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Acrylic Painting: The Paper Affects the Painting

by Catherine Calder

Have you ever gone in to buy some paper for painting and been overwhelmed by the choice? You would think it would be a simple thing to buy a sheet of paper, wouldn't you? Well, it can be if you know what the different choices mean and how it can affect your finished painting.

Manufacturers have created a whole range of paper products for the artist. So many choices that unless you know what some of the terms mean it can be very confusing.

When you want your painting to last for a long time always go for acid-free. This is the type of paper used in archives.

The next thing is the surface texture of the paper, whether you want a fine texture or rough. You may be asking "How do I know? I just want something to paint on!"

The texture you choose will depend on your style of painting. If you like to have a lot of detail in your paintings you will need a smooth textured paper - in which case you want one that is 'Hot Pressed'.

If you use a lot of watercolour (or watercolour style) washes then the paper you should choose will be 'Not'. That means 'Not hot pressed'. It has a bit more texture than Hot pressed papers.

If you paint a lot of landscapes and/or like granulation (which happens when the colours separate while they dry) you will probably like using Cold pressed papers. These have the roughest texture.

Papers are sold in weights. This affects the thickness of the paper. Papers that are less than 300-lb or 640gsm (grams per square metre) will need to be stretched before painting. If you don't stretch the paper it will buckle when wet making painting difficult and the paint will dry in the hollows giving a disappointing result.

Stretching paper needs to be done in advance and the paper allowed to dry before you use it. You will need a clean drawing board, some 1½ inch wide gum strip, and water to soak the paper in (the bath is handy for this).

Soak the paper in the water until it is saturated, this will take less than a minute. Place the paper onto the board and smooth it out from the centre to the edges.

Cut pieces of gum strip to fit the length and the width of the paper, plus a couple of inches. Dampen the gum strip and use it to stick the longer edges of the paper to the board, and then do the shorter edges. Smooth out the paper and the gum strip and leave it to dry naturally and on the horizontal. Do not place it near a heater!

If you just want to paint without needing to prepare the paper, there are pads of ready stretched paper that save you having to do this yourself.

These pads have the paper glued around the edges and you paint on the top of the pad. Once you've finished the painting and it is completely dry, a knife is inserted at one of the edges and moved around the sides to cut through the glue and free the top layer.

It is a good investment to buy good quality paper. It is much easier to use, and gives a better result.

Next time you need to buy paper think about how you like to paint, and it will be much easier to decide on the type of paper to buy.

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About The Author

Catherine Calder is the author of The Acrylic Painting Course. The simple step-by-step way to learn how to paint. Quick and easy. Check out 'Painting Surfaces - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly' in The Special Reports section at Learn And

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