Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Painting Collage Papers. a tutorial

Ironing painted paper
My friend laughs at me for ironing my papers. But ironing them makes the paper flatten back out after they're painted and they're easier to store and use.

I spent an evening recently painting some papers in the color range that I need for a planned collage. It takes time to do paint my own papers to build my palette but it's necessary for my process and lots of fun. 

Painted Papers, ready to use in collage

Here's one of the methods I use to prepare some of my painted papers.

I start with plain white paper: blank copier paper and paper from laser printers (not ink jets), washi, printmaking papers, art tissue, tracing paper, pages torn from discarded books, and music  from old song books and hymnals, pages torn from old phone books and dictionaries. Just about any papers can be used except for cheap papers that fall apart in water (toilet paper, paper towels, regular tissue paper, tissues). I've saved some of the colorful paper towels that I use in the studio but rarely do I use them because of the rougher texture, though some people use these with great success.
 I use watery mixtures of acrylic pigments including fluid acrylics, acrylic inks, and airbrush acrylic (aka Golden's Hi-Flow).

And here's how it works for me:
 Mix the pigment with water, about 1:4. about 1-2 oz total should do the trick. Wear rubber gloves.
  • Work on a large tray of some sort. I use several old school lunchroom trays.
  • Place white paper on a sheet of plastic and get it fairly wet by spraying with water.
  • Using a pipette or straw or brush drop the color onto the paper, spraying and brushing to encourage the paint to flow over the paper. I like random rather than all over solid color.
  • Cover this paper with another sheet of plastic. Repeat the above steps. Repeat and repeat, building up the layers of paper and plastic.
  • Set aside for several hours or overnight to allow the colored pigments to flow over the paper, to settle in creases, to form patterns of color.
  • Before unwrapping the papers/plastic spread out large sheets of plastic over floors and furniture on which to set your painted papers for drying.
  • Wear rubber gloves.
  • Peel each sheet of paper off the plastic and set over on your drying surface. If there's pigment left on the plastic you can blot it up with another piece of absorbent white paper such as washi.
  • Once all the paper has been transferred to the drying surface it's a waiting game. The paper dries very quickly outdoors in warm weather but it takes overnight to dry indoors in winter.

 Ironing has been completed and paper is ready to use.

If you, dear reader, make some papers using this method, please send me a photo so I can brag on you.


  1. Interesting variation Jo. Allowing the pigment to have its way and lots of plastic for drying surface...two things we have in common when preparing papers. There is nothing better than an ample stash of prepared papers to get the juices flowing.

  2. Oh it looks so fun, I want to jump right in!

  3. Hi Jo. This process reminds me of fabric dying. I think I'll play with it this week. Thanks for the detailed directions and pictures. Once a teacher; always a teacher.

    1. Yes, Sandy, it's more like dying than anything else. All those surface design techniques are having a re-birth. I've used some of my old Procion Mx dyes but they aren't satisfactory because the glue re-wets the dye and it smears. Perhaps mixed with a little textile medium they'd work. And of course one can use just about anything else that's colored. Paint is paint. Waterbased only, though.


I appreciate comments and questions.

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