around the edges, and it started to break away from the substrate.
The best result was the medium thickness, here seen applied through the stencil.
I need to do some more experimenting, and trying different materials to create the perfect DIY puff binder. I often use substitute materials from the building trade as these are hugely cheaper than from art materials suppliers and often work just as well – initially I thought about that expanding foam that is injected into walls to fill gaps around door frames etc., but that expands on contact with the air, and dries pretty hard, so I don’t think that would work.
I made a video of the process: