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As promised, I have put together a step-by-step of how I am preparing the masa paper for use in my paintings. I recently purchased this paper from our art supply store. It can be found online, also. In the previous post, I included links to some sites where  I became inspired and learned how to do this.

Masa paper has two sides to it. One is soft and a little fuzzy. The other side is smooth and somewhat shiny. The instructions were to draw your image on the shiny side. I have done that twice, now. Both times, the image has washed off the paper. I think it could be achieved by using ink or crayon but I have not attempted that as yet. For future paintings, I am just going to do the drawing after I have wet and toned and glued the paper down.

Mark some corner of your masa paper on the shiny side with ink in a lower corner so you will know which side is which and crumple the paper.  I crumple the paper, open it gently and crumple it several times. This gives me many little hairline wrinkles.

Place that ball into a container of warm water and let it soak through. This does not take long.

Wring out the masa paper

and gently open it (it is very fragile at this time, so be careful not to tug and create tears) and lay it shiny side (marked side) down on your board. I lay it atop scott towels as the next step is a little messy and the paint can bleed through to the board and stain it.

While the paper is still wet, apply large washes of color. This color bleeds through the paper as well as settles a bit darker in the wrinkles. If you are concerned about certain colors in certain areas, remember your image is reversed in this step and plan accordingly.

While you are waiting for the above masa step to dry,  tape down a piece of watercolor paper to another board.  The watercolor paper should be larger than the size of the masa that you have just stained as you are going to glue it to this surface.  I used 140 lb coldpress  paper for this.

Once the toned masa is dry. Glue it to the surface of the watercolor paper you have prepared.  On this second painting, I used a hair dryer to finish up the drying process. (Was I in a hurry, or what?)

I mixed two thirds acrylic matte medium with one third water to make my glue. Other artists have used wall paper glue and white glue with success in this stage.

I applied the glue to the fuzzy side, or non-shiny side of the toned masa paper. I covered the surface with it as I did not want air bubbles to gather beneath it as I glued it to the paper. I then flipped this over and set it on the watercolor paper I had previously taped to a board.

I used my brush with matte medium to stroke the paper flat working from the center out to chase air bubbles. Other artists have used brayers or rollers to roll this out flat. I did not worry about bumpy wrinkles I was making as I did this. The more wrinkles; the more the texture.  I  waited for this to dry. I waited until the paper went flat again.

Remember that I said I washed off my initial drawing?  In this step, I redrew my image on the toned masa. I think this is how I will proceed with future paintings I do on masa. I could take some time to prepare my toned papers and have them dried and ready to select from when I want to use them.

Then I painted. I had wanted to see how this looked using darker pigments and if the pattern would show through. I mixed varying amounts of yellow, blue and red to create my blacks for Clyde.  When I first applied the darks, I did not see the pattern and became disheartened by that. As it dried, the pattern began poking through.

In this step I experimented with using titanium white watercolor to define Clyde’s texture in his coat as well as to shape his legs and face. I really liked how this paper took the white!  I shadowed under the ball and alongside his foreground back leg in this step, also.

For the final step, I drybrushed his whiskers in with titanium white watercolor.

After having worked with this paper a couple times, I am thinking of all sorts of uses for it as a support for drawings, paintings and collage works. I can also make up many toned papers to be used as torn pieces of collage papers in other compositions.

I have added an update to this tutorial, here, illustrating what the toning of the paper looks like prior to glueing and after glueing.



  1. What an interesting process. I can imagine the images you will be able to produce with this paper. I love this one! Can’t wait to try some of your technique when I retire, which is getting closer and closer, I think.

    • I can hardly wait for you to retire and have the time to dig deep into your photography as well as start some of these fun art projects. You live in a perfectspot for both!
      As for this paper and what it allows for? I am totally sold. I love the way the paint lays and I like having a toned surface to work on. There will be more. Thank-you, Kate! 🙂

    • Sandrine Pelissier
    • Posted February 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Very interesting!
    I have done something like that with regular paper and watercolors, it worked but my whole painting was made on the crumbled paper that had been ironed, I wasn’t adding a step of sealing the paper with medium or glue that allows you to paint more precisely. I have to try this, looks like fun!!!

