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Tag Archives: masa paper

Laura Lyndsay

Laura Lyndsay

Henn Laidroo3

Henn Laidroo3

Cindy Guzik3

Cindy Guzik3

The artwork, above, are three of the paintings created by students who just finished a class on working with painting on masa paper and using rice paper collage with watercolor.

If you would like to view many more of these paintings you can click here or scroll to the top of the page and click on Student Art: Masa and Rice Papers and Watercolor in order to access the page.



I 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 Lake Michigan. She is a “lake girl”.  I fell in love with the colors of this scene and the chair waiting for someone to come and sit in it. Thank you, Sis!


This lion was painted on masa paper, a rice paper that can be crinkled, soaked in water, toned, dried and glued to the surface of watercolor paper in order to provide a watercolor artist a different surface to paint on. The textural possibilities are varied and, oftentimes, very interesting. They, generally, take me longer to paint, but the extra time spent is well worth it. I have several tutorials. The first one is located here. The update is located here.

If you would like to view a selection of the paintings I have completed on masa, just click the tag, masa paper, under the title of this post.

Alan Clayton

Alan Clayton

Mary Smierciak3

Mary Smierciak3

Cindy Guzik3

Cindy Guzik3

The above three paintings were created in the Exploring watercolor class, this spring. They worked on the basic skills and techniques from learning the different brushstrokes, some basic techniques (wax resist, salt, sponging) and basic color theory. They created paintings of foliage and trees, little people, buildings, and a scene that was backlit.

Leslie Vrchota3 Masa Paper

Leslie Vrchota3 Masa Paper

Sue Mendenhall3 Abstract Rice Paper

Sue Mendenhall3 Abstract Rice Paper Collage

Jan Reche3 Realism Rice Paper Collage

Jan Reche3 Realism Rice Paper Collage

These last three paintings were created in the Watercolor Masa and Rice Paper Collage.  We spent the first two weeks learning how to tone, affix and paint on masa paper. The last four weeks were spent on learning how to use rice paper collage in our watercolor paintings. I think it is one of the most difficult techniques to learn and everyone did great.  They began by creating abstract rice paper and watercolor collages and gradually moved through them into incorporating collage into realistic images.

More student paintings from these classes may be viewed by clicking here or clicking on Student Art: Spring Classes in the pages bar at the top of the blog.

Thank you to all my students for sharing your work here.



The above paintings were both from reference photos that my daughter brought to me years ago. They are both from a zoo outing in Florida.

I was totally drawn to the shapes and the value contrasts in both of them. The top one,  rocks and water, had a fascinating abstract quality to it. The second one was interesting because of the shapes of the birds; one leading into the next.

Masa paper continues to be one of my favorite surfaces.



This week I returned to painting on masa paper. I found a wonderful reference photo of this old tree on wet canvas and it drew me in to want to try it.

Those of you, who have 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 view them by clicking the tag called masa paper under the title of this post. I paint and lift and paint and lift on this surface. I work until I like what appears. There is waiting time in between because the pigment soaks through the toned masa paper to the coldpress watercolor paper I have adhered it to.

I welcome any questions you may have in the comment section below and will answer them as best I can.


There was no other reason for trying this image than to see if I could paint these detailed shapes and capture their reflections. This was painted using a reference photo from “Artist’s Photo References Buildings and Barns” by Gary Greene.

The most difficult part of this entire piece was trying to decide what to include and what not to.


The above painting was painted from a reference photo book for artists. These old railway bridges dot our landscape in the midwest. Many of them are not in use any longer and are chained off and have signs warning people not to walk on them. There are others that are still kept up and used daily. I remember a time that I could lay in bed at night and hear train whistles in the distance. Once in awhile, in the wintertime, I can still hear that occasional train to the east of me. It is quite distant. It requires that winter “hush”, when snow covers the ground, in order for the sound to be carried here. It always takes me back. This also reminded me of that movie “Stand By Me”.


