Powertex Bister

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

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.

Blue Bister and Rust art by Kore Sage from Rusty landscapes series

Bister colours

I have my favourites of course but the range of tints looks like this. The Blue has a green/turquoise colour  and the Mahogany has a more orange tint.

Bister is available in:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Mahoghany

Powertex Bister Colour chart

How I use Bister

Use Bister in spray form to apply wide swatches of colour or apply with brushes. Sprinkle Bister granules onto wet Powertex for organic patterns and textures. Sprinkling the granules onto wet (light-coloured) Powertex produces some interesting patterns and textures.

Create a crackle effect by spraying Bister ink generously onto wet Powertex and heating with a hairdryer. This texture effect has some unpredictability but larger and smaller crackles are created by the thickness of the Powertex. Large 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.

Green Bister crackle in a painting

My top tips for using Bister

  1. Protect your surfaces – The ready made sprays are convenient but spray widely. Bister will stain surfaces.
  2. Use on heavy textures – The ink will flow around deep textures such as structure paste and Easy 3d Flex textures.
  3. Be generous – Light coverings of Bister spray can look sparse and splattered.
  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 create highlights.
  5. Varnish when dry – If you want your piece to last, use a spray varnish when it’s dry. Bister is still water reactive after drying and is not lightfast so it will need protection.

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

Bister examples

Here are some of the ways I’ve used Bister in my paintings and projects. There are lots of ways to use these soft pigments in your Powertex art.

Insignia Powertex canvas by Kore Sage
Powertex mini art with Yellow Ochre and Bister
Green Bister and Rust art by Kore Sage
Mixed Media Powertex canvas by Kore Sage

The next article in this series takes a look at Bister granules.

If you like the sound of Bister inks, take a look at my Powertex Bister Masterclass. This download is everything I teach in my Bister workshop and is my full guide to using Bister, from basic instruction and tips to a Bister art tutorial, techniques and more.

I’m a certified Powertex tutor and I get my Powertex supplies from Powertex UK.

[Article updated 2021]


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