    • You will find all sorts of things you can do with this, Sandrine! I am only touching the surface of the endless possibilities. Yes, you can paint in a more detailed style on this. If you don’t want too many wrinkles after toning it? Just smooth it out more. If you want the texture, just allow the crinkles to fold over themselves as you glue it down.
      Thank-you for the comment and it IS FUN for sure!

  2. Wow, innovative.
    I have never heard of this before.
    But this technique could work for some aged mural kind of artwork.
    The kind that stand partly faded and thinned on walls in very old churches and the like.
    Excellent painting Leslie

    • Thank-you, Richard. I can picture the aged mural, perfectly. Great idea! I am going to keep that in mind as I had not thought of that, as yet. I want to make some of these colored papers to have on hand and I plan to do some with neutral colors that I think will work well and lean toward your idea.

  3. I am now fixated on this technique and paper. I just love how it looks with all the crinkles and paint.

    You’re kitty is adorable and the crinkly paper gives kitty so much texture.

    Thank you for the step by step instructions. Now I just need to get a hold of some Masa paper.

    • I’ll bet your art supply store carries it. It is reasonably priced and comes in large sheets. Thank-you for your comments on the kitty. I thought of you and your sister Alice doing projects together when I started this. This would be awesome for collage, also.

  4. Let me just say that Clyde is adorable. I am crazy about cats, it doesn’t matter to me how homely they may be. But when the cat is this cute my heart melts. Love the fur tufts from his ears and between his toes!

    Cool technique too. Thank you for explaining it with pictures. It looks very interesting, and I like the batik effect. I don’t see myself getting on this particular bandwagon at this time (I am too engrossed in the classical approach), but I am filing it away for future reference. I know where I can find good instructions when I will need them :lol:!

    • Clyde is an awesome cat. He is older, now, but can still amuse with his pranks. Years ago, I sat at my daughter’s house for her while some workmen did some work and this little black and white ball of fluff unloaded my purse before I knew it and was playing with the contents. If I remember correctly, he had the most fun with the book of stamps. Thank-you, Alex!

  5. Awwwwwwwwwww what a cute kitty! The effect of this process is really beautiful… delicate and lacy and for some reason reminds me of stained glass.

    • I think it looks a little like stained glass, also, Amber. It really makes a nice surface to paint on with endless possibilities for creating a background. Thank-you!

  6. Clyde – a good strong name for a cat of such character. What a process for bringing about surprises and fun challenges. Again and still, your love of painting shines through, Leslie.

    • Thank you, Amy! In the character department, Clyde is gifted for sure! 🙂

  7. Leslie, this is so very interesting and the process itself is challenging. I think this technique is well suited to create period paintings, to make them look like antique. Your tutorial is very useful and inspiring, thanks for sharing!

    • Oh this is so much fun, Padmaja. Maybe it is the idea of working on another surface and with texture, for a change, that I find fascinating. I agree with you about the antique look to it and that it can be used well for period paintings. Thank you!

  8. LOL-oh this great stuff, Leslie. Love the effects of the wrinkle crinkle. Adore the cat. Hi.

    • It makes me wonder what you could do with this surface, Eva. I am now wondering what would happen if you did one of your ink pieces on it (do you use waterproof ink) and then crinkled and wet it, allowed it to dry and glued it to a hard surface. I may have to try an ink drawing that way and see what happens. Oh the possibilities abound, don’t they! Thank-you for the comment, Eva. Hi! 🙂

  9. mmm… you sure know how to inspire us ! Thanks for passing this along ! I love your cat !

    • You have used masa paper for a long time, right? …in your collages? Thank you, Isabelle!!

  10. Even without this wonderful technique, your cat is stunning. If I could write the children animal stories I’d ask you to illustrate! Beautiful as always, so much talent and such a great friend to follow.

    • Judging from that dog painting, your sheep paintings and those lovely finches you just posted, I don’t think you would need me. You do a great job with animals. That bird painting, the one flying? That was incredible. Thank-you, though. Animals are my favorite.

