View Full Version : How to make paper thicker

03-10-2007, 09:28 PM
This is a demonstration of how I sometimes glue several sheets of paper together to make a thicker surface for painting. It allows me to maximize my surface options quite easily by gluing whatever quality paper stock I may have on hand to create a paint surface that resists warping or buckling under wet media conditions. Gluing 3 or 4 sheets together can give me a surface as sturdy as any high quality illustration board I can find, usually at less cost.

The tools and materials I use are as follows: Yes! Paste, putty knife, 2 inch plastic scraper, print brayer, paper stock. The Yes! Paste product is a dextrene starch paste that is acid-free, archival, safe to use, and has no odor. If you cannot find this product in your area, look for any quality wheat or rice starch paste product. They are often used for applying wallpaper. The putty knife I use to scoop out the paste, and the scraper for spreading it on each sheet of paper. The brayer is a cheap roller I picked up in the printmaking section of an art store, which I use to press the sheets together. Other handy items to use are sheets of wax paper or newsprint paper to work on, or large sheets of thick plastic to press the paper down as the glue dries.

You can use any paper stock you want, but the thicker the better, and of the best quality (acid-free and neutral pH.) In the pictures below, Iím using a pad of 9x12Ē 130# sheets of Strathmore Watercolor paper. I glued 3 of these together in last picture. Iíve also used sheets of 2 or 3-ply bristol or cotton rag. You can use regular wood pulp paper, and finish with a higher quality rag for the last top sheet, or use all rag if you prefer. Rag fiber ages better (non-yellowing.) Lower quality paper doesnít stand up well to water, and the fibers can easily break down if heavily wetted, which these extra layers will not prevent. (Tip: some office supply stores carry 100% rag paper in the print section of the store, in bulk and often inexpensive; although, at a fairly small letter or legal size.)

The procedure is rather simple: dab some paste onto each sheet, spread it out thinly, line up another sheet on top, press it down, and repeat the process. The starch paste could be diluted with water, but I prefer it full strength as long as I keep it thin. You could ďstretchĒ your paper sheets beforehand to make them even more resistant to buckling, but itís not really necessary. After Iíve glued the sheets together, I place a scrap piece of paper on top, and roll the brayer across it to press the sheets as flat as possible. For paper that is less than 100# or so, I may need to weigh the board down as it dries to keep it as flat as possible until it stiffens up. Heavier weight paper doesnít really need pressing. I wait about one hour for the glue to dry well before starting to paint.

Iíve used this surface for ink drawing, acrylics, casein, or gouache, and it holds up extremely well. Iíve also used starch paste for mounting paper or loose canvas to wood panels, followed by sizing or priming, to use as an oil painting support. The paste even holds sheets of wood veneer together. Starch paste is reversible, but would require a good soaking for that to happen. I tend to not use much water in my aqueous paint media, and I imagine this surface would still hold up quite well for watercolor, but Iíd recommend caution for heavy wet-in-wet techniques. If you kept the surface taped down in that case, and waited for it to dry before removing it, Iíd expect it to still hold together quite well; although, Iíve not tested that out. Under normal conditions, I usually donít even bother taping it down as I paint. I should mention that paper made from wood pulp is prone to swell in changes of humidity, so it possible this could cause problems with the glued sheets; although, Iíve never seen that happen.

Yes! Paste resource information. (http://www.ganebrothers.com/products/adhesives/yes_paste.htm)

03-11-2007, 11:32 AM

Thanks for the tutorial! I might have to give this a try. Buckling is so annoying. ;)


03-11-2007, 03:41 PM
I have tried this, sometimes with Yes! glue, sometimes with Mod-Podge, a latex sealer-glue. Even weighting the paper after glue and using more than one layer sometimes they curve. Maybe pressing with a brayer will give a better surface. Thanks for the information.

03-11-2007, 08:36 PM
Have you used heavy weight paper, Connie? I've not used anything less than 100-130# or so, and not had any curling problems after gluing. I HAVE had them curl after using arcylic paints on them, but that usually happens with illustration boards too. A brayer works well for getting a good even adhesion. but I don't think it would prevent any curling you're having. If a heavier weight paper doesn't improve things, try stretching the paper first.

03-13-2007, 07:24 PM
Interesting. What do you do to prep the surface for painting in gouache? Wet it/scrub it/soak it?

03-13-2007, 09:10 PM
Paint it! :) No preparation is required for gouache.