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Neurographic Art Iron-on-Ink Coasters: How To

Modified June 5, 2022.Transcribed from the Artesprix Blog of the same title.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means that I may receive compensation if you purchase through the links I have provided. The price you pay for the product or service is not higher, but I may get compensated. All thoughts and reviews of the products used are my own.

Before we moved I learned about Artesprix iron-on-ink and I love their range of colors and sublimation blanks. With the new year, I was given the opportunity to write a guest blog for Artesprix – how cool!? You can go and see it at this link or I’ve reproduced it below. (P.S. At this time these are not affiliate links, but I did receive the products as a gift in order to write this blog). Even though this was my first time using these, I decided to take the markers for a spin in an art process called neurographica. It’s a perfect technique that creates a functional reminder of change and a positive start for the new year to use in your living room or family space. Let’s walk through how to make Neurographic Art Iron-on-Ink Coasters together!

What is Neurographic Art?

I only recently learned about neurographica (coined by Pavel Piskarev in 2014), but it’s wonderful – easy to do and creates sporadic interesting looking designs. It reminded me of many repetitive designs (like checker boards, or the scribbles where you color every other space in) that I did obsessively in high school or during meetings. I know I’m not alone, right?! Here is a link to a video of an art teacher showcasing how to do this technique and giving some background knowledge on it.

Doesn’t it make a great organic design?! The best part of making these Neurographic Art Iron-on-Ink Coasters is the surprise of the colors when you heat them up through the sublimation process. It was especially a mystery to me because I used a watercolor technique to fill in the spaces which I’ll outline below.

In this project I used:

You will also need a heat source that can reach 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 seconds. Or you can use an iron – but please reference the Support Tab to check the proper technique. I use a heat press from amazon, that made the trek to Japan with us. But Artesprix has their own, that comes with 9x12in work space.

What is sublimation ink?

Sublimation markers and the ink that’s inside is “iron-on-ink” which means that when activated with heat the color turns to a gas and is able to embed itself into a poly-based product or coating. Blanks can be polyester shirts, zippered pouches, or mugs, coasters and more that have the right material. The most magical seeming part of sublimation ink is that most colors are more dull or muted when you are designing, but with the heat the colors come alive and brighten. This technology gives makers like us a way to make art that doesn’t fade in the wash, rub or peel off. Once the project cools the design can’t be removed.

Step 1: Set up your template

For this design, I made a full-sized sheet of paper be the art design. My intention doing the full sheet was so that I could choose which sections would be the most interesting to adhere to my four coasters. This way I had a bit of freedom if I liked some parts of the art better than others. It’s a good idea to hold your blank up next to the full sheet to get an idea of the scale you need to design in. An easy way to think of it is that your page will be split into 4 quadrants. Because I knew I wanted to add watercolor to the spaces that the lines made, I taped down my paper with painters tape first to help prevent warping. I should have layered up my copy paper, knowing I was going to use water. Doubling up would help prevent color bleed to your work surface. But I used an old cutting board as my easel and surprisingly nothing bleed onto it.

Step 2: Intersecting Lines

For at least three seconds I drew a squiggly intersecting line with no loose ends present on the paper. The mindfulness part was that I was supposed to hold a topic or worry in my head while drawing it out. To paraphrase another art teacher “you draw your line until your thoughts on the topic empty onto the paper.” Here’s where you can hold the worries of last year and let them pour onto the paper. Check out the full time-lapsed video of creating this sublimation transfer on youtube!

Step 3: Round out the Intersections & Enhance Composition

Next you round all the intersections to smooth the worry you hold from the topic. This is where you focus on the change, the transformation. While rounding the intersections you can get lost in the process and some people reach a meditative state. After you finish smoothing all parts of all intersections take a step back and look at the composition. Notice where you want to more lines to balance or add interest to the piece – I found I needed to add smaller sections that intersect so that I can have more sections on each of my final coasters. I also used the round tipped black sublimation marker to make my original curved line, and then the fine tipped markers to get into the details of the smoothed intersections.

