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Paste Paper Report (long)

Following is a quick report on the recipes and tips I received following a
post last month asking for info on making paste papers. Some of the
following was sent to the Marbling List, some to the Book Arts List, and
some to me personally. I apologise for repeating parts, but felt it was
worthwhile having it all in one place.

Yehuda Miklaf <mfritz@ndc.co.il> passed on Mike Wilcox's recipe: 4 parts
water, 1 part corn starch; cook until translucent, let cool, beat smooth
(food processor is best, blender will do). Color can be powdered pigments,
poster colors or tube watercolor. You can vary the thickness easily by
increasing or lessening the amount of water, and if it's too thick you can
add water after the fact.  The whipping in the food processor is important
and adds greatly to the smoothness and spreadability of the paste.  If it
stiffens up again, it can be whipped again, and more water added if
1. Make paste.  2. Mix color into paste.  3. Spread mixture onto wet paper.
4. Pretend you're back in kindergarten. (Most important, don't let your
kids find out that you're doing this.)
He suggests other recipes may be found in Rosamund Loring's "Decorated Book
Papers" ("Loring's recipes tend to be complex and puzzling, like mixing
glycerin and liquid soap into the paste."), and Faith Shannon's "Paper

Marcia Watt <LIBMAW@emuvm1.cc.emory.edu> provided the following:
Claire Maziarczyk uses methylcellulose with acrylic paints.  She says she
mixes the methylcellulose with water until it is the consistancy of
"dripping honey."  Color is added after the paste is the desired
Anne Chambers provides several recipes in her book "A Guide to Making
Decorated Papers."
Cold water wallpaper paste - "Mix according to the instructions on the
packet, but use less water, so that it is quite thick: the proportion will
probably be 1 pint of water to 2 ounces paste powder."
Flour paste - "Add six parts cold water to one part plain flour, stirring
to form a smooth paste.  Bring to a boil in a saucepan, stirring
continuously to avoid lumps."
Cornstarch paste - "2 ounces of cornstarch mixed with 2 ounces of water in
a saucepan.  Add 1/4 pint of boling water, and boil for two or three
minutes, stirring continuously."
Rice paste - follow instructions for cornstarch.
Vinegar paste - "Put 2 parts granulated sugar to one part malt vinegar in a
screw-top jar and shake vigorously together." This makes a very grainy and
interestingly textured paste.
Anne states that water-based poster paints, powdered paints, tubes of
water-color and gouache can all be used to color any of the pastes.
(Acrylics can also be used.)

Patrice Murtha <pmurtha@artic.edu> offered:
3 parts water to 1 part wheat starch, cook until mixture goes from opaque
to clear--cool. Divide into containers and add acrylic paints for the
desired color.  I have found that Arches Text wove works extremely well for
the paper.  I usually spray the paper with a mist of water then lay down
the tinted paste with a wide paint brush.  You can then start playing with
the designs--add glitter, mica--work into it with a crayon.

Joyce Jenkins <joycej@muskox.alaska.edu> wrote:
There are many possibilities for starch, purified wheat, rice starch, etc.
I use Softasilk Cake flour.  Usually you add a little (as it drops)
dishwashing soap and glycerine for better slip.
For paper I mostly use Daniel Smith's superfine.  You need a paper that is
strong when wet and will take glue well when you use it.  It's also nice if
it's not too expensive.  Colored papers can be fun too.
I find it works best if the paper is wet.  Dipping it in a large tray will
accomplish that.  Then lay it out on a SMOOTH surface.  A squeegee is handy
to get it completely flat on the table.
Now comes the fun part.  Glop on your paste.  It can be colored with many
different kinds of paint-- acrylics, watercolor, waterever you have.  I
have used printing inks, including some of the metallic and luminescent
ones too.  Spread it with a big brush--a housepainting brush will work for
thefirst step.  They usually say to spread it both across and up and down.
The paper will dry curled, but you can rewet it and dry flat between
blotters and under weights.  If you are going to paste it on something it
doesn't matter, because the glue or paste will reset it and it will try
on the board or whatever.
Joyce also passed along some safety tips: Use a barrier cream or gloves
when working with paints and never take a kitchen tool you have used with
paints back into the kitchen.  Some paints contain
poisons which you DO NOT want to absorb through your skin or eat little bits of.