  11. I am amazed just how much you inspire me, Leslie. I can’t keep up with all the wonderful projects you have, but thank goodness I know how to find them when I’m ready. This technique is so cool and would love to try this one day. The finished painting is excellent, Leslie! Adorable!

    • What a nice thing to say, Debbie! You have worked a lot in different media. You may want to look into this toning some masa paper? I know it is a textured surface, but maybe you could get some pretty neat images with charcoal or oil pastel on it, also. That’s if the wrinkles did not bother you to draw on. Multiple possibilities. Thank you for the visit and the comment. 🙂

  12. Hey, Leslie!
    Thanks for posting the technique photos. What an interesting process! I love how it adds so much texture and layer to the finished piece. Have a gorgeous day; the weather is finally looking up in the Fort! 🙂

    • Thank you, Bree. I think this paper could be crinkled, dried and then applied to a canvas with acrylic matte medium to create a textured surface for an acrylic painting.
      Yes! Have been catching up with a little outdoor tidying! I’m up for a little warmth after this long cold winter! 🙂

  13. This is creative and beautiful stuff, Leslie! Love it 🙂

  14. Very interesting Leslie, and your cat painting has come through well.

    Something for you (and your readers if they want) on my blog. A free painting: Do the funky duck.

  15. Very interesting process. You have a way of capturing the personality in your animal paintings Leslie. This is beautiful. 🙂

    • Thank-you, Emily. I love painting them…..everytime, though, there is something elusive that gets away from me….I’m still searching. 🙂

  16. Nice Leslie – I love the textures in the colours

  17. That is so cool that you took all the time to show us the separate stages! This is a beautiful painting, Leslie! FUN!!

    • Thank-you, Beth! I am having fun exploring what can be done with watercolor and this paper.

  18. thank you Leslie. you’ve made this process and paper very accessible and easy to follow – with a great example in the mix too. i had a friend who used this paper with great results too – your results are really intriguing and beautiful. outstanding. aloha.

    • I just hope this isn’t beginner’s luck. I am working with and painting on this surface. It looks involved but really is not. The hardest part is waiting for the paper to dry. Thank-you for your comment, Rick!

      • ha. and aloha Leslie – no. it’s not beginner’s luck at all. you simply brought a great ability – knowledge and skill set – plus – that you already have, to a new paper and are exploring what you can do on this paper. that is not luck. it is you. imo, these first works looking the way they do… wow – is because you know so much about the other parts that go into the work. you just added this one element – an unknown – new paper. when you get to know this paper like an ocean knows water – yikes. oh that will be… yeah. multi-wow.

        this is a great paper for you (imo again). the other day i saw a comment by you that said something like you would like more abstraction in your work. i think this paper works toward that direction beautifully for you. i had noted this after leaving previous comments on the cats – that there is a lot of beautiful abstractness going on in the work in almost any detailed area a viewer wants to explore. that is really exciting.

        i remember being able to move up close to large paintings in Europe and being able to study master works close – there was no image – suddenly it all became abstract line and color. step back and wow – image evolved. i think the same quality is working in these cat paintings for you. …and i expect it will only continue to evolve and wow – yeah – get even more wow wow. wow. especially because of the way you work – you continue to push yourself to explore while honing skills. that imo, is outstanding. cool. paint on. – aloha.

      • What a totally awesome comment. Thank you. Yes. You did see me say that about my desire to be a little more abstract. I know what you mean about walking up to an impressionists painting in an art museum. That is how I felt the first time I viewed a Seurat. Turner is awesome, also. I can’t help but try new things. It seems that each thing I learn comes into play in future paintings. All these techniques and papers allow for choices. I think I like that a lot. Thank you, again, Rick. Your comment means a lot.

