One of my favourite pigments to add to my art is Powertex Bister. The slightly muted colours create a gorgeous atmosphere in a painting and the ink is perfect for flowing around the textures on my canvas.

The Powertex sprays that I use come in a natural brown ink and six other tints. They are also available in granule form, to mix yourself or apply to a wet Powertex surface for texture as well as colour. While Bister is water reactive after drying it can be varnished successfully using a spray to preserve it’s colour and texture. This is my first article about using Bister. You can read my second article about Bister granules here.

Bister and crackle

Powertex and Bister ink

Bister colours

I have my favourites of course but the range of tints looks like this. I tend towards the Blue in my projects and paintings but the Mahogany is beautifully deep.

Powertex Bister Colour chart

Powertex Bister ink colours

How I use Bister

I prefer to use Bister as a spray although I have also applied it as a wash on a canvas using a large brush. Sprinkling the granules onto wet Powertex produces some interesting patterns and textures but I haven’t experimented with this very much (yet).

A fun way to use Bister is to force a crackle effect. This happens by spraying Bister ink onto wet Powertex (Ivory works best for this) and then heating with a hairdryer. It’s a fun effect and with some practice results can be more predictable. Larger crackles appear on thicker layers of Powertex and cracks generally form along brush marks and ridges in the Powertex. It’s worth experimenting on heavy paper with different and multiple colours.

Powertex Bister crackle effect

Powertex Bister crackle effect

My top tips for using Bister

  1. Protect your surfaces – The ready made sprays are convenient and while any art or craft sprays can be a rather messy experience, Bister does stain, so protecting surfaces and anything you don’t want coloured is essential!
  2. Use on big textures – The ink will flow around textures and fall into the back so it works best on deep textures.
  3. Be generous – Light coverings of Bister spray can look sparse and splattered. Flood your surface and let the ink run around.
  4. Wipe it back – Give the ink a little drying time before wiping back. Use a damp sponge or cloth or wipe colour off raised areas to increase contrast.
  5. Varnish when dry – If you want your piece to last, use a spray varnish when it’s finished. Bister is still water reactive after drying and is not lightfast so it will need protection.

You can find these tips in my free digital download Quick Guide to Bister.

Bister examples

Here are some snapshots of using Bister in my paintings and projects but there are lots of other ways to use it too. Have a play and see what you like.

Insignia Powertex canvas by Kore Sage

Rusty Powder and Blue Bister

Powertex and Bister Bottle

Ivory Powertex, Brown Bister

Blue Powertex with Black Bister

Blue Powertex, Black Bister

Mixed Media Powertex canvas by Kore Sage

Yellow Powertex and Bister

Thanks for taking a look at my blog today. I hope you’ve found it useful. My second blog about using Bister looks at Bister granules.

If you think you’re ready for everything Bister, take a look at my Powertex Bister Masterclass. This instant download is my full guide to using Bister, from essentials and tips to a Bister art tutorial, techniques and more.

I’m a certified Powertex tutor and love to share my experiences of these amazing products. I get my Powertex supplies from Powertex UK and also blog for the Powertex UK Mixed Media Magazine. If you’re new to Powertex you can find out more in my articles for beginners, starting here!

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