Painting on paper with acrylics

Painting on paper has its advantages. Paper is cheaper than a canvas or panel and it takes up less space!

What kind of paper?

  • Paper that is too thin will bulge too much due to moisture absorption. Use at least 250 gsm, but preferably more than 300 gsm paper.
  • Paper that absorbs too much will cause an ultra-fast drying time.
  • Paper must have some structure; on smooth paper you slip too much with the paint.
  • It is recommended to prepare paper before use (also read: gesso why and how to use it)
  • Since acrylic paint adheres to just about everything, you can also paint on paper that is less suitable. However, you then make full use of the qualities of your paint. The paper will bulge too much, the paint will dry too quickly, color reproduction may be poor and working in layers will be difficult.

Everyone has their own tastes and preferences. Try out different papers yourself to experience what you like best. Some people like a more coarse surface, others prefer a more smooth one.

Left: paper with more texture, richt: smoother paper

You can paint directly on acrylic paper. Still, for the best painting experience, I recommend putting a layer of gesso on it.

Most of the times you can buy sheets of paper, but some brands also provide blocks of paper. Often, the sheets in a block are glued on al sides. In that case, you don’t have to tape the paper to a plank, you can directly paint on the paper on the block. Because it’s glued on all sides, the paper won’t buckle. When your painting is finished, you can carefully cut the paper loose.

Block of acrylic paper

If you buy sheets of paper or a block of paper that isn’t glued on all sides, you can stretch the paper yourself. (More on paper stretching below).

Benefits of painting on paper

Sometimes you want to just practice or try something out; a technique, a color combination, sketching an idea or whatever. Paper is ideal for that.

Color tests on paper

Of course, you’re not likely to do color tests on a canvas; paper is ideal for this.

Another big advantage is that paper is much thinner than a canvas or panel. For example, a block of 50 sheets of 360-gram paper from Schut is thinner than one canvas. So, paper saves a lot of space.

A block of 50 sheets of paper is as thick as one canvas!

Stretching paper

To prevent bulging, it is recommended to stretch loose sheets. Tape the paper to a board firmly and tightly with painter’s tape.

Tape the paper to a solid flat surface.

For a really good painting experience, it is recommended to coat your paper with gesso.

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