How To Paint With Watercolor on Newspaper

Painting on newspapers creates an interesting, mixed-media piece of art. The medium provides an unusual and engaging visual texture you can’t achieve with regular watercolor paper. However, painting with watercolor on a newspaper creates challenges that you must manage carefully since failing to take the correct measures may ruin your artwork.

How To Paint With Watercolor on Newspaper

To paint with watercolor on newspaper, start by gathering what you need, covering the working area and marking your mat board. Then, apply gel medium, place the newspaper flat on the board and let it dry. Priming the page, sketching, and painting follow next, ending with sealing the painting. 

This article identifies the challenges of painting on newsprint and explains How To Paint With Watercolor on Newspaper.

What Are the Difficulties of Painting Watercolor on Newspaper?

A newspaper is very thin. Applying watercolors will likely turn the paper transparent or tear through the surface. Additionally, watercolors may wrinkle newsprint, damaging the art. 

However, painting with watercolorsOpens in a new tab. on the newspaper is possible with the correct preparation.

Water causes the newspaper fibers to expand. The expansion causes buckling. Buckling damages your painting in two ways: the paint gathers at the bottom of the buckle, causing uneven distribution, and the buckles dry in place.

Since the newspaper is thin, attempting to flatten buckles will result in tears. The paper absorbs the pigment, resulting in less dramatic color. 

Don’t despair though, it’s possible to paint on a newspaper with the proper preparation. Here’s how to go about it. 

Gather Your Supplies

Painting on newspapers requires more supplies than simply the daily post and watercolors . You may keep some of these products on hand. However, some are a bit more specific. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Waste paper or a tarp to protect your work surface
  • Pencils
  • Mat board sized to your art
  • A large, soft brush
  • A soft eraser
  • Gel Medium
  • Clear gesso: this substance primes your newspaper, so the watercolor better adheres to the surface. 
  • A brayer
  • Gel medium: the gel medium serves as an adhesive and is used to attach the newspaper to your matboard.

Make sure your mat board is appropriately sized, as it will provide stability to your project, as well as a framing guide once your painting is complete.

Cover Your Work Surface

Working with paint creates the possibility of a mess. You’ll be using substances that may stain or ruin your furniture. Cover your work surface with a material you don’t mind ruining. 

You can use any of the following:

  • Parchment
  • Old newspapers
  • Butcher paper
  • Tarps
  • Paper

Any barrier can serve as protection for your work surface; just make certain it exceeds the size of your project.

Mark Your Mat Board

Figure out where you want your painting to sit on the mat board. Place it carefully; the newspaper is delicate and tears easily, but the page needs to be flat and wrinkle-free. 

Once you’ve placed your page in the desired location on the mat, use your pencil to lightly trace the corners onto the board. Do this softly; if your placement isn’t precise, you may need to erase those marks, and the fragile paper may tear under vigorous erasing.

Apply the Gel Medium

Use your soft brush to cover the page in the gel mediumOpens in a new tab.. Start from the center of the page and work your way to the edges of the paper. Apply the medium carefully; keep the layer thin and even, but be sure to coat the entire surface. Be sure to keep the paper level; smooth away any blobs and lumps of the medium.

Place the Page on the Board

The next step is to place the paper on your mat board. Do this immediately after applying the medium. Use your pencil marks to guide your placement and try your best to keep within those lines. Also, remember to press the page flat against the board.

Flatten the Paper

You need your painting surface to be flat, both for the art’s sake and because watercolors cause wrinkles. A brayer works best, as it rolls any air bubbles and wrinkles out of the paper. You can also use a credit card or a different flattening method. However, remember the thin paper tears easily. A brayer rolls gently over the paper and is more likely to leave your painting surface intact.

This process may push some of the gel out from between the board and paper. Simply wipe any excess medium away with a paper towel.

Let the Paper Dry

The gel medium needs to dry before you can continue your project—the substance takes between 45 minutes and an hour to sufficiently set. 

Your board may begin to curl throughout the drying process. Nip bowing in the bud by placing weights on the board. Use books or other flat weights for the process. Allow about four hours for the leveling process, giving extra time for humid days. 

Once the page is dry, carefully erase any lingering pencil linesOpens in a new tab..

Prime the Page

Now that your page is firmly attached to your mat board, it’s time to apply the gesso. Use the soft brush to apply a thin layer, beginning at the center of the page and working towards the edges. 

Keep the application even; you are creating the surface you will ultimately be painting on, and watercolors often pool. Even slightly uneven surfaces may cause the paint to slide and pool. 

Don’t panic if tiny air bubbles develop. These are natural and vanish once the gesso dries.

Jess KarpOpens in a new tab.

Sketch Your Design

Feel free to skip this step if you’re very confident in your abilities and want to just start painting. However, many artists benefit from having guidelines to adhere to. 

Sketch lightly; remember, even reinforced, newspaper tears easily. Additionally, watercolors will cover soft lines more effectively. 

Paint Your Design

It’s time to use the watercolors! The paints will appear darker and more intense than they do on traditional paper. The gesso keeps the pigment more concentrated while applying several light layers of paint enables you to control the color. 

Allow plenty of time for your paint to dry. The gesso often slows down the process, so don’t apply the rules of watercolor paper to your newspaper painting. 

Seal It

This is another optional step. That being said, sealing your painting preserves the color and integrity of the art. You can use a spray-on sealant here. A spray-on sealant allows you to apply a nice, even layer over the painting without the risk of developing blobs. 

Final Words

Successfully painting with watercolor on a newspaper requires a little extra work and know-how. However, proper preparation and using the correct supplies make the task manageable and help you to create unique and unusual art.

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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