  19. ha. aloha Leslie – it’s your painting that is totally awesome – and the person painting it of course.

    yeah, exactly, the impressionists plus others – Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Derain… etc. however the place that put it all together for me was in italy – in the churches/cathedrals/monasteries of Florence looking at frescoes. the tiny brush stokes of hatching and crosshatching over layers of color. each area beautiful in itself without recognizable imagery – wow that was a mind opener.

    as we get to and into the 20th century abstraction get’s closer and closer to becoming a known and recognized thing in painting that is specifically gone after when creating. however in the 15th century – not so much – yet it was there (i’m just pulling that number out – there are a range of centuries back there and i am way far from being any kind of historian on much of anything).

    in our time abstraction becomes known and we even isolate it and focus on it as a thing in painting that artists pursue as an end point in itself – it was not something artists went after as such in those frescoes. yet there it was/is.

    oh and Rembrandt and Goya – wow. see it’s something that is quite common in good art. art that survives the time period it was created in – and even further back – it’s there in ways we now see, make note of and label – i dont think it was seen that way then tho (of course all drawing/painting might be considered abstraction – it’s a matter of degree – but when it becomes notable as the subject… that’s a different thing). and there it is. in. Your work. now. way cool on that. yeah.

    • Finally, someone who can put what I’m looking for into words! Thank-you, Rick. That is the kind of end result I am searching for. I rememberworking on this really neat idea of a pile of coffee beans. They were going to be really detailed and have bright colors running through them. I set up my light source and my coffee beans and went at this creation with such intensity and precision that the whole piece, when done looked like a bunch of ugly tight ovals with not-so-pretty colors. I became angry and dragged my two inch brush all over the thing before going to bed the second night I worked on it. I woke up the next day, fully intending to pitch it but I could not. The water had done it’s thing and there were nice passages of lost edges and a totally “cool” area of light. It just needed to be brought together. I spent the rest of the week carefully applying colored pencil in some areas. I would set it on the mantle and let it talk to me. At the end of the week I took it to a man I had met at figure study who was accomplished with abstracts. I wanted to know where to go with it. He said, “It’s done. Do nothing more”. I don’t even have a picture of that image as it was framed and hung in my sister’s home, pronto. I have painted two other abstracts but they are difficult to come by and always seem to be pieces that have gone their own direction and end up telling me what to do with them. .. and they are all hanging in someone else’s home. I guess what I am trying to say is that the type of abstraction I search for is that which you have described above. I think it takes time to develop the “eye” and the skills to achieve. Thank you so much for this discussion!

  20. I loved seeing the transformation Leslie, and at every stage (once the colour was applied) I think you could have stopped, and I would have been satisfied. The impressionist type of painting would grace any wall, and I love staring and finding patterns. (just like gazing at clouds and their various shapes) … Of course Clyde gracing the watercolour is a marvellous sight, down to every last whisker… (stroke!!) a Beautiful end result, from which I’m sure you’ve had purrs of satisfaction… 😉 Pen.xx

    • What a wonderful comment, Pen. I, too, love looking at shapes in images. I also like your comparison to looking for shapes in clouds. That has made me think that this surface might be a wonderful one to do a cloud painting on! Thank-you for the comment and the idea you have just set spinning in my mind!

  21. This looks like so much fun. I can’t wait to try it. Once again, thank you for putting up the step by step. I’ve never noticed masa paper in the stores, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Maybe I just never noticed it because I didn’t know what that type of paper was used for.

    Could you use other paper? Why masa?

    • I don’t know why masa. Perhaps it has to do with the soft side and the shinier hard side. It is one kind of oriental paper and is tougher because of its’ interlocking fibers is what I have read. The wetting releases some of the sizing and allows for the staining in the creases when you apply the wash to the back side of it. You will need to apply quite a bit of pigment to the back. The color looks brighter on the cak, but when you glue it down, more of it comes through for some reason (probably the re-wetting with the glue). Our art supply keeps it in a large drawer of a cabinet where they keep all the large sheets of art paper. Ask for masa. Tell them it is in large sheets and a type of oriental paper. It is not real expensive. If they don’t carry it, it can be ordered from Cheap Joes. Have fun. Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for the comment, Littlelynx!

