This topic has 7 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated 5 years, 7 months ago by Angelique Powers.

  • Author
  • #14729

    Ok, here goes.

    I’ve got a small heavyweight muslin drop with simple lettering over most of it. The production team feels it’s very important that the background muslin have ZERO sizing on it. No starch, no paint, no PV. Nada. It gets touched and moved a lot on stage, and the motion of the fabric is relevant to the action.

    In my samples, I’m getting (expectedly) puckering around the letters as they dry and size within the unsized surface. For the lettering, I’m trying watery paint, starch with a little tint, watery tinted PV, all with similar results of puckering as they dry. I’m trying wet surface, dry surface, misting with water while drying, hot water sprays after dry…. nothing is awesome yet.

    Designer recommends pre-sizing each letter with light starch before painting to prevent the paint from bleeding, but I’m missing something here. Help me out?

     Tina Yager
    • Experience: 15-20 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Freelance

    Could you give them a lightly starched piece of muslin to play around with in rehearsal? I am trying to picture whether there is much of a difference between a lightly starched heavyweight fabric and untreated heavyweight fabric when it comes to movement and drape.


    I did! This is actually a re-do of a drop I did for them last month. They’re changing the overall look of the thing, but the sizing was a primary issue to address.

     Lili Lennox
    • Experience: 15-20 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Freelance

    Partner Member

    Thinking a bit outside the ordinary…. how about a synthetic fabric that looks like muslin but behaves differently (i.e. wouldn’t pucker)? Not sure how big your drop is, but you said it was somewhat small, so maybe that could be an option.

    Or, what about paints that are oil or shellac based? Maybe the nature of oil on muslin will affect the fibers differently- possibly letting them stay plump and not wanting to shrink.. and with shellac you could be spritzing and thinning with alcohol, which will evaporate quickly and maybe not give the fabric time to pucker. Maybe they have oil-based fabric paints so things don’t get hard or brittle?

    Caveat: I’ve never done any of this, just shooting out some possibilities.

     Angelique Powers
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    Riffing off of Lili’s idea of fabric paints, have you ever worked with DYNA-Flow?

    It’s technically a paint, but the color particles are so small it acts like a dye. Ive used it on poly silk – with out sizing, and It stayed relatively soft and flowy.

    I’d think that because its the consistency of milk, and acts like a dye, that maybe it wont pucker your fabric? I have gotten it from Dharma Trading, but most fancy artstores usually keep smaller bottles in stock, if you don’t want to wait for shipping.

    • Experience: 10-15 years
    • Scenic Status: Part Time Freelance

    There is also plastex which is a fabric paint used for screen printing. You can use it on unsized material and is designed to be flexible. I’ve used it on kabuki drops before (they were made out of a poly silk). The upsides are you can thin it to desired translucency, it comes in all kinds of colors and it’s color safe once you add the fixative (no need to set with a steamer). Downsides are it’s not cheap, the fixative is toxic (so don’t get it on your skin) and the thinner you make it the more likely it may bleed. I’ve outlined in a thicker version and filled in with a thinner version. The thick version acts as a barrier and prevents the thinner version from bleeding.


    Guys, these are all such good ideas. I wish I had had a longer turnaround on this one for experimentation and ordering new supplies like Dyna-flo, but we got that thing on and off the deck in just about 2.5 days.

    What I ended up doing was making a template for the lettering, markered on white paper to lay under the stapled raw muslin drop. I used a mix of about 1 part Off Broadway paint to 2 parts starch and 20 parts water to lay in the 10-inch tall letters. After every 2 or 3 letters, I’d see them start to pucker and pull, so I gently misted each one with a P50 to even out the wetness and calm the wrinkles as I went. It was actually really successful, though a little fussy to babysit. The end result felt just like raw muslin with almost no texture or movement change to the fabric at all.

     Angelique Powers
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    That turned out great!

    Thanks for letting us know how you solved that problem!

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.


©2022 Guild of Scenic Artists

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account