Laminated Papers

Last month, Randi Parkhurst came to town and taught a paper embellishing class. One of her techniques involves using matte medium to laminate together two sheets of a type of translucent paper from the hardware store. We painted the papers before adhering them. Threads and other things were sandwiched in between the sheets. I’d long been wanting to play around with laminating papers, so this was an interesting concept to me.

Once back in my own space, I decided to play around with some other materials. I wanted to use handmade paper. And I wanted to use paste, rather than matte medium. This is just a personal preference. I like paste. I wound up using translucent Japanese tissue-style washi and Thai unryu in different colors. Any similar type of paper would work. I began by brushing rice starch paste over a sheet of the unryu:

Pasting Unryu

Then I placed some linen thread on top of that:

The thread will be embedded between the two layers of paper.

Then, another layer of unryu is pasted on top. It doesn’t have to be all the same color or same piece of paper. In fact, mixing it up a bit makes it more interesting. In the photo here the paper has been arranged on top:

Adding Paper on Top

Then I go back over it with more paste and leave it to dry. The threads appear to be sitting on top because the wet paper is so translucent. Once it is dry, it will be a bit more opaque:

Finished and Drying

While it is still wet, you can peel it off and hang to dry or place it on a drying rack or whatever other surface you like to dry things on. In general, I like to use sheets of spunbonded polyester for this purpose (sold under names like Reemay or Lutradur). They absorb moisture and help the drying process, but don’t stick. It is possible to just leave it to dry where it is if you don’t think it’ll stick permanently, but with a caveat: sometimes if you leave it in place — especially on something slick like glass or Plexiglas —  the side on the bottom will dry glossy and not have a nice paper texture.  The one above is on a piece of Plexiglas. (If you do anything like this with acrylic medium, don’t leave it to dry on Plexiglas! It can become permanently bonded.)

Drying Sheet of Laminated Thread Paper
Here are straight threads using a piece of corrugated plastic as a working surface. I left it to dry on the board and both sides came out the same — no unexpected glossiness on the back.

You can also put things like stamps between the sheets of tissue-style papers:

The side that dried against the plexiglas wound up being glossy.
The side that dried against the Plexiglas wound up being glossy, but in this instance I actually liked it.
Sample Laminated Papers
Samples of dried and finished laminated papers.

I love the texture of these finished papers. They have a nice crisp hand and are surprisingly sturdy. I’ve been using some of these in my latest “plaything” (sketchbook). I’ve been able to layer inks, colored pencils, washes… and more layers of the same, without any tearing. The papers hold up remarkably well. I guess this isn’t surprising, considering that handmade papers can be sized with starch. And if you think of it, these are also the basic ingredients for papier-maché (if you were to keep going with more layers). Here are a couple of Audubon birds collaged onto one of the finished papers. There are also some light colored pencil marks on the page:

Collaged page on top of laminated Unryu

This is the verso of the bird page, which I covered with layers of inks and pencils. Note in the previous picture there is virtually no bleed-through from this:

This is the other side of the birds, which was drawn with layers of inks and pencils. Note in the previous picture there is virtually no bleed through from this.

Next to that is more ink and pencil doodling:

Another example of a drawing on laminated Unryu

On the other side of it are more layers of ink and pencils along with generous sloshings from a water brush. It all goes on beautifully with minimal (if any) bleed-through:

On the verso are more layers of ink and pencils along with generous sloshings from a water brush.  It all goes on beautifully with minimal bleed-through.

Another example of scribblings on a laminated paper page:

Another Example on Laminated Unryu

And here is the other side of it. There’s a little bit of bleed-through, but it’s quite minimal. The orange marks you see came from me moving the pen in the wrong place. It’s not bleed-through from the previous page:

The verso of the previous one. There's a little bit of bleed-through, but it's quite minimal.

Paper with embedded stamps. It’s double-sided — I placed the stamps back-to-back:

Laminated with Stamps

I also drew over them. This is the other side of the previous embedded stamp page:

The verso of the previous embedded stamp page.

At any rate, this is a great way to create durable decorative papers from delicate handmade translucents such as Japanese tissues and unryu. I’m also planning to experiment with using paste as a sizing and/or ground on different kinds of handmade papers, whether I laminate them with other papers or not. [Please note: I slightly edited this post to add more information about drying.]

26 thoughts on “Laminated Papers”

  1. What magical fun. My finger itch to stroke many of those papers.

    Love, love, love the bird collage too.