  22. Boy… I struggle just putting simple paint strokes on to a clean white sheet of stock paper… lol… It’s gonna be some time before I attempt anything like this, but I have to admit the effect is pretty cool, and a great painting too… 🙂

    • You might be surprised, Brian. I have seen your drawings and I think you could handle this easily. Your drawing tool or brush just bumps over the folds. Somehow, it adds something different each time I’ve tried it. Thank you! 🙂

  23. Wow! What a cool process and excellent result. I never even heard of such paper, and the step-by-step instruction was eye-opening and clear 🙂 Cheers

    • Hi Adam. It’s an oriental paper I read about on some of the other watercolor blogs. I saw enough images I really liked that I decided to try it. This paper is something I really like (as much as your flash 55s).

  24. Wow, I discovered your blog through Jamie’s and I just love the way you write and works exposed. What a cute cat here, thanks for sharing. 🙂

  25. Did I get it right: you put the glue on the same side of the paper as the paint ??

    • Hi Isabelle. 🙂 Yes. You put the glue on the side that you tone (the fuzzy side or soft side. You will see what I mean when you purchase a piece of this paper) Then lay that on the watercolor paper, glue side down. Some artists then roll the paper to adhere it. I use that acrylic matte fixative to glue with and add a tad of water to the mix. After placing my glue side down, I go ahead and use my brush to stroke the bubbles out but allow the folds and kinks in the paper to remain. I am stroking the matte fixative on the front side, also. I don’t worry about it. I can paint on that when it dries. I am beginning to wonder if the matte fixative on the front is allowing for some of the lifting I can do that other artists say they can’t. Thank you!

  26. I’ve added this to my ‘favorites’ for ‘future’ reference. Too busy at the moment learning to play musical instruments to try and do painting. 🙂

  27. P.S. You make it look so easy (but I’m sure it’s not!). 🙂

    • It is time consuming and a lot of waiting for the paper to dry each time, but I think it depends on the subjectI choose to paint as to how hard it is to actually do. This post will stay here for future reference when you have time. 🙂 Thank you, Earthianne!

  28. Oh, kitty! Kitty!

    The paper process doesn’t seem too hard; but, the artwork is another story.

    I am rather taken with the mix of colors here.

    • The colors I used in this one are all strong staining colors. They are prussian blue, aureolin (yellow) and permanent rose. Just in case you do try this. They seem to give a strong and bright background that is a little darker than the softer colors I used on the tree paintings. This is my daughter’s cat, Jamie, but I had a black and white female that looked very much like the cat you posted on your post here: That picture pulled at my heartstrings “bigtime”. Thank you!

  29. dear leslie,

    i skim-read what you have posted in your blog, i am amazed by the bountiful harvest in your creative basket over the last two months. such, such a joy to see all those wonderful visual treats and this one, a painting about Clyde, the cat- mesmerized me for the beautiful rippled, crumpled textural feel and voluminize the form of the cat.

    i like the veiny effect and me realize that it is possible to produce a strikingly interesting painting over these masa paper. i should go and try it out for myself one of these days. thank you for your untiring effort in sharing your artistic gifts, most especially to your students and your dearest grand-daughter.

    • Wow! Thank you, Marvin, for taking the time to visit amidst your busy schedule. This masa paper has captured my interest, for sure. It will be a long-lasting addition to my creative efforts. I truly enjoy sharing those things that I learn with others. Life is too short to not spread the fun that can be had in exploring what is available to us and I know you know that because I witness it everytime I read one of your lovely poems.

  30. My Chinese Brush Painting Instructor has been teaching the crinkle techniques for years. If you paint on the smooth side after crinkling you get a web effect….on the rough side…mountains and peaks.

    • Good way to put it, She. Thankyou for a comment and the info! I find the rough side dulls the colors and the paper “pills” more like an old sweater. I prefer the smooth side. I have a student who likes the other side.

  31. Thanks for the tutorial! I have to give it a try…what fun!

    • You know? I think you could effectively tone a large sheet and, once it dries, use this glue process and glue them to several pages of your sketchbook and do your wildlifwe sketches on it. I know it would be time consuming but might be fun! Thankyou for your comment.

      • Thanks for the idea. I’ll have to give it a try and let u know how it turns out. But I need to first do a trial before attempting my sketchbook. Sometimes my first time projects don’t turn out so well.

  32. Thanks for liking my post Leslie. I think this is fascinating and the result is great. I missed it somehow, so it’s going to be fun backtracking and reading all the comments.

