Watercolor Painting on YUPO Paper

"le Cadeau", by Robert Leedy, watercolor on YUPO paper, 10.25" x 13.5".

“le Cadeau”, by Robert Leedy, watercolor on YUPO paper, 10.25″ x 13.5″.

Whenever I want to stir up the Bucket of Routine, I reach for a sheet of YUPO paper.

YUPO is a Japanese corporation and large producer of synthetic paper by the same name. It’s relatively new (1996) American manufacturing facility produces a bright, white, synthetic, 100% recyclable, waterproof, slick-surfaced paper by the same name. It is available in many types, grades, and weights. Though most of their business is in the printing, design and packaging industries, many fine artists – especially watercolorists – have embraced the paper for it’s unique qualities.

YUPO is waterproof, lays flat, resists tearing, and does not buckle which eliminates the need for stretching or taping the paper down to a rigid backing.

Painting on it is also a unique experience.

Or, as I tell my watercolor students when they are painting too tightly and need a good loosening up, “it’s like ice skating while drunk.”

This paper will definitely throw you out of your comfort zone. It is like normal Hot Press watercolor paper on steroids. The slick surface does not readily absorb paint and you find yourself dealing with little puddles of color on your paper. The drying time is a lot longer as well and, unlike regular watercolor paper, facilitating the drying time with a hair dryer is often not very successful because you end up blowing the puddles around to other areas of the paper. The hair dryer also has a tendency to buckle the paper from the heat. I also noticed that photographic lamps will have a bit of an effect on the paper.

The really cool effect is that the washes of paint can be completely lifted to give a paint-free area of white which either allows you to preserve your whites (something very important in watercolor painting) after the fact – or – allows you to correct mistakes or change colors. You can lift broad areas of color out with a paper towel or you can be quite precise and lift small areas with a clean, wet brush. The latter allows you much more control than if you were to initially block areas of white with masking fluid – which is how it is often accomplished on regular cotton rag watercolor paper. I have never been a fan of masking fluid simply because it is not precise in small, detailed areas and it is always immediately identifiable in a painting. One of these days, someone will develop a technique in the detailed application of masking fluid and that will probably change my mind.

It is a good idea to clean your YUPO paper before use. Dirt and oil from your hands or elsewhere will hinder your painting – acting as a sort of resist that will not accept paint. Simple soap and water will do. And because the paper is waterproof, this will not hurt it.

You will most likely need to adjust your normal ratio of pigment to water. I use a lot less water in my paint mixture when I paint on YUPO. When lifting color out of the paper, it is a good idea to have a good supply of fresh, clean water, a natural sponge, some paper towels and Kleenex on hand. It normally requires multiple passes with a clean, damp brush to pull all color out of an area. Remember to rinse your brush and blot it dry after each pass. Vary your brush sizes to add interest. Smaller brushes will give you a bit more control.

The important thing is to relax and not get frustrated by the fact that you will have less control over the paint than you normally do on regular watercolor paper. By all means, have fun with the process.

YUPO’s logo is an orange globe symbolizing the sun and a black circle “expressing the universe.” According to the company, it represents the “generous human cheer, individuality and creativity. The hand written touch appeals to ‘YUPO’ which expresses natural and genuine sensitivity as well as creativity. The combination of the globe and circle has philosophical image of harmony and also shows that ‘YUPO’ coexists with man, the earth and the universe.”The YUPO logo.

YUPO touts that their paper is 100% recyclable and it is “tree-free”. They also claim that their manufacturing facility is quite green and has won awards as a result. That is what they say but I am not necessarily endorsing this claim.

My watercolor students either love or hate the paper. It brings out the extremism in everyone.

I enjoy painting on it.

Control freaks should sit this one out. And adventure lovers should go for a test drive.

Robert Leedy is an artist from Jacksonville, Florida who works primarily in watercolor. He teaches watercolor classes at The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach and also at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville. His work may be seen at The Southlight Gallery and at his studio in The CoRK Arts District in Jacksonville, Florida.
[the above YUPO logo is by no means an endorsement of my work ]

About this entry