Can You Use Oil Paint On Mixed Media Paper?

Can You Use Oil Paint on Mixed Media Paper

Pigments mixed with oil, or oil paint, have been used since the 7th century as a painting technique. Oil painting is most often done on canvas or wood, as oil paint can negatively alter many paper types due to their lack of rigidity.

Mixed media paper is a common type of paper many artists use. The paper is a mix between thick watercolor paper and smoother drawing paper, allowing artists to use mixed media paper for both painting and sketching.

While not generally considered compatible, mixed media paper is a viable option for oil painting. However, for oil paint to set properly on mixed media paper, you need to prime the paper first with acrylic gesso.

In the rest of this article, I will discuss why oil painting on mixed media paper is beneficial. I will also provide step-by-step instructions on how to prime paper for oil painting.

Why It’s possible Use Oil Paint on Mixed Media Paper

Canvas and wood can be expensive. If you are just starting to paint, practicing, or merely testing oil paints, you probably don’t want to use them. 

Mixed media paper allows an artist to combine wet media with a dry finish, making it a perfect choice for oil painting when on a budget. 

There are a few reasons why oil painting on paper is beneficial: 

  • Paper is cost-effective
  • It is better for studies or sketches
  • You can mount it differently and in more ways than either canvas or wood

Paper Is Cost-Effective

As I’ve said before, canvas and wood can be costly. Paper is an excellent medium for oil painting if you are on a budget, especially when you are first starting out, as you are more prone to make mistakes.

Paper Is Better for Studies or Sketches

When testing oil paints or painting thumbnail sketches, using paper is a terrific option. Thumbnail sketches only take up a small space, so it would be cheaper to do multiple thumbnail sketches on a single canvas — if you want to oil paint the sketches on canvas.

However, if you want to test your oil paint color mixing on canvas or wood, I would suggest having a specific canvas or wooden board. Only for testing your paints and nothing else.

Paper Can Be Mounted Differently

There are only a few ways that canvas and wood can be mounted on the walls, most often with expensive framing. However, you can mount paper in various ways, including box mounting, which would lend it a modern look.

How To Properly Prime Your Paper

No matter what type of paper you use — mixed media, watercolor, or printmaking — priming the paper prior to painting with oil paint is key. The only paper you do not have to prime before painting is paper specifically made for oil painting.

When you prime your paper correctly, you protect the paper’s fibers from absorbing oil. This situation could lead to the paper darkening, turning brittle, and ultimately deteriorating.

Here are the five steps to prime your paper:

Step One: Choose Your Paper

The first step in priming paper for oil painting is to choose the paper to use. When deciding on the paper, ensure that it is acid-free and of good quality. 

Heavier paper is ideal. Go for a weight of 300 gsm (140 lbs) or 640 gsm (300 lbs) like this Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media Pad. The blue toned media paper is ideal for light, dark, wet or dry media. The paper is also acid-free and made from recycled material making it eco-friendly. 

Strathmore 400 Series Toned Blue Mixed Media Pad, 11'x14' Glue Bound, 15 Sheets per Pad
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Strathmore 400 Series Toned Blue Mixed Media Pad, 11"x14" Glue Bound, 15 Sheets per Pad
  • Heavyweight blue toned paper perfect for light and dark media
  • Combined characteristics of watercolor and drawing sheet paper for wet and dry media
  • 184 lb. / 300 gsm and made in the USA

Last update on 2022-09-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step Two: Apply Acrylic Gesso

After choosing your paper, use masking tape to fix the paper to a panel or strong board. This will ensure that the paper lies flat.

Apply a layer of acrylic gesso to the paper, brushing towards a single direction, and let it dry completely. If you want, lay down some weights on the edges while the paper is drying. Doing so will help ensure that the paper does not curl.

Once the layer of gesso is fully dry, apply a second layer, having the brush strokes perpendicular to the first layer.

The brush you use should be about two to three inches (5.08 centimeters to 7.62 centimeters) in length. That said, choose your brush depending on the results you wish to achieve.For instance, if you are aiming for a smooth finish, use a soft brush, whereas if you want a finish with more texture, use a bristled brush.

Step Three: Apply Your Primer (Oil-Based) 

If you are using primed paper for your studies, practice, or to make thumbnail sketches, this step is unnecessary. However, if the paper is for more serious painting, adding an oil-based primer is advisable.

Oil-based primer is less porous than gesso, so applying it will provide a surface that’s non-absorbent for you to paint on. 

Paint a single layer of primer (oil-based) on top of the second layer of gesso. Let it dry completely before attempting to do anything else.

Step Four: Pre-Tone the Paper

Another optional step is pre-toning the paper using acrylic paint prior to oil painting. Pre-toning  helps due to a couple of reasons. For starters, having a solid ground color helps to create a starting mid-tone with toned paper that will unify the composition of your painting.

Pre-toning the paper is also helpful psychologically. This is because starting with a ground color on the paper instead of the white blank page can be less unnerving.

The colors artists use to pre-tone the paper depend on their experience and the type of painting they wish to create. Some choose harmonious colors, while others choose complementary palettes for contrast. Some common colors used for their versatility are burnt sienna and yellow ochre. In terms of contrast, reds can be applied to enhance the blues in a seascape.

Most figurative painters use greens or grays for the pre-toner, whereas landscape painters are more likely to choose warmer colors.

Step Five: Start Painting

You can get ready to oil paint the paper once the acrylic toner has completely dried. The process is similar to painting on either wood or canvas.

If you decide to mount your painting on a box frame, you might want to mount the primed paper before painting. When doing this, ensure the box frame is a bit smaller than your paper. This will enable you to trim the paper much closer to the edge of the frame. 

WATCH – Oil Paint on Paper? Learn How to Use Oil Paint on Paper

Malcolm Dewey

Final Words

You can use oil paint on mixed media paper as long as you prime the paper before painting. If you oil paint on paper before priming it, the paper is likely to darken, become brittle, and even deteriorate.

VIDEO. Of course, that does not mean you can’t have some fun with paper collage like Jaime has! WATCH – Mixed media paper collage with oil and cold wax work in progress

Art and Wine with Jaime Byrd
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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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