Property props and social media cards

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I’m still thinking about using social media as an author, and how (and why) I might expand my follower base. I still want to develop a YouTube channel and make videos, so now I am following a side project to make props for the films.

Properties and props

The word “props” is short for “properties”, but I keep thinking that it’s also something to support what I’m doing. As in propping it up.

Props, filmed as “B-roll “, would be good for helping transitions between different camera shots, I thought. And it could hide those places where the speaker looks too dodgy, eyes flickering from script to lens and back.

I came up with the idea of a pack of cards with different social media logos on one side. For the B-roll I thought I could shuffle them as with a pack of cards, or deal them out.

What to make them from? I have a large collection of business cards I got printed up some five years ago. The perfect size.

The props cards pre-treatment
The props cards pre-treatment

Those business cards were one-use cards. I’ve no idea why had so many printed – 150 of them. I think there must have been a three-for-two offer. Even so, two packs of 50 was already overkill. Ordering 150 cards was just silly.

I took them to the first Stockholm Writers’ Festival in 2018. They were specifically designed for that festival, and I gave away about 15. The remaining 135 have been gathering dust on my shelves ever since.

As they’re not doing anything, suppose I use them for this? I could to paint them over with a white undercoat, block out the printed images and words, and use them to create my new prop card set.

On a gesso ground

My first attempt was with white acrylic paint. First of all I had to sand the surface of the cards down because it was too smooth. The paint wouldn’t stick. I painted all the cards over with a thick layer of white, and it looked opaque enough, but it dried semi transparent. You could still see the original image. I painted them again. That almost worked. Good enough at any rate. But the surface of the cards, once the paint had dried, was very uneven. Difficult to draw on or decorate.

So I went out and bought a pot of gesso, the stuff you use to prime a canvas before painting a picture. I read about gesso when I was studying art history. But I fear the kind of gesso I am able to buy today is not the same that Rembrandt would have used. There are all sorts of warning labels on the pot: “hazardous”, “contains biocide”, “may provoke an allergic reaction”, “do not ingest or breath in”.

I think this gesso is intended for acrylic paint and is itself partly made out of plastic. Maybe not the most environmentally friendly choice. (Especially as I’m rinsing the tools clean under running water.)

Props cards - first trials
Props cards – first trials

I was going to roll out the gesso, that was what the shop recommended. But how to do that? I couldn’t really hold the cards down with my fingers. That would leave spaces or finger prints. Instead I attached the cards to a sheet of typing paper, eight cards to each sheet, using masking tape. The tape folded over into a kind of double-sided sticky tube. And then I rolled out the paint and let it dry.

Once again I had to use two coats to get a good covering. The result is definitely smoother than with acrylic paint. It’s not very much smoother, but it’s good enough.

Front and back

While I was preparing the cards on one side, I had the idea of painting the backs of them as well. The front of each card is going to have a social media logo; the back ought to have a pattern which is the same for each card, just like a real pack of cards.

On the front I am transferring the logo from printed examples using charcoal and a pencil. Then I’m colouring the logo with watercolour pencils and a paintbrush dipped in water to spread the colour around.

My idea for the backs of the cards is to use a pochoir technique, dabbing paint through stencils. I just need to make the stencils.

I am slowly filming the different stages of this with the intention of making a video showing the process. So two videos for the price of one – a video using the props, and another video showing me making the props.

I know this is wandering far from the fields of creative writing, but at least it keeps me out of mischief.

And, hey, it gives me something to write for a blog post too.

Props cards - trial examples from another angle
Props cards – trial examples from another angle


This is late. I was tempted to let this week slip by, as last, without a post. My plan for planned gaps is fine – as long as I actually do the planning. But I’m a time optimist. The work I’m doing gangs up on me and steals my time and suddenly I’m standing here, out of time, with a blog post half complete and no gap-filler planned because I didn’t think I’d need it.

So, this is early on Friday morning and the post should have come out Thursday morning at the latest. But here we are.

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