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A yupo paper alternative for life drawings: Gel medium on regular paper.

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A yupo paper alternative for life drawings: Gel medium on regular paper.

Yupo paper is a wonderful surface to work on with many media, including watercolor. The most interesting properties of yupo paper to me are the fact that when the paint dries, a lot of textures are appearing and also the fact that if you make a mistake, you can just take a wet cloth or tissue paper and wipe off the paint. If you don’t have access to Yupo paper, you have some ways to emulate what it feels like to paint on yupo paper by using a yupo paper alternative. For this you have to make your paper water resistant.

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painting flowers form imagination on yupo paper

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I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.

Yupo Watercolor Paper

Yupo is a compelling and unique alternative to traditional art papers. It’s a synthetic paper, machine-made in the USA of 100% polypropylene. It is waterproof, stain resistant, and extremely strong and durable. PH neutral.

To make a yupo paper alternative you will need:

  • Regular drawing paper
  • Gel medium
  • Paint- I used watercolor
Paint a layer of gel medium to make a yupo paper alternative

All you have to do is paint a layer of gel medium on top of regular or watercolor paper. The gel medium, once dried will make the paper water-resistant.

To make an alternative to yupo paper, paint a layer of gel medium, using a soft brush so you don’t risk damaging the paper.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.



Liquitex Acrylic Mediums

Gel mediums are ideal for extending a heavy body paint, to create impasto, relief, or sculptural effects. – Gel Medium, Gloss

paint with watercolors on top of the gel medium

You can then paint with watercolors on top of the gel medium. You might see the brushstrokes that left an imprint on the gel medium because the watercolor will accumulate in these ridges, I like that effect.

mix color wet into wet on this yupo paper alternative

This surface works well for painting wet on wet, colors will mix and dry with lots of textures.

your drawing is visible underneath the medium

If you paint the medium on top of a graphite drawing, you can still see your drawing when painting but it won’t be erasable. I don’t mind that as I like when the drawing is visible and part of the painting.

colors will lift when brushed over

As with yupo paper you cannot really layer colors as they will lift when brushed over on alternative to yupo paper.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.

Yarka St. Petersburg Professional Watercolor Pans

Same palette of traditional colors the great masters used a century ago. Liquid-poured means semi-moist pans respond instantly to a wet brush. 24 pans in plastic case. Also individual pans. – Master Set

painting on yupo paper alternative

but you can try painting colors on top of each over and let the mix on the paper until you are happy with the results.


You can’t layer colors but you can paint wet on wet or wet on dry. Here the skin is painted wet on wet and the features are painted wet on dry.

lifting up color with a tissue paper

You can easily lift off color with a wet tissue paper.

yupo paper alternative painting

Leah 4- Watercolor and gel medium on paper

5/5 - (3 votes)

Comments (24)

  1. Jayne Hurford

    Absolutely beautiful work. I have Yupo pads and have done some acrylic inks etc.
    Love how u put the white around and on the paper. When I can afford it I will buy your book. Great work.!

    1. Thanks Jayne 🙂

  2. bloom

    Can you substitute Tyvek for Yupo?

    1. Yes, I think they might be of similar composition.

  3. […] An alternative to Yupo paper: Gel medium on regular paper. […]

  4. Wendi

    Hi Sandrine! I tried the gel medium but my paints went right through it. I am using a Liquitex Mat Gel Medium. Should I use glossy instead? How many coats? I tried one light but full coverage, and one thicker with full coverage. Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy,
      I am surprised as this never happened to me. Did you dilute the medium in water?
      Did you leave enough time for the medium to dry ? I left my papers dry overnight.
      It should work with mat or gloss medium, I experimented with both. My medium was by Opus and is quite thick but any medium should give you at least a fair degree of waterproof-ness.

      1. Wendi

        I let it dry 24 hours. Maybe I didn’t put enough on. I’ll keep trying! Thanks!

        1. Thanks Wendy, let me know how it goes 🙂

  5. […] You might also be interested in : An alternative to Yupo paper: Gel medium on regular paper. […]

  6. […] You might also be interested in: An alternative to Yupo paper: Gel medium on regular paper. […]

  7. Gary

    Thank you! I was about to invest in painting on Yupo and you just saved me a TON of money! Not only that, but I had read some nightmare stories of how difficult it is to mount artwork done on Yupo (it resists all adhesives, except those made for polypropylene), as well as its high susceptibility to UV degradation. No such problems with good ol’ paper!

  8. Great idea, do you think spraying watercolor paper with clear acrylic enamel paint in spray, would work as well?

    1. Hello Kristina,
      I haven’t experimented with enamel paint but that sounds like a good idea. Let me know how it works out if you try it 🙂

  9. Aino

    This is a super idea! Why didn’t I think of this? 🙂 Can’t wait to try.

  10. Caroline

    If you can’t get Yupo, stone paper makes a very interesting alternative. I found it in Office Supplies stores. Its also waterproof, shiny, and watercolours do weird and wonderful things on it, but it holds graphite and biro. There are so many new synthetic papers coming out now to experiment with, and so little time to play with them all, lol!

    1. Yes that is right:) I love drawing on stone paper because it makes very crisp lines.

      1. Never even heard of stone paper! Will google and experiment. Wonder if we have it over here……

      2. *after a quick google* It seems stone paper isn’t very long-lived – a UK website for Parax Paper (stone paper) says: when exposed to direct UV light for over a year, Parax Paper will begin to crack, like an egg shell and gradually return back to nature as calcium carbonate, once again becoming stone. This might be great for the environment, but not for longevity of your artwork!! Have you had any issues? I try to work with archival properties in mind on the off chance I produce something worth keeping!!

        1. Very interesting and yes you want your paper to be archival. This is what I found on the Opus website:

          Mitz Terraskin Stone Paper is a biodegradable paper constructed from rock powder and non-toxic resin. This paper harvests no trees and uses no water, strong acids or bases in its production, making it environmentally friendly and naturally degradable in a timeframe of 3-9 months. It will not degrade if properly framed indoors. Its stone construction makes it a completely unique water and tear-resistant surface.

        2. It is the same as regular paper I guess. If it gets wet or too much exposed to UV it will also deteriorate.

    2. Thanks Sandrine – I guess if you used a UV protective fixative/varnish before framing it might give extra protection, but might not be one for the museum!

  11. Have used Yupo and it is really interesting to work on. Gel medium is a great idea as Yupo is tricky to get in the UK. Do you seal it with spray matt varnish afterwards?

    1. Thanks Liz.
      Yes I do spray with fixative as a preventive measure, but because the paintings are on paper, they would need to be framed under glass anyways.
      I did nt varnish those ones, but I would have if they were to be mounted on board instead of being framed.

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