View Full Version : Acrylics on Paper

10-02-2006, 08:09 PM
I am looking for any and all advice relating to painting with acrylics on paper.
This summer I was on a painting workshop and for the first time tried painting on paper taped to a drawing board (usually I paint on stretched canvas and masonite panels). It worked well. I liked the feel, I liked the results and would like to do more (especially for the ease and economy).
One question I have is, what type of papers are recommended (or not)? I was using Stonehenge (half and quarter sheets). I would imagine any watercolor (or printmaking?) paper might be suitable. I should note that I do not use acrylics in a thin watercolor style.
The second major question I have is how best to frame a work on paper. When I started out doing these works on paper they were just sketches/ exercises - but one or two turned out well enough that I'd like to frame them and display them in my home. What would you recommend?
Relating to the previous questions is, how can I prevent or at least minimize warping of the paper. The paintings I did on the Stonehenge have only what I would consider as a moderate degree of warping (I know there is a proper technical term for this). Would gessoing the paper (front and/or back) before working on it help? Is there any easy fix after-the-fact?


10-02-2006, 09:54 PM

In my experience with paper it seems that the heavier the better as far as warping or buckling are concerned. The amount of water used is also a big factor. The best combination, considering the money factor, is at least 140# watercolor paper with gesso on at least one side and very little water, almost totally mediums instead. I also use pins to hold the paper to a thick backing of gatorboard or Celutex. If the paper starts to wrinkle, buckle or whatever you call it just partially unpin and pull the paper as flat as you can and repin.(It helps to have at least three hands.)

I use a 90# paper with gesso on both sides and lots of clamps instead of pins because the thin paper likes to tear as it shrinks. I keep wondering if it is worth the trouble but then the paper was a windfall deal of a 1000ft x 4ft roll for less than 1/3 cents per sq ft, and I am such a cheapskate, that I can only focus on the price rather than all the trouble it is to use.

I started out using the cheap poster cardboard sheets that you can get for about a quarter or less on sale, I think they are also called bristol board. They were ok but I was told they deteriorate relatively quickly and you have to like a real smooth surface (I do) although you can gesso them to roughen the surface.

The problem with paper as I see it is the hassle of keeping on the supporting board when outdoors and mostly the fact that you have to back and mount it on something stiff before it can be framed. By that time you have more money and effort expended than if you use my present and permanent choice of hardboard or plywood. The ideal, for me, would be canvas or paper mounted on hardboard or plywood,but that would be double expense and therefore a no-go.

This has been my experience only and I am curious to see what other users will tell you. Good Luck-


Richard Saylor
10-02-2006, 10:53 PM
140 lb or 300 lb watercolor paper in a block is convenient and works especially well for smaller paintings. Priming with gesso is optional, depending on the type of painting surface you prefer.

Paper expands when wet and contracts as it dries. Occasionally a sheet of paper in a watercolor block will warp a bit when it is wet, but in my experience it usually flattens out when it dries.


10-03-2006, 12:32 AM
Here's a homemade way to flatten paintings on paper:
Spray the back of the paper. Lay it face down on a clean cloth on the floor (or hard surface). Lay a cookie sheet flat side down (if yours has ridges) and put cans and whatever you can find to weigh down the cookie sheet. Voila! Next day, everything is flat and dried!

If you are doing two paintings. Put them face to face with the wet sides on the outsides. Then cookie sheet and weight on top of them. I've never had the paint of one mix with the other painting.

Before you start painting. Wet the front and back of the paper very liberally and stick it to a hard surface. Usually I start painting right away but you can wait for it to dry a bit if you don't want a watercolor effect.

Yes, alot of painting is trial and error, someone else might have a better idea

10-03-2006, 07:15 PM
I suspect you have been using masking tape or some such thing to stick dry paper to your board? If that's the case, you can have flat paper for future paintings by stretching it: soak it in the sink, and then tape it to your board using gummed tape (which you also have to wet before using).

I also use thin (90#) paper, as I am also a cheapskate, and I think the paper I have doesn't have a lot of sizing in it or on it. Between the thinness and the lack of sizing, it doesn't take long at all to get it thoroughly soaked. I let it sit in the water for maybe 10 seconds before I take it out and tape it to the board. I also drain it before taping it by holding it up by one corner until all the water runs off that's going to. If I let it soak longer, it just tears as it dries. This method results in nice flat paper.

Now if you want to talk about getting the tape to stick to the paper, that's another discussion entirely. I usually put a layer of gesso on the paper after soaking it and before taping it, to give the tape some more reason to stick. I may have found a new way - it worked once. Take a dry rag and press very hard on the tape to soak up all the extra water. Press on the entire length of the tape. As I said, it worked once. We'll see for the future. Hope this helps!


10-03-2006, 10:37 PM
Thank you all for your suggestions.

Trier - I especially agree with you about the potential hassles. If painting on paper gets too complicated I'll just stick with panels and stretched canvas (:-)
Richard - I will try some of the heavier watercolor paper - especially on a block.
2bears - Thanks for the process on flattening a painting - it sounds like it should work. I'll be trying it on one painting I have here.
Heidi - Thanks for the detailed description of stretching the wet paper - I think I can do that. (Yes, I had been just using masking tape on dry paper on my previous attempts)