Monday, November 10, 2014

The Bokeh Technique

What exactly is bokeh? you ask. In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light". It is pronounced “bow” as in bow and arrow, and the sound of “ke” when saying kettle.
We made birthday cards for seniors today in Card Ministry at St. John's United Methodist Church. This technique was perfect for that and we had such fun making them!
I have tried two variations of the bokeh effect for card backgrounds. The first is done with watercolor paint and paper using a watercolor wash technique. The second is done with Stampin’ Up! ink on a watercolor wash.

For the second stage of this technique, you will need a stencil of different sized circles. This can be easily made by punching 3 to 4 different sizes of circles out of acetate or vellum. Stampin’ Up! has Window Sheets: two 12 x 12 sheets for $4.95 and vellum comes in a package of twenty 8 ½ x 11 sheets for $6.50.

A watercolor brush and water or an Aqua Painter
Water color paper
Stampin’ Up! White Craft Ink

  1. Begin with a 4 ¼ x 5 ½ inch piece of watercolor paper taped to a board with painter’s tape. (when finished, you can trim to 4 x 5 ¼ inches)
  1. To create a watercolor washed background, thoroughly wet the paper with water and a brush. You want a very wet background because you are going to be dropping paint onto the wet background and that’s what is going to create that nice soft haze. 
  1. Select a pairing or a trio of pigments that you like. Wet your brush and begin picking up each of the colors and dropping them onto the paper. Because the paper is thoroughly wet, it’s going to start spreading that pigment around all by itself! As you are picking up new color, drop it right next to the color you’ve already laid down and let them start to blend together. Then continue to pick up water on your brush, pick up pigment and drop it into the paper. Continue to do this until you’ve covered the entire paper. You can do this using various random splotchy shapes or washes of stripe type shapes.
  1. If your paper starts to dry, just pick up more water to help move the pigment around. If you find that the water is pooling around the edges, just use a dry brush or a paper towel and dab at the edges. This should soak up all that extra water. If you want your background to be lighter or less vibrant, add more water to your paint when picking it up and if you want a more intense background, use more pigment than water. If some areas are darker than you’d like just use some dry paper towel and pounce it to pull up some of that pigment. You can also flick clean water onto it to lighten up some areas as well.
  1. Once you’re happy with the results you can just set it aside to dry or use your heat tool to speed up drying time.
  1. Once it is dry, remove the tape and stamp. It dries quite a bit lighter than it looks when wet. Use Memento, dye ink pad because it’s waterproof and won’t smear.
  1. For the magical effect, use a homemade stencil from plastic/acetate and circle dies or punches.
  1. To create the bokeh effect, take the white pigment ink and start sponging it through the openings in the stencil. Use several of the sizes and vary the intensity with which you put on the ink.. For the larger circles, put it on lightly. Then as the circles get smaller, progressively use a heavier touch you’re your application of ink. Then replace the stencil and do the same thing. With the bigger circles, you should  work in odd numbers. I used 5. The theory behind that is, when you see even numbers you subconsciously want to start counting, so if you want something to seem more random, then use odd numbers. Continue to work your way through the different sizes and be sure to overlap occasionally because you want to achieve a very random look, just like the bokeh effect that appears in photos. So overlap them without thinking too much about the placement. For the smallest circles, press with full pressure, stamp a couple times between reinking. Just relax and have fun with it. In a photograph, these smallest circles will generally be the darkest, which would be the brightest reflections, the most in focus in the bokeh effect.

  1. Now that pigment ink takes quite a while to dry, so you’ll either want to wait for it to fully dry or use your heat tool to speed up the drying time.

  1. To add a little bit of sparkle and glitter to the project, I used a Clear Start Gelly Roll pen by Sakura. Sequins also give your creation a nice touch.

Bokeh With Stampin’ Up! Inks

An Aqua Painter (or water color brush and water)
Stampin' Up! Ink Pads
Water color paper
Stampin’ Up! White Craft Ink

  1. To get a nice puddle of ink on the lid to work with, squeeze your inkpad before opening it. An Aqua Painter is a great tool for this technique because you can add water with a squeeze of your fingers. Stampin’ Up! offers two in a package for $16.95, you get 1 medium brush tip and 1 large brush tip.
  1. To obtain the watercolor wash, again, thoroughly wet the paper with water and a brush.
  2. Just as before, select a pairing or a trio of pigments that you like. Then use your Aqua Painter and begin picking up each of the colors and dropping them onto the paper, and continue to do this until you’ve covered the entire paper.
  3. Once complete set it aside to dry and continue as in the previous method.

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