    If these papers went into the sketch book which excited the interest of the small person the other day, I am not at all surprised at his fascination. And I hope you have created a life-long interest for him.

    • Thanks E.C. You’re kind. I do wish there was some way to provide a tactile example through the screen — they really do have a nice texture!

      This wasn’t the sketchbook the kid saw. That was the previous one. But it’s a similar idea. But funny you should mention it. I cut and pasted the Audubon birds in a coffee shop in Marin County, during my last recent medical trip south. I was sitting near a window. On the other side of the glass was a table where a couple was sitting. I was aware that the woman kept watching me through the window. (Perhaps thinking, “What’s that crazy woman doing with the scissors? Is she a security threat?”)

  2. You know I love your laminated papers! Where do you get the paste powder? Although I have SO much acrylic medium, I’d probably use that if I ever really do laminate paper. xo

    • The rice starch came from Hollander’s, but I’m sure it’s available in other places as well. Note that it’s not the same thing as rice flour.

      However, you can also make paste from plain old corn starch. I haven’t tried it for this purpose, but I’m sure it would work. An easy recipe: 1T corn starch to 9T water in a saucepan. Stir well and bring to a boil, continuing to stir constantly. Cook until it begins to thicken and turn somewhat translucent. Remove from heat and cool before using. Straining it before use is also a good idea (same goes for the rice starch paste). A heck of a lot cheaper than matte medium. ;-) If you do use acrylic, as I mentioned, don’t let it dry on Plexiglas. I learned this from personal experience…!

  3. Glorious papers, Ellen; I LOVE them!
    Thank you for sharing this technique; it is indeed a wonderful way to create textures and new looks and feel to papers. I agree with your choice of paste; much more organic than acrylic medium…

      • Thank you Ellen; I love being in NYC and even though not for very long, I still manage to gather all sorts of inspiring impressions…

    • Greetings Di. Funny you should say that… I’ve been thinking of printing on paste-sized paper, just to see what it would do. I think I would use a backing sheet if I did(?). Even though these are quite hardy, I’d still hate to be picking shredded handmade paper out of the printer!

  4. Fascinating- I’ve used matt medium to laminate tissue before and prepare it for staining but never rice or corn starch! And they are great papers. Are they water resistant one dried? Or do you have to keep them away from water?

    • Interesting question. I’m not sure they would tolerate being saturated to the extent that something coated with matte medium would. However, that said, I do use water-soluble colored pencils with a drippy wet water brush on them, as well as damp Pitt ink markers just fine. This is also the same paste that I use for paste painting, and those (not done on handmade paper) can actually be submerged in water and repainted over without any damage to the previous layer of paste painting. So, I guess the answer is that they do tolerate some degree of wetness.

      • Well then I may just have to give that a try. I itch to have a nice fat book like yours in my hands now, full of interesting surfaces and playfulness :) thanks for sharing all of this Ellen.

  5. Thank you for this inside look of your plaything – and the paper. I have been so curious to see what you do with this interesting looking pages that I am very sorry to be a week late. Don’t know how that happend.

    The bird collage is totally amazing. I know you have been making paper collages a lot before, but I am still and every time amazed when I see one (my favorite is the London underground one) and find it hard to believe it can be done at all.
    I have been very interested in seeing what you would put on a page that is so interesting as it is. But the birds sit perfectly on this page.

    The detailed description of how to make laminated paper is very interesting! – I would also prefer paste every time over acrylic medium. I guess the advantage of acrylics would be that you wouldn’t have to stick to materials that can absorb the paste. In any case your results are stunning.

    • Dearest Hilke, please do not apologize for leaving a comment “late.” Especially as you know how up-to-date (heh) I am with everyone (I’ve actually read your post about the Nightmare boxes, and have been planning to go back to comment…! You know how much I love that book! I am, alas, so slow these days.)

      As for the birds, I’d say most of the artistry there belongs to Audubon. ;-) I didn’t do much except clip them out and glue them on. But I did like the way they looked there. You are so kind… I do, as you know, like to cut and paste things! The sketchbooks really are a great way to just play around with different arrangements of things. I really do appreciate your enthusiasm for them.

      I actually thought a lot about your post about using gesso on pages. It got me thinking about maybe different ways of using paste as a sort of ground too, perhaps. I am going to play around with this some more, for sure. You were definitely an inspiration!

