Making and Crafts : Faux Birch Bark

November 21, 2011 08:29 by ehouston

That’s right, I’m talking about birch trees again.  I know they are over-the-top popular right now, but I have always had a thing from them and I don’t care that they are being plastered on everything right now.  Birch trees are plentiful where I am originally from, so they bring a smile to my face and remind me of home when I see one.  What I am actually talking writing about today is birch bark.  so, there! 

(Image from Wikipedia)

I have been wanting to decorate with birch bark for the fall and since it can kill the tree to remove pieces of the bark I thought I might fake it instead.  Sir Google did not land as many tutorials as I had hoped.  None really.  Just a couple of sites that mentioned using wet paper and tissue for texture, and then some paint for the details.  So, with little instruction available I set out to see what I could come up with.

One online source used heavy watercolor paper and toilet tissue and the other suggested brown craft paper and wrapping tissue.  I chose the latter and even went a step further in frugality and cut open some brown paper grocery sacks to use as a base.  I liked the idea of using the brown paper over the watercolor paper not only because the expense would be less, but I thought the brown color would add more to the final product.  Also, after eyeing my watercolor pad I knew it would not be big enough for my final projects and the toilet tissue we use has little flowers “quilted” into each square.  I figured birch trees don’t have those sort of details, unless they grow in the world of Care Bears.  Although I didn’t expect this fake version to look like real bark, I was hoping for a fairly close second.

I started by cutting open the grocery sack so it would lay flat, and then tore the tissue into random widths.


For the first attempt I just tore up the tissue and did not pay much attention to the size of the pieces.  In general I would say they were about 1.5 to 2 inches wide.  For the second go around I decided to purposefully tear larger (2.5 to 3 inch) pieces and then much smaller and skinnier pieces.  I even managed to rip some of the skinny pieces into thin points at one end, which curled nicely once dry.



I even got a little help from my friend.  The next step was to slather watered down glue all over the brown grocery sack.  To prove how easy this project is (and to boost the cute factor) I included these photos of my Little Guy helping me tear and paint.



He was really quite good at the basic steps of this project and for a crankster 2 year-old cutting a record breaking 3 molars at once, I was impressed.  Of course, as soon as the “paint” ran out he had a total meltdown and we had to stop the project for some cuddle time.


After thoroughly coating the base paper I laid the torn tissue strips across the wet areas, adding more layers on top as I worked my way across the base.  Once I got to the opposite end I went back with some very watered down black tempura paint and added some of the details you see in birch bark.  I wet the area to paint and then pretty much just dragged my brush gently across the tissue, stopping periodically to add darker blobs to mimic knots in the wood.  I chose tempura paint because it was readily available since I use it with my son all the time, but also because it dries with a matte chalky texture, rather than glossy like acrylics. 


The photo above shows the two versions that I completed in a very short period of time (maybe an hour tops).  I worked across the bag lengthwise on the top piece, overlapping the tissue sheets as I went along to keep from getting any distinct lines from where the strip ends met.  The bottom piece was completed in the opposite manor, working across the bag widthwise.  I also experimented with the layers in the bottom piece.  From right to left, the first third has three large strip layers and then a top layer of thinner strips.  The middle section has two large strip layers and one layer of thin strips, and the very last third has one layer of large and then one of small strips of tissue.


The top piece in this picture was a bit drier than the bottom piece and shows more pucker and wave, much like real birch bark.


This last shot was just to show each piece with the bark patterns going in the same direction.  Because the one on the left is still a bit wet in this shot it appears darker, but I am sure it will become much lighter once it completely dries.

Just to recap, this is one of the easiest projects I have ever completed and the results look pretty darn close to the real deal.  A few tips to offer are that the tissue seems to disappear against the brown paper when wet, but will become very white once dry, so keep that in mind when layering.  Having some of the brown grocery sack showing through does add to the final look.  Also, try to overlap the tissue strips as you add them to keep from getting really dark, built up lines where each piece meets.  Adding thinner strips to the top layer adds more dimension, giving the finished product a more realistic texture.

I hope this helps anyone else out there interested in attempting to fake some birch bark.  I can’t wait to start cutting into this paper to finish up my Thanksgiving décor.  Whew! Just in time!  So, how are you guys decorating your spaces for the big Turkey day?

Kitsch Krafts

PS- I just entered this project in the Show Me What You Got! link party over at Not JUST A Housewife blog.  Go check out all the cool projects that are listed and add yours too, if you like!

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