Testing a new transfer method

I’ve been thinking on this for a while now, because sketching directly on a canvas with watercolor ground is not a very satisfactory experience. Especially with fine point mechanical pencils. It works a little better with a more blunt softer lead. But it makes transferring sketches difficult.

I decided to try something I did long ago in college, back when I was doing intaglio printmaking. There’s a technique called Chinecollé where you take some lightweight paper (like fancy Japanese rice papers) and bond it to a heavier surface for support.

I dug up some rice paper I bought a long time ago when my husband wanted me to teach him traditional Chinese brushwork. It’s light, very porous, and extremely absorbent. I traced and refined my sketch on the rice paper.

I then took my canvas and with a wide flat brush applied a layer of watercolor ground over the whole surface. 

While everything was still wet, I laid my rice paper sketch directly into the watercolor ground, making sure there were no air bubbles. I gently wet the upper surface. Can’t brush it because the moistened rice paper was so delicate it tore and wrinkled very easily.

I let it dry overnight, and was very happy with the way the rice paper had adhered. I then took transparent watercolor ground (I’ve only used the White before. This is my first time using the Transparent) and painted a thick layer over the top of everything. This is where I am currently, letting that layer dry. I’ll be applying another layer, and then sanding it smooth before painting.

Here’s a smaller mini 3×3 inch canvas where I followed the same steps as I did on the larger canvas, in parallel. It’s my test, to see how the paint will sit on the final surface. I only did one layer of ground on top of the rice paper for this small one, and There is a lot of absorbancy of the pigment, I think because the rice paper might still be exposed a little too much. But in general I’m pleased with how it’s working out. I think the secondary layer of ground on my larger piece will fix any excess absorbancy.

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  1. Kim Heise

    very interesting, thanks for posting this! do you always paint on canvas? do you prefer it over papers?

    • Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

      I usually paint on Strathmore Heavyweight Illustration board 500 series. But lately I’ve been experimenting with canvas.

  2. GuiseMaker

    Thank you for sharing. I have always been turned off of painting with watercolor on canvas because I work very detailed, and want my blending to be just so. I might give this a go one day!

  3. Terry

    Great idea Steph, it’s always been the bane of my life trying to transfer an original drawing on to canvas … Just an thought what if you had something to support the rice paper, and run it through the printer

    • Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

      I actually like having the opportunity to redraw my initial sketch to refine and clean it up, so I don’t mind that step. But yes, I do know many artists who print their sketches directly onto their painting surface

  4. Tammie Lee

    so interesting to hear about your experiment. I hope it works out wonderfully for you. Thank you for sharing this process.

  5. Gina

    Hi Stephanie,

    Love this idea but was wondering do you think tracing paper would work instead of rice paper? Thanks!

  6. Janine

    Just the thing I was trying to figure out for my own work. Only I want to transfer a portion of my base sketch onto watercolour paper I have mounted on to board. This technique may be worth trying. I got some of the transparent ground to try, but still wondering how similar it is to mixing a blend of clear gesso with clear molding paste, then sanding it a bit. I tried a bit of that using acrylic ink in a watercolour manner and it seems to work. Man no end to spending money on art supplies. But I have a very specific plan for how I want to develop my new style of art. Thanks for your awesome blog.

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