Tri Chem Vintage Liquid Embroidery Ball Point Fabric Paints... Paint Me Happy!
(... with information on Vogart, Aunt Martha's and Artex fabric paint)
MYTH: Tri Chem paints never dry out.
FACT: Tri Chem paints have been around since 1948. While their average lifespan is said to be 25-30 years, I recently purchased some vintage Tri Chem paints from the 50's and I didn't even have to change the tips! They worked even better than some of the newer paints. If the paints are well stored and well cared for, they can last for years and years and years. HOWEVER, if they are poorly stored, or have not been well taken care of, Tri Chem paints can be worthless in a matter of just a few years or even months.
FACT: I purchased one large batch of Tri Chem which had been stored in someone's garage- 42 of the 64 tubes had literally turned to an ashey substance inside the tubes and the rest had turned rubbery, stringy and unuseable.
Just because a tube feels soft does not necessarily mean the paint inside the tube will be good. Rubbery paint inside the tube will sometimes feel quite soft and pliable. It is difficult to determine whether a paint inside the tube is still good without first testing them on a piece of fabric or paper. If the paint will not flow using this method, you will probably need to remove the tips to actually examine the paint inside the tubes and perhaps change the tips or thin the paints with solvent.
Q and A
Q: Is there any real way to determine if the paint inside the tubes are good without actually poking them with a pin?
A: Yes and no. First of all - NEVER PUNCTURE YOUR TUBES- I look for tubes that feel soft but not squishy. While this is not, in itself, a promise that the paint inside the tubes will be good, it is a first sign that the paints MAY be good. Squishy tubes can be an indication of problem tubes. Also, you can get a good indication of wheter or not the ball point tip is still good by gently pressing on the tip with a flattened paper clip. A good tip should spring back relatively easily but be gentle! Do not press so hard that you push the ball up inside the tube or break the spring inside the tube. If this happens, you will need to replace the tip entirely. If you clean the tips, and this does not solve the problem, you may have to change the tips (see tip changing below)* Unfortunately, there is no real ironclad way that I know of to tell if the paint is good aside from testing them, cleaning them, or removing the tips and actually examining the paint inside the tube.
Also ASK THE SELLER TO TEST A FEW OF THE PAINTS!!! If a seller tells you they "do not have time" to test even a few of the paints, I would not be willing to pay too much for these paints. I once had a seller tell me "If I test the paints then they will not be new, now will they?"
NEWSFLASH! If the paint is 25 years old - it is NOT new anyway! It may be termed New Old Stock "NOS" but it's not new. Would you rather buy tubes that look pretty but will cost you a great deal of time (and perhaps money) to correct or would you rather have a few finger impressions in your paints and have the paints tested?
Q: Is there a way to "revive" old paint inside the tube?
A:Yes. First you will need a set of tip changing pliers and an old bobby pin flattened out straight. You can also use a flattened out paper clip but I caution here.. if you use a paper clip, you risk damaging your tube! I recommend a flattened out Bobby pin because it has a nice rubber tip and is far less likely to damage your tube. Once the tip has been removed, examine the paint (at least a little of the paint will probably ooze out when the tip is removed - this is normal). If the paint inside the tube has not yet turned rubbery, you can most likely revive it by stirring it with the flattened out bobby pin or by adding a few drops of solvent to the paint. This can be a timely process but it'w worth it if you want to extend the life of your ball point paints. AGAIN: I can not caution strongly enough here - be slow and gentle so you do not puncture the tube!
To add solvent to the tube after removing the tips; If you have already tried to stir the paint several times and the paint is still stubborn or thick, you can revive it by adding a few drops of solvent with an eye dropper. ONE DROP AT A TIME! Add a drop of solvent, then stir thoroughly. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If you use stencil paint remover in gel form as your solvnt, you may not need an eye dropper to add the solvent. Just dip the bobby pin in your solvent gel then carefully stir the paint inside the tube with the gel-dipped bobby pin. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until the paint is thin enough the consistency of hot pudding.
This can be a time-consuming process but well worth the effort.
HINT: Before removing any tips I strongly recommend placing the tube inside a plastic baggie (such as a sandwich bag) with the tip of the tube near the opening of the baggie, now spin the tube inside the baggie for maybe 30 or 40 seconds before removing the tip. This will force most of the paint to the opposite end of the tube for less mess and ooze. Now keep the tube inside the baggie, tip side to the opening when you remove the tip. This way, any paint that does ooze out can be easily cleaned with far less mess.
