5 Paper-Like Surfaces That Work With Your Acrylic Paints

Michael Daly
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Key Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Acrylic On Paper

Advantages: High level of detail. Thin layers are possible. Can be worked on with techniques more suitable for drawing, such as wet on wet washes.

Disadvantages: Art created on paper is limited to a relatively small size and can’t be framed conventionally. Lightly sized paper is more likely to buckle and wrinkle than a heavier surface, such as stretched canvas.

Is Prep Work Necessary When Using Acrylic Paint On Paper?

Despite what the “experts” say, I love experimenting on paper first most of the time. It’s the best way to play with color and mark making. You can do that at any time and in any location.

Working on paper is a great way to learn about color mixing and to practice new techniques.

Once you’ve learned the basics, paper is one of the best surfaces to paint on. It has a smooth surface, good absorbency and the paint dries quickly.

If you’re using loose acrylic paint and you’re worried about creating water smears, you can dress paper towels with cornstarch before you work on it.

This will help the paint to adhere to the surface and prevent smearing when you completely dry your painting. You can also use the paper towel to wipe the paint off.

Types of Paper You Can You For Your Next Acrylic Painting

Acrylic paint requires an absorbent surface to lay on, and traditional watercolor papers are not usually very absorbent. But you can add water to acrylic paints to make a diluted mixture that is more like watercolor paint, and this will help your paper to absorb some of the paint.

More generally, you can think of painting on paper as painting on a medium with similar qualities to paper. So most kinds of paper should work, although it helps a lot to practice on a test sheet with the surface you plan to use.

I’ve used all the types of paper listed above, with acrylic paint and watercolour paint, and they all work. The higher quality paper definitely becomes more absorbent with repeated paper towels and water, which you can feel with your fingertips. But less absorbent papers are much more forgiving, and don’t need as much fuss and practice to get a good result. Painting on the rougher surfaces is more like painting on fabric, and very different from painting on plain paper.

Drawing / Cartridge Paper

Drawing paper is the most versatile surface for experiments with acrylics.

You can use them as base for drawing if you are good at drawing free hand, but also use them on their own.

For this purpose, you can use them also for practicing or for using them for applying colors randomly using a palette knife.

They come in a variety of weights and different textures.

No matter which texture you go for, they are generally worth using for a variety of techniques.

Synthetic Paper

The paper surface I’ve been using and loving more is synthetic paper. It provides a smooth surface that’s a little like paper, without the bulk. What’s more, synthetic paper provides two painting surfaces.

Why should this matter? For one thing, it’s easier to do larger paintings, which lets you produce more paintings in a shorter time. What’s more, they can be stored back-to-back, layered with a second painting, and used as a unique background.

If you’ve tried painting on glass, you already know the potential problem is warping. When painting on synthetic paper, you don’t have that problem.

Cardboard

If your acrylic paints are dried out and will NOT rewet then your painting surface is probably too hard.

A trick of the trade used by many oil painters (this should work with acrylic too) is to wet your painting surface with tracing paper, blot the moisture and paint away.

Tracing paper will soften virtually any surface even one made of firmer cardboard (such as card board boxes) as well as fiberboard.

Heavy Watercolor Paper

If you like thin, light paper and don’t mind the idea of having your acrylics dry to a matte finish, try watercolor paper. It’s meant for watercolor, but acrylic paints, heavy body paint, inks and markers glide on easily.

When I am done using it on one project, I cut it in half because the sheets are pricey compared with newsprint, and I’ll use the rest for another project.

Acrylic Paper

Acrylic paper is a lightweight translucent sheet paper that can be used like a canvas or paper for painting on.

The similarity with paper is uncanny and you can draw and paint on acrylic paper just like you would on any other paper. However, if used for painting on, you have to be careful to avoid the paint from soaking into the paper.

A good way to do that is to paint acrylic on the side of the paper that is away from you.

Another way is to use your acrylic paints with a very thin layer of water to prevent bleed though.

Is That Really All For Paper Surfaces You Can Use With Acrylic

Paints?

These are the main paper-like surfaces that don’t require special preparation:

Plain copy paper Plain wrapping paper Newsprint Cardstock

Here are a few other surfaces that can work with acrylic paints:

Tracing paper – The thin but tough surface of tracing paper can be a good alternative to homemade paper. This surface works with both latex and solvent-based acrylic paints.

  • The thin but tough surface of tracing paper can be a good alternative to homemade paper. This surface works with both latex and solvent-based acrylic paints. Silk – Silk paper is very thin but works well with acrylic paints. This paper surface provides a nice texture in your finished work of art.
  • Silk paper is very thin but works well with acrylic paints. This paper surface provides a nice texture in your finished work of art. Silk – Likewise, you can use silk saris for a similar effect. Cover your board with a sari and remove once the paint is dry. It is thin enough to cover the whole painting surface.
  • Likewise, you can use silk saris for a similar effect. Cover your board with a sari and remove once the paint is dry. It is thin enough to cover the whole painting surface. Panels – Using weather resistant panels are always a good idea for outdoor paintings. Just be sure to cover any holes to prevent moisture build-up.

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Even if you decide that you must have no supplies but just your hands and your own fingers, you still need a surface to create on.

Do you have to use expensive, limited products to get good results? No!

Paper, cardboard, tin foil, aluminum foil, and corrugated cardboard are just about the most cost-effective and readily available choices.

If you don’t have any of these around, you can always improvise.