papermaking studio safetygeneral studio safety

Paste Paper






A simple method of decorating paper for bookbinding is paste marbling which is similar to finger painting. Colored paste is spread onto paper and patterns are drawn with fingers, sticks, combs, etc. Some very intersting and intricate designs can be created.

Materials and Supplies

  • rice flour and plain wheat flour
  • or white flour
  • cold water
  • stainless steel pan
  • or glass bowl in a pan of water 
  • liquid soap
  • jars and mixing spoons for each color 
  • drawing paper
  • water mixable pigments 
  • sponges
  • paint brushes 
  • sponges 
  • rags 
  • newspaper
  • Shallow pan for water to dampen paper
  • pressing boards / weights

Mixing Paste

New preferred recipe:

    3 cups water
    4 Tablespoons of rice flour
    3 Tablespoons of wheat flour
      Cook until the consistency of a thin custard.
      Add one teaspoon liquid soap.
      Add 1- 3 T of pigment (tube acrylic works well)

Old Recipe:

Use a stainless steel pan or glass bowl in a pan of water 

  • 3 oz. (85 grams) white flour (3/4 c.)
  • 1 1/8 pint (500 ml) cold water  (2 cups)


  • Mix flour to a paste and let stand for 30 minutes
  • Gradually bring to a boil
  • Stir constantly.
  • Cook for 10 minutes
  • Cool before use
  • Paste should be the consistency of unwhipped heavy cream
  • Runnier for powdered pigments.
  • If paste seems too thick, add cold water.

Storage of paste

  • Do not keep more than a day or two. 


  • powder paints
  • poster paints
  • watercolor printing inks


  • Drawing paper
  • needs to not be too absorbent or too thin
  • Not too glossy
  • Drag paper through water to "relax" it and sponge it on to plexi before decorating

Mix Paste Color

  • Strong color.
  • 2-3 teaspoons of pigment per 1/2 cup of paste.
  • colors pale as they dry
  • Experiment with different ratios of pigment to paste

Decorating Techniques

Method One: Paste on Paper 

  • Paper on work surface
  • Apply paste color to edges of paper
  • Spread paste fairly thickly with brush
  • Use brush or sponge to lift paper and create effect
  • Peel off work surface and lay on newsprint

Method Two: Paper on Paste (this has a softer effect than Paste on Paper)    

  • Paste up work surface
  • Lay paper onto surface
  • Smooth over back with light cloth
  • Peel off work surface and lay on newsprint

Method Three: Use of Textural Material  

  • Notched cardboard
  • Pull in zig zag patterns

Dry Paper

  • Drape over copper pipes to dry
  • When sheets are dry they can be flattened with heavy books or pressed with a warm iron on the reverse side.
  • Curled and dampened paper where paste shrinks as it dries
  • Paste paper will flatten when pasted onto a surface
  • Flatten paper between pressing boards and weights
  • Pull in zig zag patterns

Clean Work surface

  • Clean workstation between sheet decoration


Layer colors: 

  • Allow layer to dry then superimpose a new color layer on top.
  • You can redampen a sheet after drying to apply a second layer of color but the color is somewhat fragile.

Beth LaCour 2001-2003