    • Thank you, Anne. I really enjoyed your post with all the different paintings based on the same scene!

18 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Indiana: The Black Walnut Tree « Leslie White on 18 Apr 2011 at 3:53 pm

    […] Painted on crumpled and toned masa paper. You can learn how to do this from a previous post here. […]

  2. By Update on Masa « Leslie White on 10 Jul 2011 at 11:33 pm

    […] long ago, I posted a new technique I had learned, here. I would like to add some furthur updates to this as there are two bloggers who have tried this.  […]

  3. By Indiana:Flowering Pear « Leslie White on 25 Jul 2011 at 1:00 pm

    […] I began with this, a toned piece of masa paper.  You can learn how to prepare this toned paper, here. […]

  4. By August and a View Behind My Home « Leslie White on 11 Aug 2011 at 10:06 am

    […] How to prepare masa paper here. […]

  5. By Down by the River: August « Leslie White on 06 Oct 2011 at 2:15 pm

    […] students.  For any who would like to learn this technique, you can find how to prepare the surface here and here. Several followers of this blog have taken up the challenge and also paint on masa paper […]

  6. […] paint. For a tutorial to learn how to prepare your masa paper’s surface for painting  click here and […]

  7. […] with other media. This time they painted on a gesso juice surface, learned to prepare and paint on masa paper, created a gouache resist, used ink with watercolor in several different ways, and created a […]

  8. By Forest | Leslie White on 07 Jul 2013 at 1:15 am

    […] interested in trying a painting on this type of surface, I have outlined how to prepare the paper here. There is more info found here and […]

  9. By Garden Bridge | Leslie White on 15 Jul 2013 at 12:50 pm

    […] some lifting properties with it. (see tutorial on how to tone and affix masa to watercolor paper here and […]

  10. By The Old Barn | Leslie White on 28 Jul 2013 at 8:11 am

    […] is another painting on masa paper (tutorial here). Carol King has completed her first two paintings on masa paper here  and here and doing a […]

  11. […] followed my posts, know that this is my favorite watercolor surface. I have a beginning tutorial here if you are interested in trying this yourself. I have posted multiple masa paper posts and you can […]

  12. By Masa Paper Lion: Sleeping | Leslie White on 11 Apr 2015 at 3:21 pm

    […] but the extra time spent is well worth it. I have several tutorials. The first one is located here. The update is located […]

  13. By Lake Michigan East Coastline | Leslie White on 15 Apr 2015 at 10:56 am

    […] had so much fun working with this scene on masa paper. My sister has been generous enough to share photos of her journeys along the east coastline of […]

  14. By Three Paintings; One Post | Leslie White on 04 Mar 2016 at 2:54 pm

    […] The above painting required some planning. I had a photographic reference sent to me from my daughter of this cat laying on his back, his favorite pose. I tried to lay it out and come up with some way to paint him that might be interesting, other than just him in paint. I finally decided on using another reference photo where there were a large assortment of overlapping grasses and combined the two. I also decided to use a sheet of masa paper to enhance the texture and maybe create more interest. I have a tutorial on how to prepare and use masa paper with watercolor here. […]

  15. By Masa Paper: Old Trees | Leslie White on 21 Jun 2016 at 10:49 am

    […] paper seems to help break that up a bit. If you would like to try this technique, I have a tutorial here.  …or type masa into search box below and view many more examples of this type of […]

  16. […] Masa paper is a type of rice paper that you can crinkle, wet, tone and allow to dry before gluing it to the surface of your watercolor paper. Once that dries, you can paint on that as your support. The student who created the above took the process a step farther and collaged other papers onto the surface of her watercolor painting. If you would like to try this technique, I have explained the process here. […]

  17. […] learn more about how to prepare and tone masa paper and some of the things you can do with it click here and […]

  18. By Student Art: Spring 2017 | Leslie White on 12 May 2017 at 2:39 am

    […] Plus class worked on six different mixed media approaches with watercolor. They painted on masa paper. They worked with ink and watercolor and chose all sorts of different techniques with ink. One […]

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