Citra Solv Art – Top 7 Preparation Tips

It’s What’s On Your Workdesk Wednesday and I’m particularly happy to share my desk (floor) this week since I’ve been promising this for more than a month!  This is just a taster of what is strewn all over my floor and table. I’ll post more detailed examples in a future post.

Citra Solv ArtI’ve been itching to have a go at some Citra Solv art and after a few false starts I finally got my chance to try it out today. Hoorah!

It wasn’t quite as straight forward as I thought it would be, however, so I’d thought I write this post in order to help anyone else who wants to give this technique a go.


Here are my Top 7 preparation tips for Citra Solv Art:

1.  Use the right Citrasolv product!

As I explained in this earlier post, Mixed Media and Ink, you need to buy the concentrate and not the spray product. The first video tutorial I watched said to use the spray so I bought that but it doesn’t work. Nor do the other citrus type cleaners I tried.

2.  Use The Right Paper

There are loads of examples around of people experimenting with papers and magazines and, whilst some have found items other than National Geographic Magazines to work, my experiments on anything else failed. The general consensus seems to be that the Citra Solv art technique works best on Nat Geo Mags from the 1970’s onwards and so far that seems to be the case.

3.  Keep It Simple

In my first post on this method, Getting ready for Citra Solv I explained how I was going to experiment with:

  • bubble wrap
  • cling film
  • string
  • masks
  • stencils
  • keys

That simply didn’t happen as I found the process trickier than it looked in the video. I would recommend getting some decent results with Citra Solv on its own before you get fancy!

4.  Work In A Well Ventilated Space

Be warned. Citra Solv has a really strong, although not unpleasant, smell. I’m not sure if it’s toxic. Hopefully not as it’s marketed as a natural cleaning product. I’ve been working in the attic which has no opening windows and although I went through a period of sneezing, I seem to be otherwise unharmed!

However, given the strength and pungence of  the odour, I might try the next batch in the garage with the doors open which brings me to my next tip . . .

5.  Prepare For A Mess

This process is messy . . . very messy. I had covered my table with old book pages but the Citra Solv leaked through, even though I was trying to get by with using a small amount. I needed to add another 4 layers of paper to keep the table clean.

6.  Wear Gloves

On some pages the ink doesn’t dissolve well so you need to use your fingers to move the Citra Solv around. Wearing gloves saves you from a whole lot of hand washing later.

7.  Prepare More Space Than You Think You Need To Dry The Pages

I thought having my large table covered with paper would be sufficient when it came to laying the pages down to dry. It wasn’t and I had to rush around trying to find suitable paper with which to cover the floor. Not recommended!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As I write this post my Citra Solv art is drying. Some pages are really luscious and others a bit disappointing. It’s definitely a fun technique though and I’ll be playing with it some more.  I’ll take some photographs and add them and what I learned from this experiment in a future post. If you don’t want to miss the results please subscribe to my list, otherwise check back here in a few days.


29 comments to “Citra Solv Art – Top 7 Preparation Tips”

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  1. Julia - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Fascinating. Could you decant some concentrate into a spray bottle?
    Never seen Citra Solv here…and the acquisition of Nat Geos all make it an experience I shall be living vicariously! you will have some marvellous pages to work on.

    • Gillian - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

      You could decant it into a spray bottle but you need to use a lot in order to get the ink to react so there wouldn’t be much point. It’s a process that doesn’t give you much control.

      We can’t get Citra Solv here either. I bought mine from Ebay UK and, although the sellers said it was coming by post it didn’t come locally. Looking at the postmark it appears to have been flown in from Belgium! It’s pretty pricey so once this bottle is gone I doubt I’ll buy anymore.

      • Juliet - 13 Sep, 2017 Reply

        Dear Gillian I’ve been citra-solving for years . The best thing to use is the New York Times magazine even old ones. Martha Stewart used to work but I don’t know if it still does .

  2. Angela - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    This is agreat technique, love the effect it gives.
    Have a great week and happy crafting, Angela x 49

  3. Diana Taylor - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    It looks like you got some really great results from your first go at it. I was really pleased with my results but it was so messy and smelly I won’t be rushing to try it again for quite a while! Looking forward to seeing more of your citra solv work,
    Diana #42

    • Gillian - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

      I agree with you about the mess and the smell. It was even stronger today as the pages had been sitting in the attic overnight. I wasn’t expecting that. Like you I’m unlikely to do many more.

  4. Gabriele - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experiments. I would like to give it a try, but I don’t think we have Citra Solv in Germany. So I would have to make my own experiments with some cleaning fluids.
    Gabriele 25

    • Gillian - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

      Hi Gabrielle
      I’d be interested to see if you find any other cleaning fluids that work. From the research I’ve done no-one’s found anything although many have tried – including me! 🙂
      We can’t get Citra Solv in the UK either. I bought mine from Ebay UK and, although the sellers said it was coming by post it didn’t come locally. Looking at the postmark it appears to have been flown in from Belgium! It’s pretty pricey so once this bottle is gone I doubt I’ll buy anymore.
      I’d love to know if you do give it a go.