HINT: Remove your tube protector before removing your tips.
Q: What is the difference between Artex Paints and Tri Chem Paints?
A: Not much. Both Artex Decorator Paints and Tri Chem Ball Point paints fall under the "Liquid Embroidery" category. Artex Decorator paints have not been around since 1981 and Tri Chem Paints are still going strong therefore, the biggest difference between the two that I can see is cost of maintenance! Tri Chem replacement tips are far less expensive than the Artex replacement tips but the good news is, I am told Cameo paint tips will fit your old Artex tips! The other disadvantage to Artex paints I've found (and many will argue this point), Artex paints seem to become difficult more often than the old Tri Chem Paints, even after tip changes, some still seem to need more coaxing. That however, has just been my personal experience. It is not written in stone.
Die hard Tri Chem users will want only Tri Chem and will not be willing to pay quite as much for Artex. This may be due in part, to nostalgia. Who knows?
Q: What About Aunt Martha's ball point paints?
A: Aunt Martha's Ball Point Paints, are in my most humble opinion, the best bang for your buck because I've found very few Aunt Martha's paints that I couldn't make work - although there were a few that I had to coax. The bigger advantage is a lot of hobby and craft stores now carry Aunt Martha's ball point paints so you may not have to scour the internet to find them! Price-wise, the cost is competitive to Tri Chem and Artex. The quality is just as good, if not better.
Q: How hard is it to change Aunt Martha's Ball Point tips?
A: Aunt Martha's tips are no harder to change than Tri Chem tips or Artex tips, however, I've not yet had to change a single ball point tip from Aunt Martha's paints.
Q: Are Vogart paints any good?
A: YES! In my opinion, Vogart paints rank right up there with Aunt Martha's paint. While I have had to change a few Vogart tips, almost all of the Vogart paints I've worked with have served me well. However, I cannot stress enough ... the way in which ANY ball point paint is cared for and stored will reflect largely on the amount of work and expense it takes to make these paints work! Almost all ball point paints can be made to work if the paint inside the tube is still good. It's really a matter of how much time and expense you're willing to pay on tip cleaning and tip replacement.
Q: I've heard Cameo paints are a much better value. Is this true?
A: Since Cameo paints are water based and Tri Chem is oil based, it's really not a fair comparison. However, you can find some excellent information on Cameo paints right here.*
Q: I've got a few tubes of ball point paint that tried everything and I still cannot get them to work! The paint inside the tube is still good. It oozed out when I changed the tip but even after tip change, the darn thing still won't work. What should I do?
A: Try a different tip! Even if you tried replacing the tip with a new one, often times simply trying a different tip will solve this problem. Also, don't forget to "burp" your tube after you've changed the tip! Burping the tube allows air bubbles that are trapped inside the tube near the tip to rush to the top of the tube so paint can flow more easily. I recommend burping every new tube and every tube that you've just replaced the tips on!
Q: What kind of cleaning solvent do I need to clean my tips?
A: Of course the correct answer here would be Artex tip cleaning solvent for Artex paints, Tri Chem tip cleaning solvent for Tri Chem paints and so on. These can often be found on ebay or by going to a reputable Tri Chem or Artex dealer. These can easily be Googled.
OR... you can just do like I do and use stencil paint remover in gel form. This works wonders! I've tried regular paint remover and nail polish remover as well and I can tell you they worked for a few but honestly it was a lot of aggravation. My money is on the stencil paint remover in gel form.
All ball point tips need cleaned often! I strongly recommend cleaning your tips after each use and before storing them. If you are working on a large project or painting a large area, it is always a good idea to clean your tips at least once while working on your project as well. I use the "unofficial" cleaning method for this purpose, but you will eventually need to do a thorough cleaning.
*Unofficial cleaning method - dip, set and roll- can be used for quickie clean up while working on your large project or immediately after. To do this, you can place about an inch or so of cleaning solvent in your tip cleaning jar and "stand" your tubes in the solvent with the tips down. Allow them to soak for a few minutes - or a few hours if the paint is really caked around the ball - before removing them. If you are lucky enough to have a tip bath jar with a tip sponge, you can can simply brush your tips through the solvent a few times against the tip sponge (placed in the bottom of the tip bath jar), then "rinse" them by rolling them over a piece of glass or other smooth surface.
If you don't have a tip bath jar, a small cup will do just fine using the same procedure but without the sponge. You may have to do the dip, set and roll method several times if the paint has already dried on the tips.
