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The above painting is another technique I tried with watercolor and rice paper.


I began by painting the landscape you see, above,  on 140lb Rough Arches Watercolor Paper.


I chose a piece of textured and mostly transparent  rice paper, measured it to the size of my painting and glued it on top of the painting.  I mixed one part water with three parts acrylic matte medium and applied it to the back of the rice paper and carefully laid it over the surface of my incomplete painting.  I used a large flat brush with soft bristles to apply thin layers of the glue mixture to the surface and gently push air bubbles out. A roller can also be used for this step. Handle the wet rice paper gently because it becomes very fragile when it is wet.  The watercolor paper ripples and my rice paper lifted up when it did that. I solved that by reflattening the rice paper with my brush and drying areas with a hair dryer as I did that. I allowed this phase to dry overnight.

woodsandpond finished painting

Then the work began. I repainted the original scene through the paper and added more colors as well as pushed my darks and detail. I added foreground rice paper shapes and more rice papers to the middle ground, playing with value and texture. The painting, above, is what I came up with.

You can also re-work a failed watercolor painting this way. It is very time consuming, so be prepared for that. I am going to be on the lookout for interesting textures in rice papers to experiment furthur with this technique.


  1. It is a nice technique you developed, as you said, failed water colors may be restored, the final result looks brilliant!

  2. I have worked in this way except that I tore pieces of rice paper. There is such an ancient and organic feeling that comes when working with rice paper. Your colors are beautifully vibrant.

    • There are pieces on top of this, also, Gretchen. Anything goes. I agree with you about the organic feeling that accompanies working with these papers. A bit of construction and shape consideration, also. Thank you!

  3. So pretty! Beautiful rich colors and wonderful reflection in the water! A lovely spot for a bit of solitude, perhaps.

    • The water gave me fits. In fact this whole thing was so time consuming that it was difficult to remain patient, Cindy. Thank you!

  4. This is a beautiful painting. I love the light and composition. And I really enjoyed learning about how you applied the rice paper. I also like how vibrant the painting is. I wonder if the rice paper helped the depth of color?

    • I am certain this has more depth because of the rice paper. I like how the transparency of the watercolor seemed enhanced, somehow. Maybe that is the same as your question about the color. When I painted on top of the sheet of applied rice paper, that is what happened. It may also be due to the type of rice paper I chose. I don’t know. Thank you, so much!

  5. Lovely work Leslie. I also like the simplicity of the second stage.

  6. This is really nice. You managed the rice paper well. I like this technique but haven’t used it for several years. I have some rice paper with brown fragments that I think will work well in a landscape. I think you may have inpired me to try it!

    • Wow, thank you, Linda. I think a lot of artists don’t like working with the watercolor and rice paper because it is such a long process. The key to this technique, for me, was being able to add rice papers on top of that one layer I’d repainted. Just don’t give up and remember you can always fix it with a little more paper and paint. 🙂

  7. the finished watercolour is spectacular Leslie, when I read of all the work that’s gone into it, it seems to actually ‘add’ to the experience… I especially like the reflective water, I read how it gave you some trouble, although I for one am glad you persevered… 🙂 … I wondered, does the degree of difficulty ‘add’ to the appreciation you feel on the finishing?… or do you have a favourite because it didn’t pose too much trouble?… Just a thought which surfaced… ‘cos sometimes I feel a certain way about a poem depending on how it came to being… xPenx

    • You raise a great question. I have not done enough of these with the overlay to know if I totally “like” it. The degree of difficulty makes me want to do MORE! I have seen some incredible paintings that utilize this technique and I want to understand it more. I like the texture. I like that the transparency in the watercolor allows for the possibility of incredible depth being added to a piece. This is kind of a stepping stone of a technique to overlaying a piece of rice paper that has a drawing on it to a background that has been created with watercolor and rice paper. I did not want to hit my students with the whole thing all at once. There is something to baby steps. The saving grace of these is that there is never an end to them until the artist decides it is done. More rice papers and pigment can always be added until the desired effect is attained. With every single one I have created, I have experienced a “letting go” where I move away from the reference material and do what the piece tells me to do. They always make me feel as though I am creating with a part of my soul. I, too, feel something once the painting is done. They usually teach me something about me and the materials I choose to use. They often say, “what if” and I know that writers deal with that question, also. I love to read because I see the written word as a painting waiting to be created, so to speak. I wanted to be a writer, like you, and it took me some time to realise I see in images and love the line and the values. I was not so good with the creating with words. You rock, Pen!

  8. wow, it does sound like a very arduous process but you got a beautiful outcome!

  9. I like the textural effect of the rice paper. I too would be tempted to stop at that phase. The colors on the finished painting are wonderful.

    • I have to get better at this, Ruth. There are some papers where those textural effects show through the pigment and I lost some of that in the second painting. I liked the look of the textural effects in the second phase, too, but could not stand the cloudiness of it. Thank you!

  10. You sure came out with a beautiful autumn piece, Leslie! I need to go back and find your tutorial on working with masa paper. I still want to paint the piece I started and screwed up by using friskit…or is it miskit?

  11. A beautiful painting and place to be. I like how the surface becomes ‘natural’ this way. Does the rice paper allow you to work small and detailed? The third image; like a lovely landscape in a fog.

    • Yes. I have seen small and detailed on rice paper paintings. My skill needs improving on that, though. The feel of the paper and how the pigment works on it is much different than watercolor paper. Also, the pigment will follow a tear in the paper and be darker there. It will sometimes be lighter on the little filiments of texture imbedded in the paper, so it is quite a different look. Good question Hannekekoop. Thank you!

  12. INteresting Leslie! Thanks for sharing this technique! You are always so inspiring!

  13. hey Leslie – the process and the result – it all shows such love of the medium and the subject – such care – lovely

    • Thank you, Stephen. These rice paper paintings require patience and problem solving, for sure.

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  1. […] I began with a painting and blocked in all the forms I wanted to include, Much like how I began the painting in the previous post. […]

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