Step 4: Add color

After the line drawing is complete, I used a combination of marker and watercolor techniques to get gradients of color in the different sections. Some sections are fully colored in with one color of sublimation ink, others have layers of 2, 3, or 4 colors in different parts. This gives your art a wider range of colors than just those bottled for you.

One way to get the ink to use for watercolor techniques is to draw on a slick piece of plastic, I used a zip top bag, because I liked the weight of the bag on my drawing table. You can either wet your paper first, your brush first, or paint straight on with the sublimation ink. Pro tip: your paintbrush starts out dry and will absorb the sublimation ink which will not allow it to transfer to your design, so start with a lightly damped brush to help the ink flow to your paper.

Be careful not to oversaturate your paper with water. Also, use gentle strokes when painting as wet laser paper can start to tear (you could avoid this by trying marker paper or smooth textured watercolor paper).

Try to avoid getting the black lines wet, as they will bleed when you add water (unlike many examples on YouTube where the black lines are made with permanent marker that is alcohol based). The transformation of the art project by adding the color can really metamorphose the look of the neural black curved lines.

You will need to wait for the paper to fully dry before cutting it up and using it to color your blank coasters. When you are ready to get back at it, turn your heat source on before cutting up your design and taping it to your blanks.

Step 5: Adhere the Design to the Blank

Use your heat resistant tape from Artesprix to secure your design flush to your blanks. It needs to be flat on your project with no gaps to ensure that when the ink turns to gas it transfers onto your blank. I considered keeping the design sheet whole with all four designs and blanks. However, decided against it in order to make more careful sure that the blanks were snug against their design while positioning them in the heat press.

Step 6: Sublimation Sandwich

Now flip your project over, and place it on a piece of the protective paper. The blank coaster should be on the bottom, the design face down on top of the coaster, and place another sheet of the protective paper on top of that. It’s a Sublimation Sandwich! The protective paper helps protect your equipment from the sublimation ink – in case it seeps through your paper and gets on your press – you do not want that! It could reheat and transfer to your next project! Always use protection.

Step 7: Pressing Time

It’s time to press. Using your heat press, or even your iron, apply the heat and appropriate pressure for the time necessary. For this project that was 90 seconds at 400 degrees Fahrenheit with firm pressure. You can always reference the Support tab on the Artesprix website with any questions, or reach out through the Contact Us tab.

Step 8: Peek Test!

After the time is up, and the project is cool enough to handle, don’t remove the tape just yet! Take a quick peek at the blank under the design paper to check that your transfer was good. If you didn’t get a good transfer, double check your time, temperature and pressure settings and how your sandwich was situated on the press and re-press – it’s okay! Keep the tape together or you could risk some ghosting (doubling the design in a slightly shifted way).

Step 9: The Big Reveal!

I couldn’t wait to see how the watercolors came out – did I go too light, or two dark, or too splotchy? Because the sublimation markers start out muted, I couldn’t really remember which colors I used where – especially in the green and orange/red sections! This is the magic I was talking about!

Step 10: Extra Add-ons

For these Neurographic Art Iron-on-Ink Coasters I chose not to add anything else to the designs. I considered adding focal point words, one to each coaster in permanent adhesive vinyl – that way I would have a specific reminder of the intentions I want to set for the new year. If I added vinyl I would have considered adding a layer of clear coat spray paint to give the project a bit more protection. Another option is to add details in permanent marker (black or the metallic ink ones).

What will you do, leave them as works of art with no words, or make them more multimedia? This style of art would be so fun on the Artesprix blank Wine Caddy like this on the Artesprix blog. When you make your coasters please share your creation with us over in the Artesprix Iron-on-Ink Inspirational Group on Facebook.

Thank you for reading and thank you Artesprix for having me as a guest designer! I love this project and the Artesprix materials really emphasized the symbolism of transformation and focusing on positive bright change coming into this new year. Keep in touch via social or check out my other blogs.

Chelsea Rose

p.s. I don’t have affiliate links, I just really liked the products. These products were a gift in exchange for one blog post, but all the thoughts and reviews are my own. Maybe someday there will be affiliate links in my posts but not yet 😉 a girl can dream! haha

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