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Exploring On Inexpensive Paper

Recently I decided to explore working on inexpensive paper to get a feel again for the experience. The paper I use here is Borden & Riley, 90 lbs. It comes in rolls of various sizes. I cut this piece to 42″ x 42″. This is the paper I’ve used in live workshops when we’re working large and have 15-20 artists working on numerous pieces over the course of a week.

I think it’s good to have lots of backup inexpensive paper on hand in the studio and this is one I keep in stock. I’d love to hear what supports (paper/canvas/panel) you use as well. Another paper I have on hand is Strathmore Bristol 400 Series, vellum surface. They come in pads of 15 sheets in various sizes.

Favorite Papers

My two favorite papers are: BFK Rives Printmaking paper (22″ x 30″ sheets). I get the quantity of #100 because I use it so much. I also get BFK Rives in 42″ x 10 yard rolls. The other paper I love is Coventry rag, vellum finish, 290 gsm, 38″ x 50″. The only problem is that these papers are expensive and if you’re on a limited budget or nervous about painting on more expensive paper, you may want to explore and experiment on less expensive paper as you build up your confidence.

While I think it’s generally a good idea to work with the best materials you can afford, I also realize that this may not be feasible. Interestingly, Franz Kline created many paintings on newsprint using house paint!

Strengthening Inexpensive Paper

Back to the topic of inexpensive paper, sometimes, I’ve painted the back of inexpensive paper with white Latex house paint or gesso in order to strengthen it. In this case, I didn’t do that and indeed the painting buckles and then I inadvertently ripped the paper with vigorous mark making!

But no worries! You can repair these tears and I’ll show you how in this brief video.

Why I Repair The Paper From The Back

You may wonder why not repair the paper from the front? You can certainly do that. Either way works and I’m sure there are other ways as well…this is just my favorite approach for a painting where the painting I created doesn’t have any other collage elements in it.

By placing the paper on the back you can later go in and paint into it from the front and there’s not a sense of one piece of collage laid upon the painting as an isolated element.

If I approached the repair from the front with a collage element, I’d want to add collage elsewhere so the collage element isn’t isolated in one spot.

Thoughts On Buckling

Inexpensive paper tends to buckle. There are a number of ways you can remedy this. You can gesso the front and back of the paper (or use white house paint to cover the front and back) to strengthen it and minimize buckling.

If you prefer not to gesso or paint the front and/or back of the paper because you love the surface of the raw paper as I do, you can also get a big board and lay your painting on the board, then lay another board on top of the painting and then weight it with something like heavy books.

Let the painting be there for a few days and it should flatten out. I know that some artists wet the back of the paper and then weight the paper. I don’t generally worry about buckling because if I really like the piece I can have it wet mounted at the framer’s and it will definitely flatten out.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about repairing tears in your paintings that are works on paper.

Check out Part 2 of this discussion about repairing a tear in your works on paper: Repairing A Tear In Your Painting Part II

From my studio to yours,


P.S. Back by popular demand, The Artist’s Journey, my signature course, is now OPEN. Check it out by Clicking HERE. 


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