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Painting with watercolors on Yupo paper: A few techniques

examples of watercolor paintings on yupo

examples of watercolor paintings on yupo

What is yupo paper ?

Yupo paper is a synthetic water-resistant paper. That means that when used with watercolor, your paint will dry only by evaporation and there will be no absorption by your paper (as would be with regular watercolor paper). This is why yupo paper will allow very nice textures to form while the paint is drying. Here is a close up of some of the effects you can obtain on yupo paper:

watercolor paint textures on yupo paper watercolor paint textures on yupo paper

A few techniques you can use with yupo paper

With yupo paper, the most influential element is water.

  • diluted watercolor paint in watercolor will dry making nice textures and a darker outline, you can see them on that detail of a painting. If you don’t like those outline you can remove them afterwards, when the paint has dried:
    darker outlines on yupo where the paint dried

    darker outlines on yupo where the paint dried

  • If the paint runs too fast on your paper you can slow it down by adding some soap ( I usually keep a soap in a dish next to my paper when I am painting on yupo. You could also experiment with acrylic gel medium, and acrylics. Acrylics will have t he advantage of making layering way easier.
  • You can layer colors on yupo , but it’s tricky, you have to be very careful of not letting your brush go two times on the same place, it would disturb the paint. I wold recommend letting the paint dry completely before trying (like overnight).
  • One of the main advantage of Yupo paper is that it will let you easily remove any paint. This is liberating if you are used to watercolor!If the paint is still wet, any tissue paper, dry brush or Q-tip will work. If the paint is dry just re-wet the areas you want to remove. Here I removed some of the paint to make the polka dots on the dress with a Q-tip.
    removing paint on yupo paper with a Q-tip

    removing paint on yupo paper with a Q-tip

  • For the dark areas on your painting you can use the following technique. Use watercolor paint almost direct from the tube, it will be easy to manage, then use a clean new tissue paper and put it on the still wet area you just painted, it will add some transparency to your dark. I used this technique on ” I do ballet 2″:
    painting dark colors with yupo

    painting dark colors with yupo

  • Spraying alcohol on wet paint will work great on yupo paper
  • You can try acrylics and mixed media on yupo. I made the following painting with acrylics diluted in gel medium, pastels, collage and watercolors.
    mixed media on yupo paper

    mixed media on yupo paper


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{ 18 comments… add one }

  • Holly Herick Design September 16, 2011, 11:26 am

    I also have tried washing watercolors off of Yupo and a little staining was left behind. I ended up using the other side of the paper. Have you tried the tranluscent yupo? I would like to try that next.

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 17, 2011, 3:29 pm

      Yes, me too! I am sure it will give artists lots of exciting possibilities!
      I asked for it at my local art supplies store, but they didn’t have it, I will have to order it online.
      Let me know how you like it :-)

  • jimva8 September 16, 2011, 9:20 am

    If you paint on yupo with a water based paint, can you later wash it off for another painting?

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 16, 2011, 10:04 am

      Hello jimva8,
      It will depend on the paint and the colors you are using. For example if you are using staining watercolors they will leave some color on the paper. I noticed also that India ink stains the yupo paper. What you might likely obtain is a light phantom image of your previous painting, but that could be an interesting starting point for a new painting :-)

  • mike karsnak November 19, 2010, 11:19 am

    Interesting medium.Just starting yupo. Can you reccomend some books.Thanks,Mike

    • Sandrine Pelissier November 19, 2010, 11:33 am

      Hello Mike,
      I don’t know about any book yet on the market specifically about painting on yupo paper, but I am sure some will be published soon. If you find one, please let me know.
      I personally bought a DVD from George James and found it very helpful when I was starting.
      Here is a link to his website :
      You will find also lots of demos on the web, youtube has quite a few free videos of demos.
      Hope this helps

  • Holly Herick Design September 9, 2010, 9:36 pm

    Thanks, I am trying to read all about Yupo. The first painting I did on Yupo was awful, but now I am starting to like it. It has forced me to be more free with my artwork.