Dorothy Africa <AFRICA@HULAW1.HARVARD.EDU> cautions that making paste
papers is ADDICTIVE, and takes "dirty space". She then says:
The recipe I have is from school, and is pretty basic, 1 part starch to 7
parts water.  Mix one part starch to one part water and let it stand while
the remaining six parts water is heating.When it boils, remove the water
from the heat and pour in the slurry of starch and water while stirring
constantly.  When the mixture is smooth, cover and let it cool.  Add color
(acrylic is my favorite, but others are possible)
as desired.  The stuff will keep in a refrigerator for a while, but it is
never as good, and tends to lump which means you have to strain it before
using again which is a real pain.  It will spread better if the paper is
slightly dampened before the paste goes on.  I like to put dabs of straight
acrylic color directly on to the paper and then brush on uncolored paste to
get streaks and shadings of color.
Real wheat starch paste produces a matt finish, as does cornstarch paste
which is my preferred medium.  For the glossy 'mod' look, go for methyl

Joel Spector <FarrowSt@aol.com> wrote:
Start with a sturdy text weight paper such as Mohawk Superfine. Dampen
thepaper till it 'relaxes' completely; that is, all the wrinkles disappear
and it wants to lie perfectly flat. I usually mount the dampened paper on a
smooth surface, such as glass, plexiglas, smooth formica, urethaned wood,
Now you have a choice of mediums. I suggest you experiment to find the one
that best suits you.
1) Methylcellulose, sold in interior decorating stores as "Metylan," is a
wall paper paste. It's easy to mix and easy to use.
2) wheat paste, or other starch-based pastes, made from rice, wheat & other
flours. Most satisfactory are any of the starch pastes available from
bookbinding supply houses that require cooking.
Next, obtain some cheap acrylic colors; these work just fine. Also good are
tube watercolors or gouache.
Mix them with one of the above. The proportions are best understood by
experimenting with varying amounts of medium to achieve more or less
Cover your dampened paper with paste/medium, using a brush or roller. Start
smooshing it around with brushes, combs, rubber stamps (carved from artgum
erasers), joint compound tools (some of my favorite). Have a blast. If you
like, combine colors on the paper, or let one layer dry before adding
a second, etc.
Let them dry on the smooth work surface, or between sheets of waxed paper
under a flat board. I hear ironing them between layers of waxed paper,
light blotter or mediium book weight paper, will also get the wrinkles out.
But if you're using them to cover boards, there's really no need.

George K. Huber <ghuber1@swarthmore.edu> contributed the following from a
pamphlet (called "How to make paste papers" by Jennifer Woods, published by
The Library Company of Philadelphia in 1988, but says he hasn't tried it:
white wheat flour
rice flour (this gives the past paper a sheen. Available at oriental food
glycerin (keeps the dried paste pliable so that it won't crack. Available
at pharmacies)
tincture of green soap (same function as glycerin)
colors (watercolors in tubes are the best, but costly. Water-soluble
printer's inks work well. Acrylics will work, but yield a somewhat dull
4 tblsp white wheat flour
3 tblsp rice flour
1 tsp tincture of green soap
1/2 tsp glycerin
3 cups water
Blend the flours together in the top of a double boiler. Add a little of
the water, mixing well to make sure there are no lumps. Add the rest of the
water and cook, STIRRING CONSTANTLY. Do not allow the paste to boil. When
the paste is thick and it clears, reduce heat and cook another couple of
minutes. Remove from heat and add the soap and glycerin.
    This recipe makes enough paste for 10 sheets of paper, 18" x 24". It is
best to add the colors while the paste is still warm. To make three
different colors, divide the paste into 3 one-cup portions. For each: put
about 1 to 2 tblsp color and some paste in a strainer and push it through
with a spoon into the rest of the paste. Stir well, blending the color in
completely. Test the paste on a strip of paper to see if there is enough
color in it to make a strong contrast with the paper. It takes a lot of
color to achieve this.
     Place a piece of wet paper towel on the surface of the past so that a
"skin" doesn't develop. Let the paste cool.
Applying the paste:
Place a sheet of paper in a tray of water. This will allow the paper to
absorb moisture all over and "relax" totally. Carefully lift the paper out
and put it on a flat surface. Sponge off the extra water while pushing out
air bubbles and wrinkles so that the paper lies completely flat. Then,
using a large brush, apply the paste and brush it out with even strokes, as
if it were house paint. When the paper is entirely coated, it is ready to
be patterned.