  5. Anne - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Effect s good – think I said before it’s something I’ve not heard of. Happy WOYWW Anne x #33

  6. Ali H - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Looks like you have had a brilliant fun time experimenting ! Looking forward to seeing what you do with you sheets – even the less good ones may cut up or be good to stamp on or alter – we found this when we played with the Gelliplate !! Thanks for visiting ! Ali x #8

  7. Margaret Wright - 20 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Golly, Gillian – you brave soul. Don’t think it would be something I would even try – as I have to be very careful what “smells” are in the house. I think John wouldn’t cope with anything as concentrated.
    Thanks for visiting. yes – the chocolate cake was (as always with Food for Thought’s cakes) amazing! Didn’t hang around for long!!! Have finished my own skirt – just wondering what to wear with it on Saturday. Honestly, we creative folk always leave ourselves at the end of the list, don’t we??
    Take care. God bless.
    Margaret #11

  8. Robyn Oliver - 21 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Hi Gillian, happy WOYWW and thanks for visiting my desk. WOW you have been having some fun and the pages you’ve done so far sure looks interesting…I’ll be back to check you out again. Keep experimenting, have fun and great week Cheers RobynO#21

  9. Mary Anne Walters - 21 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Glad you shared the results. Like you I wanted to try OTHER citrus products and OTHER magazines (cause I know I rad that some art mags would work) but never really followed thru on getting any liquid OR mags 🙂 But they do look fab so maybe one day I’ll give it a go….

    One day….

    Happy WOYWW!
    Mary Anne (1)

  10. Nikki C - 22 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Never seen this before but I like the effect that they create so neat look forward to seeing what you create with them
    hugs Nikki 2

  11. neet - 22 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Something I have always wanted to try but never did because I couldn’t get hold of Citrasolve. Now reading this maybe I will give this one technique a miss but you know what they say – “never say never”. Thanks for a honest review of this technique. Much appreciated.
    Hugs, Neet xx

  12. 505whimsygirl/Kay - 24 Aug, 2014 Reply

    Hi Gillian,

    Very cool! I like the effect that you got with this process. VERY cool!

    Thank you for visiting me earlier. I’m later than what I expected…..
    Happy WOYWW
    Hugs, Kay (58)

  13. maz hawes - 04 Sep, 2014 Reply

    How fabulous! I’ve been meaning to try this for ages and even managed to acquire a bottle here in the UK- not easy, as you say! Maybe I will get round to it soon… excited to meet you in Ireland very soon x

    • Gillian - 04 Sep, 2014 Reply

      It’s a lot of fun but messy, smelly and expensive. I’ll finish up the bottle I have but not sure that I’ll buy more. Looking forward to meeting you in Ireland and we can talk more then! x

  14. Christy - 18 Sep, 2014 Reply

    As a self-admitted Citra Art (CA) addict, I have a few suggestions to share. I’ve been using this technique for years and I’m still fascinated with it. And I’ve learned a lot.

    Yep, ventilation is important. I live in Austin, TX, so I usually can open the windows. But, if you can’t and are very sensitive to the smell, try only doing a few pages at a time. Don’t soak the entire magazine. Also, they have a lavender bergamot concentrate version available, which does not have a very strong smell. Not sure if it’s available in the UK though.

    You can spray it. I use a spray bottle and mist each page before I smash them together. (I do check if it’s processing nicely to see if I need to add more.) Spraying also minimizes the smell— and the usage cost. After all, aren’t most artists frugal at heart?

    It is messy. To help contain the mess, I do this on a very large piece of cardboard from a big packaging box placed on my worktable. The cardboard absorbs the escaping ink and usually keeps it from spreading. I lay my pages flat to dry; I also use big pieces of cardboard placed on the floor to let my CA dry. I usually don’t wear gloves because I like getting “artsy messy.” But gloves will certainly save your manicure.

    I agree that you should try this first before experimenting, so you see how the process works. (One caveat: some pages will not process at all. Don’t know why, but they just don’t. Yet most do. Just don’t be surprised if this happens. ) I do use other items to enhance the design, but I use them during the process. I check to see if the ink is moving or spreading about 5-10 minutes after I’ve sprayed the pages. If it has started processing, I will use a stamp (with and without ink), bubble wrap, string, cling wrap, spray inks, leaves or other items. Sometimes I will just press it, other times I will add a little more Citra Solv (CS) to keep the ink moving. I also use rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, it adds a cool different effect. I mist it on certain sections. I’ve used stencils too, but those I add between the sprayed pages when I first spray the pages.

    And processing time will vary greatly depending on your environment. My pages process much more quickly during my hot, humid summer than in winter. I check every 5 minutes or so by gently lifting up the corner of a page. Then I can tell if I add additional elements or not.

