Playful Experiments: CitraSolv & National Geographic Magazines


Hello everyone, I’m so excited to share some really amazing stuff with you today involving a cleaner called CitraSolv and good old trusty (and easy to obtain) National Geographic magazines. I even created an actual tutorial video for you (where I talk and everything) .

I apologize for being absent for a while after promising to be more present in the last blog post. I hurt my back badly about a week after that post and have still not completely recovered 3 1/2 months later. Despite this, I’m seeing a great specialist now, am going to Physical Therapy, and am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (and am fairly confident that light will not be a surgical lamp). This past weekend was the first time I’ve really felt up to really spending some independent time in the studio and so I decided to do something playful and fun to reawaken my creative brain.

I also (mistakenly) thought that I would only spend about an hour playing around with this technique…

I’ve found that this process is not really as quick as some of the videos you’ll find on the internet will lead you to believe… well, at least if you’re like me. Personally, doing this technique with one magazine takes about one hour from start to finish. I strongly recommend that you only start with one magazine at first as you’ll learn more from the process and will feel better prepared the next time (I promise there will be a next time, it’s addictive). When I did this with three magazines it took me about five hours (which was about 3 too many for my poor back!) and was a lot messier, required a LOT more drying room, and was altogether a little more stressful than I’d anticipated.



(So, now that I’ve inserted the obligatory Pinterest-ready image) I’ve created the following three videos because I found that, while there was a great deal of information online about this technique, a lot of what you unearth can be contradictory or a little too vague – in that way that artists get when they feel overly proprietary about a cool discovery. And, I’m an HD snob and a lot of the videos online are older and low quality (which drives me nuts).

I’ve created the type of video I wanted to find as well as what I would like my students to have should they want to experiment with this technique.  In these videos I’ve explained the technique, the materials, and some of the things I’ve discovered along the way… oh, and the results! Afterward I’ll give you some more info about CitraSolv, a few more examples of outcomes, and some myth-busting tips to help you get started.

CitraSolv & National Geographic (Part 1 of 3)


CitraSolv & National Geographic (Part 2 of 3)


CitraSolv & National Geographic (Part 3 of 3)


So – I hope you enjoyed my utterly non-tech-savvy video efforts! Before we part, I’d like to share a few more things with you… let’s do this myth-buster style for the heck of it since I ran across each of the following claims in some way, shape, or form, multiple times during my research…

  • Claim 1: You shouldn’t use concentrated CitraSolv
    • Malarkey! One blogger (claiming to run workshops on this technique) espoused that you cannot use concentrated CitraSolv which is not the only time I saw this “fact” repeated. Actually, the opposite is true – I’m not sure what these individuals were talking about in these instances – perhaps it’s just a misunderstanding of what concentrated or full strength means? You have to use the concentrated CitraSolv if you want results. I tried the multi-purpose spray and it was a giant waste of time. On the bright side, it’s nice when cleaning the house. 🙂 CitraSolv is NOT tested on animals which means they totally get our vote as a good household cleanser.
  • Claim 2: You can only use really old National Geographic (like, pre-1980!)
    • Utter crap! Several bloggers (like me) prefer the magazines AFTER 2000 and you’ll even find multiple people stating that the really old magazines either just fall apart or don’t work at all. I’ve had success with all magazines from 1980 onward – the most recent one I tried was from 2012. I did not like the magazines prior to 85-86. And, the newer mags don’t have staples in them – BIG PLUS!!! I can’t help but feel that this was some kind of statement perpetuated by someone who heard someone say that they just happened to be using old magazines and then interpreted this as “old magazines are the only ones that work” – thing is, this info is repeated a lot and it’s uber-irritating. I wonder if people are so ready to jump on this band-wagon because it makes it sound as if this technique is in some way more unique or harder to do on your own (again, the proprietary “peeing on trees” stuff I mentioned earlier…)
  • Claim 3: You can only get results with National Geographic magazines.
    • Really? No. CitraSolv.Com even provides examples of artists who have success with not only National Geographic but also the New York Times and Cathy Taylor discovered that you can often get similar effects with heavy glossy circulars and junk mail – National Geographic is not the only fish in the clay-coated print material sea, but you will have unquestionably more success with these magazines than other readily available magazines.
  • Claim 4: CitraSolv is completely natural so it can’t harm you.
    • Not exactly true but not false either: CitraSolv is an “all natural” cleanser but it has a chemical in it called C10-16 Pareth-1. My husband (who is a chem lab tech) believes this is the chemical responsible for eating away at the inks on the National Geographic pages. It’s derived from plants (so it is technically “natural”) and in the quantities used in the CitraSolv it does not appear to be of any concern; however, it’s always a good idea to work in a ventilated area, use gloves, and keep away from pets (and eyes)… and you know… like, not drink it and stuff… On a side note, I have extremely sensitive skin. I have a reaction to CitraSolv! It makes my skin itch and burn! I use gloves and it’s not a problem, BUT – the smell and fumes after about two hours start to make my skin feel sensitive and slightly irritated (but not bad). I cannot use scented detergents, soaps, lotions, make-ups or anything with dyes or perfumes in it anyway (I even sneeze when shopping for new clothing) so it’s not like I’m surprised. I’m obviously not normal, but I do recommend that you take precautions just in case.
    • Here is the safety data sheet on this chemical (courtesy of my husband): Safety Data for C10-16 Pareth-1

Some links to some of the better information on the web:

So that about wraps it up. You can find some examples of some individual gems on my Instagram feed (mlevacy) – I’m not sure if I’ll use these or not but I find them interesting, curious, and inspiring. I’m actually far more drawn to the abstract results in terms of what I have planned – BUT – more on that at a later date. Enjoy!

Please Note: I have no affiliation with CitraSolv, am not compensated in any way for my commentary, and am completely and totally an advocate of responsible image use and respectful copyright adherence – be smart, be conscientious. 



  1. Thank you so much! You gave some very helpful tips, e.g. how to eliminate type by using a brush or rubbing with your hand, which I did not know even though I had taken a workshop where we altered National Geographic pages! I will be playing around with some more magazines and Citrasolv this week. I can’t wait!

  2. REPLY
    Thank you so much for your tutorial videos. You say you are not tech savy, but you are a true teacher! You gave a comprehensive rendition of your experiences and trials, gave good tips and debunked some false claims found out there, in cyber diy. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

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