James T. Downey <jdowney@MAIL.COIN.MISSOURI.EDU> suggested the following
for stabilizing the pigments, or at least making them more scuff-resistant:
I usually give all my marbled papers a coat of thinned-down
methyl-cellulose, a trick I learned from Annie Wilcox at Iowa.  I use a 10
to 1 ratio from my normal m-c adhesive, applied with a hake.  It works
well, and the papers are thereby protected from smearing, smudging, et cetera.

Sharon Esmont <s.esmont@gomail.sjcpl.lib.in.us> wrote:
I took a paste paper class this spring taught by Rosie Kelly from Chicago.
The recipe we used was 6 cups of water and 1 cup of cake flour.  Mix
together in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook,
stirring at all times for at least 10 minutes.  Let it cool overnight in
the refrigertor.  Put 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the flour/water mixture in
a small container (yogurt containers are great)  add one tablespoon of
Acrylic Gel Medium, then mix in the color you want.  Watercolor, acrylic or
gouache can be used.  Use a seperate container for each color.
Wet both sides of your paper (we used Rives) as if you were going to do a
wet-on-wet watercolor wash.  Now get those fingers to playing and working
or what we jokingly call:  PLORKING!  Once one side of the paper dries, you
can flip it over and do the same thing on the other side.

Jacqueline Sullivan <macjacq9@warren.rabbit.net> said:
I have recently tried several paste paper recipes and see little difference
in any of them. The biggest difference that I find is how long are they
useable? The recipes made with unbleached wheat flour with a bit of oil of
clove added to it will last about 3-4 days before they go rancid. The rice
flour recipes will go within 2 days. The best bet for me is to use
wallpaper paste( the dry kind). It contains preservatives and does not go
bad as fast.(I'm just testing now so I can't give time but it has been 3
days and
it shows no signs of molding). This allows me to mix colors, do some papers
and then go back in a few days and do some more. Since I am using the paper
in books I like to do both sides and I want the colors to be consistent.
Paste can be frozen but texture does change. Sharpness of pattern and
design seems to have to do more with paper choice than with paper type. I
like acrylics for coloring. To get a bit more sheen, either mica powder can
be added to paste mixture or an effect medium(Rotring) can be added to
paste. I
also like Twinrocker pigments for papermaking for very intense color
without an acrylic binder.

Lori Trummer <trummerl@ava.BCC.ORST.EDU> suggested:
One of my teachers suggest mixing the paste with acrylic matte medium prior
to adding color (1:1/paste:medium) to give the paste some waterproof
quality as well as to "toughen" it up for book covers.  Matte medium was
used rather than gloss because the paste already has a bit of a shiny
surface and she felt the extra gloss would be too much.

Sharon Esmont <s.esmont@gomail.sjcpl.lib.in.us> countered with:
I took a paste paper class from Rosie Kelly last spring.  She also
recommended using the acrylic matte medium but mixed it 3:1/paste:medium.
And yes, we added the acrylic matte medium before we added the color.  It
worked great.

For making patterns, the suggestions ran the gamut of brushes, fingers,
combs, kitchen tools, cardboard or acetate cut with pinking shears or
otherwise, credit cards, sponges, crumpled paper, etc. Joyce suggested
pressing two sheets together then pulling apart.

I tried a wheat starch paste a couple of weeks ago, made about 6 parts
water to one part starch; it seemed a little thin but I made some nice
experiments. later I tried methyl cellulose paste (1tbsp powder in 3/4 cup
of water); it seems gluey. Also, it seems to stay wet longer with the
result that the designs blur together as it is drying. The papers I made
with it don't seem particularly glossy or even shiny, but I think I'll go
back to wheat starch, with less water.
Also, I have since covered several booklets with the experiments I made,
and they look great: sufficient encouragement to try again (Is this what
Dorothy meant by addictive?). After the paste was dry and before cutting
and covering, I rubbed the surface of the papers with crumpled wax paper,
which seems to give a smoother, hopefully somewhat protective finish.
My best to all.

Richard Miller
Abraxas/Peppermint Press
Editor, CBBAG Newsletter
**CBBAG now on the Web**

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