Painting on Yupo Paper
by D.D. Gadjanski
My first encounter with yupo paper was about six years ago and I have been in love with it ever since. Yupo is extremely suitable for experimental painting techniques, a painter willing to experience new challenges and for frugal beginners since there is no necessity to dispose of the paper with bad painting one can simply wash it off and do another.
Yupo paper is really not paper but rather acid free sheet of plastic developed for printing and packaging purposes that has a very smooth non absorbent surface which allows for floating of paint of all kinds. Yupo is available in light, medium and heavy paper (104lb.) weight in opaque white and translucent quality. I have used it in medium and heavy weight in sheets 22x 26 and 23x 35 in opaque white quality since bright white background is appealing to me. Translucent one will be my next challenge.
Either side of the sheet can be used for paint application. Cautious handling of the paper is recommended because fingerprints transfer skin oils on the yupo and they act as resist to this slick surface. Oil marks can be easily removed with glass cleaning spray or by scrubbing the paint into it repeatedly.
Advantage of painting on yupo for artists new to watercolour technique is that it can be almost completely washed off partially cleaned or corrected on the same sheet and started again and therefore avoid wastage of material. Acrylics can be over painted and of course you can use yupo for oils, drawings, printing, embossing etc. Any media could be quite enjoyable with options of easy correction and further usage.
For me yupo is especially exciting in application of watercolour, gouache and inks as mixed water media variety. Major adjustment for a watercolour painter will be curbing the water content. In my estimate water should be reduced to about one quarter of the one on regular paper. All liquid applied to yupo surface is being floated on top of the paper and drying occurs by evaporation rather then absorption. If a lot of liquid paint is applied, pooling will occur and merging of abutting areas of wash without control. This in itself opens up a whole lot of possibilities for experimentation as long as the painter is aware of it. I find that mixing paint of different physical density will give amazing granulation on the page and cause effects that would be harder to achieve on paper.
By mixing transparent watercolour and sedimentary one in combination with gouache and Chinese or FW inks granulation and textures that occur are very interesting.
I start painting with a large Robert Simmons sky wash 2.5 flat brush or with a soft rubber brayer used for printing purposes and create a background for my subject matter. By using the side of the brayer I repeatedly scrape and roll the surface to create additional texture. Fine water misting of applied and still damp layer of paint can add additional interest. While paint is wet I drop in ink or add line and shape with Chinese brushes and allow it to mix with paint for most interesting granulating effect.
Glazing watercolour layers is very possible in yupo if one is careful and is doing it when the previous layer is completely dry. One stroke glaze is applied by just bearably touching the surface and depositing glaze on while holding the brush parallel to the painting surface. Most damage done to previous layers of paint on yupo is by using brush, which is perpendicular to the yupo surface, so that brush movement creates a dig-in effect and therefore removal of paint rather than application of it on the paper.
Advantage in final steps of painting is that one can chisel out and reclaim the white space by using synthetic flat brush and water in area of the previous watercolour wash. Reclaiming the white from the areas of ink is harder. For speeding up the drying process I would not recommend the hair dryer since it could move the paint easily, but it could be used if the top layer of paint is already dry just to speed up the drying process.
Some painters use fixatives to protect the paintings. If you prefer to use it make sure that it is one that does not yellow with time. I do not use any but protect the paintings by framing them immediately or by storing them in the clear sleeve since handling them may leave fingerprints just the same as on the regular watercolour paper.
Click here to see more samples of works done on Yupo.
D.D. Gadjanski teaches water media experimentation and painting to private students and art groups in Toronto and southern Ontario.