Eventually the day will come when you will need to change those tips and if you're working with vintage paints, that day will come soon and often so find out what kind of tips your ball point paints take and stock up! You will also need a tip changing tool. This looks like a miniature pr of pliers and if you're in a real pinch and have no tip changing pliers, a tiny pair of needle nose pliers will suffice but be gentle! I busted a tip off inside the tube using needle nose pliers once. If that happens you're pretty much done with that tube unless somebody out there can tell me how to get a broken tip plug out of a tube of ball point paint.
I also recommend that you have plenty of cleaning solvent and old rags on hand the first few times you change tips. This can be a messy process so cover your work area with newspaper and make sure you wear old clothing if this is the first time you've ever replaced tips. If you tuck your tube inside a plastic sandwich baggie and twirl it in your hand for 30 to 40 seconds before removing your tips, you will save yourself a lot of grief and aggravation! ALWAYS work with one tube at a time and once you have removed a tip, place the tip in regular (not the non odorless) solvent while you work.
To change screw on tips... simply grasp the tip firmly with your tip pliers, making certain that you are not applying any pressure to the tube with your other hand and turn counterclockwise. It may actually be easier for you to hold the tube with your fingertips at the very end (the rolled or sealed end), and turn the tube instead of turning the pliers. Whether turning the tip by the pliers or turning the tube, be very careful not to angle the tube as you turn or you could end up with a broken tip. Once the tip has been removed, wipe the nozzle of the paint with a clean, lint free rag dipped in solvent, then screw the new tip back in using a clockwise motion.
To change pull out tips- simply grasp the tube in one hand - careful not to apply pressure, you don't want the paint to ooze out when the tip comes off - now pull firmly! Wipe the nozzle with a clean, lint free rag dipped in solvent before replacing the new tip now just use the pliers to push the new tip back into place.
NEVER store used tips in odorless solvent when not in use! This will cause the tips to become gummy and worthless.
NEVER use a toothpick or any other object to pry the gummy paint from a tip. This will only serve to cause you to lose the ball from the tip and guarentee many hours of aggravation! If a tip becomes gummy, get rid of it! Honestly, it will wind up costing you a whole lot more time and work than it would just to replace the darn thing.
Always place E-Z Flo tips in a tip bath jar with regular (not odorless) solvent once removed from the tube.
Odorless Solvent should NOT be used to soak or clean tips since it will cause the paint to become "gummy" in the tips. (this solvent is intended for thinning paints for brush painting only, not for cleaning.)
NEVER leave Wonder-Flo tip on tube when not in use. Remove and clean, and replace E-Z Flo tip onto tube.
ALWAYS take apart Fast-Flo tip carefully for cleaning. (it unscrews into two parts with a spring and ball inside. HINT - hold the tip over the back of the hoop when taking apart, if the ball or spring drops it will be easy to find in the hoop.
ALWAYS burp a new tube before starting to paint. Hold tube vertically (cap removed) with tip touching hoop blotter. Pinch crimped end while gently pressing tip down.
ALWAYS hold tube in vertical position when painting. Paint is distributed better to the painting surface and tip will not wear down prematurely.
ALWAYS keep tips clean. Use the Tip Zip or other solvent frequently while painting to insure better performance.
ALWAYS store tubes with tip down.
ALWAYS hold tube cradled in a writing position when painting with the Wonder-Flo tips. Gently press tube with thumb for proper flow of paint to tip.
Storing your Ball Point Paints
Ball point paints should always be stored in a standing up position with tip side down. A tube stand or tube caddy is strongly recommended for this but if you don't have a tube caddy or tube stand you can make one with a little effort and patience. There are several ways to make a tube stand but the easiest and cheapest way is my favorite. Of course it doesn't look as nice as a pre-manufactured tube holder but it fills the bill. Tube holders can be made from a small cardboard box, styrofoam, wood or just about any other material that can be drilled.
** It is important to note here that I am in no way affiliated with Tri Chem, Vogart, Artex, Aunt Martha's or even Cameo Paints! This article was written soley as a help guide from an avid Ball Point Paint user who has learned through trial, error and research some of the tricks. It is my hope that this article will save you hours of grief and hopefully save your budget. Any and all comments and feedback to this article are welcomed but I ask that Dealers of any of the above mentioned paints who comment on this article refrain from pushing their websites in order to keep this article fair and balanced. If you are pushing your website, this will be considered spam and your link will be removed at once and your ID will be blocked from further posting.