      I do plan to post some more photos of a few more page spreads soon. I’ve actually–if you can believe it!–posted some on…. (I’m almost embarrassed to say it!)… Flickr(!). (They changed the interface again–it’s almost usable now. So I’ve been dipping my toe back in over there a little, hoping they don’t ruin everything again. I think I’ll be at both Ipernity and there for a bit. I’ll see… I really do not at all trust Yahoo.) At any rate, I’ll be posting more about the sketchbook pages soon. I’m so glad you find them interesting!

      • I am glad to read that Flickr is working for you again. I miss Flickr very much. I just briefly logged in, but to me it looks as unbearable as before. Maybe we were annoyed by different things, or maybe you are in a test-group for something new and I am not?

        • What do your Flickr pages look like? Is it the terrible all-black with white text on the sidebar? That, for me, has been replaced by the photo on top with comments back on the bottom, somewhat better designed than during the first fiasco. It’s a design I can live with, if they don’t mess with it again(!). I know that a friend of mine here got the new version several days after I did, and I heard that some people in Europe were still getting the hideous all-black arrangement for now. It seems they are rolling it out slowly. I’ve missed Flickr a lot. I’ve missed my other friends who’ve stayed there. Ipernity is nice, and I’ve met some nice folks there–and I’ve been very happy to have you there!–but I find it isolating. For one thing, our images don’t show up in any Google search, and the groups are too small and under-used. It’s really a shame. I still don’t trust Yahoo and Flickr at all. They can turn around and destroy it all again, and probably will.

          • Ah, I have had the black on white writing for a while. The white on black lasted only for a couple of weeks. – Maybe I was within a testing group? But I heartily dislike how images are displayed, I don’t like the black backdrop, and the many oversized images instead of thumbnails make my computer super slow, although I am supposed to sit on a fast connection.
            I also very much dislike how the newsfeed now looks like for all the reasons above. I know there is a way to still see the old newsfeed. But I am not inclined to work my way around their bad, bad design choices.

            But who knows, maybe one day…

            • I absolutely agree with you about the things you don’t like about the latest incarnation of Flickr. I just figured, on the whole, compared to the previous two fiascos, I could learn to live with this version… for now. Partly, I have been managing a Flickr account for the local book arts guild all along, and so have been forced to sort of get used to the ridiculous news stream, etc. But it absolutely is not the same as before, and I despise Yahoo for ruining Flickr. I hadn’t realized how much of a community I had there, nor how often I went there, until it was ripped away. I’ve also noticed that most of the contacts I had who used to post constantly and who stayed through the changes, barely post at all anymore. Others have just disappeared. It’s really sad what they’ve done. That said, Ipernity is nice — and I’m sure glad you’re there! — but I do find it relatively isolating. So, for now, I plan to post (sporadically) to both for a while.

    • Thanks Pamela! I recognize you–you’re a regular commenter over at my friend Connie’s blog. So nice to see you here as well. I’m so glad you like the tutorials. I hope they help… or at least provide some inspiration. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Greetings Randi! What a lovely surprise to see your kind comment. Thank you. Your workshop was indeed quite an inspiration, and provided just the right encouragement for some fun experimentation. I hope it is clear that my choice of materials and technique here is simply me going off on a tangent, and not a rejection of yours. Each gives quite different results. I just like to experiment. My favorite workshops are the ones that inspire in just this sort of way, where participants get to learn interesting techniques that become the impetus to experiment with new materials and come up with something completely different. Thanks for teaching just that sort of workshop!

  6. Amaai, die pagina met de vogeltjes is prachtig. Wat een goeie techniek. Eens de verhuis achter de rug is probeer ik dat zeker eens. Ik moet mij nog verontschuldigen dat ik een beetje achter ben op blogs die ik volg…
    Dat groen en blauw met de draden en postzegels erin verwerkt is gewoonweg AF… Prachtig!

    • Such a complement! I have driven you to revert to Flemish! With my rusty German, I can actually make out some of what you wrote… there are some commonalities. However, for the benefit of us anglo monolinguals, Google translate claims you (more or less) said:

      Yowza, that page with the birds is beautiful. What a good technique. Once the move is over I try definitely agree. I have to apologize that I am a bit behind on blogs that I follow …
      That green and blue with the wires and stamps it processed is simply AF … Wonderful!

      I wish I could respond in Flemish, but am not able, alas. The closest I have come to the language was limited to a few days I once spent hearing Dutch in the Netherlands roughly 20 years ago…

      Thanks so much for the kind comment. It’s much appreciated. I do hope you are able to play around with the technique once you are settled in on this side of the Atlantic. It’s fun!

      And good luck with the move!!


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