Synthetic paper is a relatively new surface option for artists that provides an interesting alternative to traditional cellulose-based art papers and allows for new ways of working with a variety of watercolours and mixed media.
Originally developed for printing labels and packaging, Yupo by Legion Paper is bright white, plant-fibre free and 100% recyclable. It is made from heated polypropylene pellets, extruded to form the layers of paper and then stretched using a cross direction technique called biaxial orientation. This process means that Yupo paper is exceptionally strong, tear-resistant and has an incredibly smooth surface.
There is no need to stretch, soak or prepare synthetic paper in any way before working as it is naturally buckle-free and remains perfectly flat. The smooth non-porous surface can be used with a combination of media, including watercolour, gouache, alcohol ink, acrylic paint, monotype, offset printing, debossing, oil pastel, graphite and silkscreen and crayon.
Painting on synthetic paper can be described like painting on glass but it also has enough tooth to work in pencil and crayon. When using watercolour it is best suited to a loose painting style as layers of wet paint will sit on top of the paper and may take a little longer to dry because it is completely non-absorbent.
Both waterproof and stain resistant, it allows for exceptional lifting with all media types and can essentially be wiped completely clean, even after they have dried. Therefore, it is also important to use finishing spray in order for the work to remain stable. It is recommended to use several light, even coats of a non-yellowing acrylic fixative, rather than one heavy coat which could pool or drip.
Yupo is available in 3 weights: Heavy opaque (390 gsm), Medium opaque (200 gsm) and Translucent (153 gsm) which is especially useful for backlit applications. Each weight of Yupo is available as either single sheets or gummed pads in a range of sizes.
Similar to Yupo, Lana Vanguard is a 100% polypropylene paper. It possesses the same appealing characteristics as Yupo and is available in 200 gsm pad or sheets.
Synthetic papers normally enter the waste stream at a far slower rate than conventional papers. Since it is a polypropylene plastic film, it is fully recyclable and will remain inert in any approved landfill. If safely incinerated in a modern incinerator with an atmosphere of excess oxygen, it will yield only water, carbon dioxide, and ash.