  • Holly Herick Design September 9, 2010, 9:10 pm

    I set a couple in between tissue paper layers about a week after I did them and some of the paint was absorbed into the tissue paper. I will use a dryer and fixative and see how that works. Thanks for the info, I love your work, especially the portraits.

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 9, 2010, 9:30 pm

      You have to be carefull with the hair dryer, I had yupo paper buckling because of the heat of the hair dryer, and it won’t go back to flat.

      • Elizabeth January 25, 2015, 1:13 pm

        I had a similar experience. You might try a low temperature in a drymount press. I seemed to flatten the bubbled yupo, however, the success or failure may be due to how bubbled the yupo was.
        I have also tried using drymount adhesive with yupo with mixed results. If the backing is too thin the whole thing bows.

  • Holly Herick Design September 9, 2010, 3:13 pm

    I am having trouble getting my paint to dry completely. It is stick tacky weeks after and I am wondering if you have any suggestions.

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 9, 2010, 8:38 pm

      Hello Holly,
      Thanks for visiting my blog.
      Watercolor might stay a little bit sticky, especially if the paint is not diluted so much. I usually frame my finished paintings or keep them in a portfolio under plastic so no dust is going to adhere to the paint, I never had a painting so sticky that it would adhere to the plastic, did you?
      I also avoid touching the painted surface because any moisture might disrupt the paint, and also because of the oil on the skin.

    • Elizabeth January 25, 2015, 1:07 pm

      It could be the type of paint you are using Artist Mark Mehaffey says to not use Graham watercolor paint or any paint that has a honey base on Yupo. It remains sticky.

  • Rick Daddario April 30, 2010, 12:27 pm

    thanks for displaying and writing about some of the possibilities with Yupo paper. i’ve been hearing about it lately altho i’ve yet to experiment with it. it sounds like sizing taken to the extreme – no absorption, may be almost like painting on glass. it looks like there is almost no tooth – quite smooth, is that always the case or are there a variety of textures available in Yupo? is it an archival paper? …just curious… may be i better try some out. fun.

    • sandrinepelissier April 30, 2010, 5:52 pm

      Yes, Rick you are right, the feeling is the same as painting on glass.
      By the way I say Yupo paper because it looks like paper but it is actually a flexible plastic sheet. It’s very resistant too, almost impossible to tear, I tried…
      There is no tooth at all, and they are not manufacturing this paper with a choice of textures.
      The only way I found to add texture on this paper is to paint with acrylics and gel medium or add a paper collage with gel medium and then I get some texture , and am able to use pastel highlights for example.
      It’s archival in the sense that it is acid free, but if used with watercolors it’s better to frame or at least protect the painting from water.

      • Rick Daddario April 30, 2010, 8:55 pm

        aloha & thank you Sandrine – i’ll have to look into it. the more i find out about it the more questions – intrigured – i become. i’m thinking it’s probably reasonably durable – with plastics now it can be made so that it’ll last a considerable while – as in gardening tools – or break down in a few weeks – as in shopping bags – i’ll check on that. thanks.

        resisting tears is okay, i expect it’ll cut tho and may be punch? may be light to heavy sanding for a tooth as well as impasto – the thicker bodied acrylic paints… and it sounds like it might be great for collaging and other light attachments… ha. yeah, my mind is springboarding with ideas and possibilities… i have occasionally painted on plastics of one type or another and that slick surface has a…. slickery feel to it that’s fun and some great effects possibilities… cool. thanks for the info and reply… looks like i may have to experiment! way fun. – aloha – Wrick

  • lindahalcombfineart April 30, 2010, 12:25 pm

    Several artists that blog here paint on Yupo. Your tips are appreciated!

    • sandrinepelissier April 30, 2010, 5:32 pm

      Thank you Linda, I saw on your blog you have some very nice watercolor florals on Artist Trading Cards.
      I don’t know much yet about how the trading works but it seems like a very fun way to make art.

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