    I’ve experimented on NatGeos from the 70s on. All my friends know to donate their magazine to me. Some years work better than others. My favorite group is the late 80s, but all issues will work. However, the current issues seem to be “softer” in color and saturation. Not sure why, must be the ink mixture.

    Before I start, I rip out all the advertisements. Actually, I rip out all the pages and only use the pages with medium to large pictures. Contrary to some instructions, I do not spray the entire magazine and smash it together. I’ve found it’s too messy and I can kinda control the process by spraying individual pages and then smashing them together. I often mix the pages up, depending on their color and subject. Spreads, pages facing each other, that have the same prominent color usually turn out to be a big, ugly mess. (I’ve learned this the hard way and I hate to waste my CS.) I may mix a lighter colored page with a darker one. Or I will tear a piece of another page and add it. I often stack several sprayed pages in a pile upon my worktable. Works for me.

    This process takes me back to my 3rd grade art class; I guess it brings out my “child artist.” I’ve learned to have some fun and enjoy my experiments.

    You can use your CA in variety of ways. I use the pages both in traditional collage and in digital design. They make great backgrounds and can create such interesting effects in your digital art. (I even wrapped a present in a CA page, again with the frugal artist thing. LOL)

    Hope these suggestions help.


    • Gillian - 25 Sep, 2014 Reply

      Thanks so much for taking the time to add your tips. I’m away at the moment but am looking forward to putting them into practice on my return!

      You can see more of Christy’s work on Flickr. Look for “christylemon”

  15. Janine - 14 May, 2015 Reply

    going to have to try this. First step will be finding Critra Sol in New Zealand. Can you tell me what chemicals are written on the bottle please.

    • Gillian - 15 May, 2015 Reply

      Hi Janine,

      The ingredients are as follows: Limonene, C10-16 Pareth-1, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil. I don’t think you’ll find the ingredients in any other products. I tried a lot and none of them worked. You can’t buy Citra Solv in the the UK either so I bought it online.

      Have fun!

  16. Bonnie - 04 Oct, 2015 Reply

    I have done a lot of these pages with citra solve. I have experimented with lots of magazines and Vogue works just as well as National Geographic. It makes some fabulous effects with figures and faces.

    • Gillian - 27 Oct, 2015 Reply

      Do you have any pics Bonnie?

  17. Linde - 03 Nov, 2015 Reply

    I used the CitraSolv after watching Cathy Taylors easy technique using this product. That YouTube video was clearly edited. This project is a disaster waiting to happen. Its a vile mess and does not react to paper like it is boasted, I tried national geographic and 4 other magazines like, national geographic. The product was oily, saturated the entire page and did not have a resist effect like they show? Took forever to dry. I wrote to the company to describe my experience. I put CitraSolv in a spray bottle to control the flow better thinking that would help, and some residue settled to the bottom of my spray bottle. The YouTube video makes it look like a cinch, and its not. It’s frustrating as hell. I would love to hear positive and negative comments. I really wanted this to turn out awesome. Please email me if you would.

    • Gillian - 18 Dec, 2015 Reply

      I think it depends on the type of citra solv you use. The first bottle I bought didn’t work at all. Let you mention it just sat on the paper in an oily mess. But the second type I tried worked really well.

  18. Molly - 26 Mar, 2016 Reply

    1. You don’t need to spread the papers out to dry. I open the pages as I examine results and doing that a couple times makes it dry fast so I never have problems with pages sticking together.
    2. Citra solve if decanted into a plastic sprayer – if you leave it in there it CAN eat away at the plastic. I’ve had it eat thru plastic bags and etch plastic trays beneath the gag.
    3. I sometimes repeat the process a couple times to lighten since many times the papers are way darker than I’d like.
    4. If still too dark, once the paper is dry I sometimes use a napkin or tissue to rub off some of the black. It also smooths out the surface nicely. Hard to get purely bright colored pages most times.
    5. true that it’s messy. Hands get black. You can get some interesting papers, but it still takes some time and effort. It’s not a quick and foolproof process

    • Gillian - 28 Mar, 2016 Reply

      Thanks for your tips Molly. It’s been a while since I’ve played with Citra Solv but I’ve still got some left so will have another go when the weather gets a bit warmer. The initial version I bought in error and since been used as a bathroom cleaner so all was not lost!

  19. diva - 02 Jul, 2016 Reply

    hi guys I had my first PLAY…with this type of image transfer…

    I have a few tips….given by various BLOGGERS..

    1.first yes prepare your AREA…
    next…USE A GLASS TRAY / BACKING TRAY STYLE…to put the magazine of your choice..

    I did only use 4 PAGES…and soaked them through..

    BIG NEWS : I ACTUALLY USED A HOUSEHOLD = CLEANING = DEGREASER…!! (i thinks its the DEGREASER..which does the Magic..)
    I have also left to dry between bubble wrap….to see if that brings TEXTURE…
    Will update of results..

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