Making Paste Papers

making paste papers for collage text over dark blue textured paper


This year, over at Slamseys Journal, the Summer Creative Challenge is in full swing. The main aim of the annual challenge is to have fun, perhaps involving the children over the holidays or just making some time for yourself as you let go of any insecurities you might have about your artistic talent and focus on enjoying the process rather than the result.

This year, the Challenge is to make a regular habit of being creative with a suggestion every weekday for things you might do. Day Two of the challenge was Making a Mark, a wonderfully liberating exercise in adding a wash of colour to paper and then flicking, dribbling and blowing paint and ink. An activity that involves absolutely no skill but a degree of messiness and haphazard results. Right up my street.

In a serendipitous twist, on the day of that post, I was at a collage workshop with Mark Hearld, which involved a great deal of mark making with paste paint to use in our collages. In fact, that was probably the bit I enjoyed most about the day as my dexterity with scissors leaves much to be desired.

I first tried Paste Painting as a youngster (it’s in the book Fun with Art by Martin & Cherille Mayhew) and later used it on MDF to make ploughed fields as part of a farmyard set for my children. One summer holiday we spent a very happy afternoon puddling about with paste paint and I remember one of the children doing a wonderful bowl of spaghetti picture. Since then, it’s another of those techniques that I’ve tried and dismissed. Until now! I have a new found enthusiasm and have been making a pile of decorated papers.

Paste papers were originally used by bookbinders as end papers and for covers. The paste paint is made from a mixture of flour and water, which is then brushed or spread onto paper and marks made with fingers, scrapers, combs and any number of other items to form a pattern. I used dry copy paper, brown paper and (plain) newsprint for my first experimentation but heavier paper may need to be dampened first.

At the workshop, the paste was made with strong flour but as we have someone in the family with coeliac disease (a bit of a downer for a family that grows wheat!) who may give paste painting a go, I used cornflour and it worked just as well. In fact, I think the cornflour gives a slight sheen to the paper. The recipe is at the bottom of the page.

When you’re ready to use your paste, put a couple of tablespoons into a small bowl or plastic pot and mix in some acrylic paint or artist’s ink. It’s a bit trial and error for amounts but I started with a small squirt of acrylic paint and added more paste or colour as needed.

paste paper pattern made with cardboard comb

Use a wide brush (I used a cheap set of decorator’s brushes) to brush the paste paint onto your paper generously, going both crossways and lengthways. Then take your marking tool of choice and drag it across the paper to make a mark. You can leave it as it is or repeat with another colour. on top. The pattern above was made with two card combs. One was cut with wide teeth and the other cut with pinking shears.


blue paste paper patterned with rubber tipped paint brush

These marks were made with a rubber tipped paint brush (brown paper).


Blue paste paper fingertip marks

Brush on the colour, fold the paper in half and prod with your fingertips. Additional marks were made with a broad tipped cotton bud.


Blue and dark blue paste paper

A light blue coat was covered with a darker blue and the dark blue lifted off with scrunched up newspaper.


Paste paper dark blue dabbed on

This time the paste paint was dabbed onto the paper with a piece of scrunched up newspaper. It would make a great background to a collage. Stormy sky? Crashing waves?

Making these papers is so easy and by the end of a session you’ll have a heap of wonderfully textured and patterned paper. Let’s be honest, it’s only a small step up from finger painting.

Leave the papers to dry but don’t stack them one on top of another because they’ll stick together. If you use thin paper, it may curl up at the edges as it dries. This doesn’t matter if you’re using it for collage as it will flatten when you spread PVA glue onto it, but you could press it under something heavy or iron it.

Paste Paint

Textured paint made from flour and water

  • 1 part flour or cornflour
  • 6.5 parts water
  1. Measure the flour into a saucepan and slowly stir in the water.

  2. Heat it gently, stirring all the time, until the mixture comes to the boil. Keep stirring and let it simmer for about a minute. You should now have a thick sauce like mixture.

  3. Pour into a bowl, cover the top with a circle of baking parchment to stop a skin forming and leave to cool. If you’re leaving it overnight, pop it in the fridge. If your paste has gone lumpy or after refrigeration looks too thick, whizz it with a stick blender and add a little more water if necessary. It should be mayonnaise consistency.

Recipe Notes

Paste Paint will keep in the fridge for a few days, but will then start to go mouldy. An ideal quantity to start with is 1/4 cup of flour.

4 thoughts on “Making Paste Papers

    1. I love things with the element of chance – mainly because I’m not very good at planning. Do have a go, it’s fun.

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