Using Tyvek ® in Altered Books


Tyvek® is a sheet product developed by DuPont. It combines properties of paper, film and fabric -- it's tougher than paper, waterproof and lightweight.
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What It Is

You probably know this product in its best-known applications -- ie the plastic-like envelopes used in CD envelopesk, or for Priority Mail Delivery, like the Survivor(R) Tyvek(R) Open-End Envelopes With Releasestrip, 9" x 12", White, Box Of 50, from Office Depot.

You might also know this product as Tygerag , a coated version.

Technically known as "Spun-Bonded Olefin",this product is also used for packaging, construction, protective garments, medical packaging, graphics, tags and labels. Made from high density polyethylene fibers, it is strong, lightweight, flexible, smooth, low linting, opaque and resistant to water, chemicals, abrasion and aging.

Industrial-strength Tyvek is so strong it is used to wrap components of pre-fabricated houses!

Using Tyvek in an AB

  • You can write on it with crayons, ink and some markers. Regular pencils will not work well.
  • You can print on it with a bubble-jet printer . Laser printers are not suitable, since their high heat will melt the product. The substance melts at around 275 F.
  • You can affix most adhesives to the product.
  • Color it with walnut ink; paint it with Lumiere or any acrylic paint; color with watercolors, pastels, dyes, inks, and almost anything else that you can think of.
  • You can stamp it with rubber stamps.
  • You can cut it into intricate shapes, even fringes, with little danger of it tearing.
  • You can sew it.
  • You can make beads and embellishments.
  • You can use it to strengthen the spine of an altered book.
  • You can dry emboss and heat emboss.
  • You can make amazing shapes and textures by heating Tyvek with an iron or embossing gun. Paint and color the material before or after heating. You'll get different results either way.


cautionA word of warning: This material releases noxious chemicals when it is heated by embossing or ironing.

No-one (that I have encountered) seems to know exactly how dangerous these chemicals are to human health in the quantities that are released. Some AB artists take extreme cautions; others claim the dangers are small. I wish I could clarify this for you, but I cannot.

To be on the safe side, when heating this product, please go outside, or to a well-ventilated work area, AND use a respiratory mask.

Note that respiratory masks are not the same as dust masks, or as medical masks. The Norton Double Respirator Mask pack of 2 replacement pre-filters , sold at Mr. is an example of the type of mask you need. A welder's mask would work also, if you happen to have one.

Where to Get It

Tyvek envelopes are readily available both at the Post Office and in office supply stores. Acquiring it in different formats might require some local research. Try the following:
  • Check for Tyvek sheets at local art stores, sign makers, or graphic art studios. You may or may not find it in these venues. Perhaps you will be lucky.
  • Look for it as scrap material around construction sites or sites where fabricated houses are being installed.
  • Save used Tyvek envelopes that you receive in the mail.
  • Check home improvement stores.
  • Ask at automotive centers. Tyvek overalls are sometimes worn and discarded.
  • Check out rubber stamp conventions.
  • If you work in a medical setting, check for discarded medical packaging.

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