Painting on Rice Paper

Painting on crinkled rice paper helps you produce watercolors with an artsy look and sometimes an Asian feel. Rice paper is a thin, absorbent, see-through paper usually made in Japan. Some papers have designs embossed or imbedded in them. There are many beautiful types available at most art supply stores, and you can use other types of thin paper as well.

Applying paint to rice paper forces the artist to let go of rigid edges and allow a little randomness to take over. Nature scenes work nicely on this type of paper.

To prepare a painting surface for a project using rice paper, follow these steps:

  1. Choose pieces of mat board and rice paper the same size.

Mat board is a 4-ply board used to mat artwork when framing. The mat board can be any color, but it will show through the rice paper, influencing the color – which can be part of the fun.

  1. Paint the mat board with diluted white glue.

Dilute the glue with enough water to make it the consistency of whole milk.

  1. Wad up the rice paper into a ball and then smooth it back out and place it on the gluey mat board so that it adheres to the mat board.

Wrinkles are okay; they add character.

  1. Let the glue dry overnight.
  2. Start painting.

Your paint reacts very differently on this surface. It’s looser and may have a mind of its own. Paint shows up darker in the cracks of the wrinkles, giving the image a unique appearance. It’s difficult to get a hard edge, but the wrinkles are an interesting design element. Figure shows an iris painting using this technique.

Painting on Rice Paper

Mixing Watercolor with Other Media

When you use another art medium with your watercolor you automatically have mixed media. (Yes, it’s true: I’m good at both art and grammar. Medium is singular, and media is plural.) Because watercolor is so versatile, it’s a natural to mix with many other media.

Watercolor is used on paper, so I don’t recommend mixing watercolor with oil paint, which is used on canvas. Remember the old truism: Oil and water don’t mix. Oil can also discolor and leach into paper, disintegrating it over a long period of time. Not good.

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