Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Paper Tiger

They say that "necessity is the mother of invention". Necessity does indeed cause many awesome things to be invented, but so does accident; stupidity, laziness, luck, obesessive behavior and caffeine all have their roles as well.

In my case, dissatisfaction with the availability of supplies and the desire to have all aspects of my craft under my supervision and control are the mother of invention. For these reasons (which probably fall under the category of necessity, and maybe the subcategories of "obesessive behavior" and "caffeine") I have begun making my own drawing paper.

Because I am generous and very tall, I have recorded the process and am posting the recipe as well as videos of the process. This is will be a real treat for you because you will get to hear my voice and see my hands move. If you are my mother (Hi mom) then you already know what my voice sounds like and this may not be as exciting for you. (Sorry mom).

Ok so, you will need:

1 plastic cup
1 yardstick or long ruler
1 Nylon paint brush (available from hardware stores)
1 sheet of 140 lb (300 gsm) Arches hot-pressed watercolour paper 140 lb.

I cannot stress enough that this must be "hot pressed". I would also suggest going with the single papers sold in sheets because it gives you a very attractive "deckled edge" which presents very well. you can go with a block for smaller projects or because that's what you happen to have lying about.

1 jar of "Golden" Brand Acrylic Matt Medium

This is basically golden acrylic gesso without the calcium carbonate (chalk.) In theory any other brand might do, but in my opinion Golden is a top notch product; and you get what you pay for.

1 each of Golden Fluid Acrylics

Ultramarine Blue
Hansa Yellow Medium
Pyrol Red
Carbon Black
Titanium White

The fluid part is pretty important as well. The regular acrylic paint is too think for our purposes and also not as strong. We need tinting strength here people.

1 jar Golden Gel medium "Fine Pumice Gel"

Get the fine stuff. The coarse stuff will be like drawing on concrete.

The sizes of each do not matter as much. We'll be using teaspoons of everything except for the acrylic matt medium (and we'll be using tablespoons for that)

If you were going to line everything up after you bought it, it would look like this.

Can you spot Kaiser Sose?

Firstly you want to prepare your paper with painters tape. I use blue painters tape, because it shows up on film better. But I suppose you could use just about anything; provided it was low-tack painters tape and you bought it recently.

A ruler and pencil are no-brainers here.

For my dimensions I measured out 2 inches on the left, right and top and 4 inches on the bottom with LIGHT lines from #2 pencil. This makes for a nice space on the bottom for some clean lettering and overall creates a killer presentation. If you are using smaller paper you can adjust your presentation accordingly. This type of high-quality paper is very much meant to be "show-paper". It's heavy, bright, has a clear watermark and deckled edge so it's nice to preserve and present it as a piece of art in itself.

After measuring out your dimensions, tape it out, being careful to follow your pencil lines:
Do yourself a favor and use 2 slightly
overlapping applications of tape
in case you get "brush happy"

So now the recipe.

I've messed with this recipe quite a bit. Mostly with the ratio of titanium white and water. You can vary the amount of the fluid acrylic you use to adjust the color. Because the pigments are so strong, it really takes very little to get what you are looking for. I wanted a neutral blueish-grey. And it seems the recipe below should give you enough for 3 applications. (on the big sheets). I would recommend using a plastic bowl or something similar. I would avoid wood and metal, the first because it will be hard to clean the second because I'm not sure that the metal will react in a weird way with the paint. (probably not, but I'm just being careful, so you don't write me back and say that you summoned some sort of lizard monster while using a metal bowl to mix this stuff)


2 tbsp Acrylic Matte Medium
2 tsp Pumice gel
14 drops Ultramarine Blue
16 drops Titanium White
2 drops Hansa Yellow Medium

When all in the plastic cup (or whatever your using)

A couple of things, you notice above I said that I experimented with how much water to add but didn't include any in the recipe. Yup. don't add water unless its super hot where you are. At first I thought that the mixture looked a bit thick. So I added water to make it easier to apply and it cause the paper to buckle wildly. I cut down the water and it spread just fine. If you cover the cup between applications you wont need to add any water at all. Unless you are making paper in the Sahara desert, (heat causes the acrylic to cure more quickly) don't add water. If you are making paper in the desert you will probably need a little water (no more than a 1/2 tsp) and you can probably exclude the pumice gel, as there will most likely be sand in your paper from the raging dust storms…

When you put everything together it will go from this:

Looks like somebody sneezed doesn't it?

to this

BTW if you know anybody whose sneezes look like that,
get them to a doctor quickly.

Now for the application. I made three videos to cover the application, because I thought it might be easier than me attempting to describe it without getting boring. It's the voice of genius time. Prepare yourselves:

Once dried overnight, the paper is removed from its state-of-the-art drying rack:

Technology at it's finest

Then the paper can be stripped of its tape, (carefully) and rolled until ready to use. Overall, start to finish, the entire process takes maybe 2 hours. With the most annoying bit being masking off the paper to begin with. If you are careful with the application of the size (the solution you mixed) you will not need to sand between coats. If you do need to sand because you were drinking heavily while making your paper (not recommended) then sand between coats leaving with 600grit sandpaper and leave the final coat as is. You don't want to sand off the texture.

When you are finished, you should have something that looks like this:

Are you ready to Rawk?

It's premium stuff and you can adjust the hue, tooth and texture to suit your style. While I originally made this paper for drawing, because I am using acrylic matt medium to seal the paper, it can be used for Charcoal, pastel and even oil or acrylic paint.

Total control over the process means total control over the product.

-Genius out


  1. if your genius was not recorded here, complete with pics and vids, I might not believe this....! Impressive to say the least!

  2. Wow, very impressive. Looking forward to seeing some drawings!