Monday, May 05, 2008

Bookbinding 101 - Making Paste Paper

Making paste paper is fun and messy. It is a simple process where you smear coloured paste over a sheet of paper, then make patterns in it using whatever tools or niknaks that are on hand. I haven't done a lot of it, but when I posted the little tutorial about making paste, I was using that particular batch to make some paste papers, so I took lots of photos. And now I'm finally getting it up here on my blog.

So the first thing you need to do, is make some paste. If you're using the recipe here on my blog, you might want to double it.

Divide the paste into two or three containers, one for each colour that you want to work with. Tint the paste using either acrylic or watercolour paint. Watercolour paint tends to produce lighter softer colours. I'm using acrylic paints in this example so the colours are bright. So, add paint and mix it until it is consistently coloured.

Gather a few things to use as pattern-making tools so that you'll have them close when you're ready for them. You could use a comb, fork, bottle cap, bone folder, rubber stamp, sponge, hair pick, crumbled paper bag, potato masher, or anything that will make a pattern when pressed into the paste.

Dampen the paper before you start - dip it in a tub of plain water, or use a spray bottle to mist the paper. Let it relax then brush your coloured paste over an entire sheet of paper. I am using 80lb drawing paper here, but it can be any nice paper really. I also tend to start with large sheets so that there is lots of room. But you could do small sheets. I spread the paste right to the edges and onto the table to make sure the whole sheet is covered. The brush I'm using in this photo is too small...I couldn't find the bigger brush. A bigger brush or sponge will help spread the paste more quickly. Try to get a nice consistent layer of paste on the whole sheet.

Try to work quickly so the paste doesn't start drying before you get your work done.

Once the paper is covered with paste, grab one of your tools and start making marks in the paste by dragging it over the paper, or pressing it like a stamp, to create whatever sort of design or pattern you like. You can criss cross lines in opposite directions, do zig zags, splotches, curvy lines...etc, whatever you can come up with.

My examples are really simple - but there is a real art to this process of making paste paper, and the masters produce some amazing pieces.

Of course, I had to show my little boy what I was doing, so here he is at the other end of the table, doing his own paste paper. Although for him, it was really more like finger painting.

If you don't like what's happening on your paper, grab the paintbrush and brush it out and start over again! Or try just adding another design over top of the first one, moving in the opposite direction. You can also add other colours...but I have never really tried using multiple colours in a single design.

When you are finished making the patterns, leave your paper to dry. I often drape the sheets over doors or chairs. When it's dry, the paper will likely be quite stiff and curled up along the edges. I smooth it out with my hands then iron it, upsidedown, not too hot.

This is what my yellow paper looked like when I was finished - and then later it was used on the covers of this little hardcover book.

More papers...

More books...

So that's how to make paste paper. Basically. If you're really interested in mastering this, there are some books available. But before you go, check out some of these links to see some great examples:

- Madeleine Durham
- Papers by Sage Reynolds
- Papers by Peggy Skycraft
- Papers by BookGirl and Carol Norby
- Workshop samples from Paperchipmunk


Kiley said...

My local book arts group will be having a paste making party this summer! I can't wait to try it out, it looks like so much fun!

Chiara said...

Wow that's pretty!

Susan Buret said...

Great tutorial. Thank you.

The Becks said...

how do you adhere the paper you design to the coverboard? i'm new to this so i'm trying to learn it all

Pankti said...

Wow... Great tutorial. I can't wait to try this method.

Cicilia said...

Amazing, thanks for sharing :)

Cicilia - Indonesia

letterlady said...

Arches text wove (or Velin) is a preferred paper for paste paper. A high cotton content is good and makes a less stiff result. Wet both sides of the paper first, then add colors. As in painting, choose colors that go nicely and don't muddy up, and you can easily make multiple hues on one sheet...also add pearl or metallic paint to the water for a nice shimmer to final paper.

MyHandboundBooks said...

Thanks for those tips. I wrote this post before I really knew much about paste papers, actually. Since then I have learned more about it and certainly - wetting the paper before starting was the most amazing discovery after trying it with dry paper so many times!