A thank you to for the reference sharing they do. I used two photo references for the above painting.

Took me some time; this one did.  I was bound and determined to get this barn down the way I saw it. The barn and the cows are from two different photos. I thought the barn , by itself, might look too plain or flat or static, somehow.

This 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 fantastic job with it!


I  have decided to spend some time with my favorite surface which is toned masa paper. I really enjoy watching a painting come to life on this beautiful paper. I never know what it is going to look like and am always intrigued with how the colors I choose play across its surface.  Each piece of toned paper poses new considerations for the artist. Because I brush a thin layer of the matte medium glue over the top surface, I also have some lifting properties with it. (see tutorial on how to tone and affix masa to watercolor paper here and here.

gardenbridge2   click to enlarge

I draw right on the surface of the crinkled masa paper to begin. The initial steps of applying the paint can feel quite different from painting on watercolor paper. The first challenge is that the artist sees all this toned paper with dark threads running through it. It is difficult to see the pencil marks. Combine that with a surface that does not receive the watercolor pigment in the same way watercolor paper does. Large wet-in-wet washes look completely different on this surface because the flow is interrupted by the wrinkles as well as the porosity of the paper. Edges can be softened, still, by tickling the hard edge with a damp brush, but it looks different on this surface than on watercolor paper.  Above is my start with this particular painting and I think it gives the viewer a good idea of what that start can look like. I could easily become discouraged, right here, as I work to decipher my way through all the color and texture left by the toned paper. What works for me is to imagine that surface as white and paint just as I would begin laying in any watercolor. As I  design the surface, the tonal pattern begins to take second stage to the composition taking form on its surface. The tonal color becomes like the white of watercolor paper. The color from the toning does not lift off onto my brush and into the new color being applied. Thus green still looks green when you paint on a red toned surface, etc. If I am going to use any white at all I ALWAYS save that for the last step. I don’t want it running through my other colors and fogging them up. I start my painting by defining something. I chose to define the stream, first, in the above composition. It gives me an area of the painting to work outward from. I  needed it to look glassy and having this down helped me to know how much texture I was going to have to get into the foliage in order to emphasize this.

gardenbridge3   click to enlarge

In the next step, I began laying in my lightest colors of foliage on either bank and around and behind the bridge. It was important  to get that small area of land foliage under the hump of the bridge to read correctly with the reflections in the water. I also spent time defining the left bank. The greens of the grass changed from light green to dark green and I wanted to establish that. By this time, I am on my way and the textures and toning of the masa paper does not bother my eyes any longer. I can clearly see where I am going with the painting. HOWEVER! This rarely looks like my photo reference. The toned paper adds so much to a scene and changes all but its pathway of light and design. Begin to look at what you are painting as “your essence” of the reference material rather than to struggle to make this look like the reference.

gardenbridge4   click to enlarge

I then began to work in midtones behind all the lighter green and yellow foliage. This takes time and is rather tedious.

gardenbridge finished painting

In finishing I do a lot. I added all the tiny dark tree trunks and branches I saw running through the woods in the background and  darkened the tree trunks in the upper left quadrant, first. Then I begin lifting in areas I want the texture of the masa to show through. I lifted the darks on the left bank by wetting a brush and applying water to the surface of areas I wanted to texture. I then lift areas of color out. You can see that the left bank is more textured in this view than the one previous. I also lifted color from the tree tunk reflections in the lower right quadrant. I lifted darks from the reflection of the underside of the bridge in the water. Wherever a dark appears flat, I play with it in this way.  I furthur defined the reflections around the bridge in the lower left quadrant and smoothed out the area where it disappears in the surface of the water in the lower right quadrant.  I lifted tiny areas of color in the lower lefthand quadrant going up that bank and leading the viewer’s eye to the entrance of the bridge where I added some white gouache. I painted areas of the rails of the bridge in the white gouache  to define it. I lifted a little of the darks from the tree trunks in the upper right quadrant so they appeared as though some speckled light was hitting them.

To create my darks on masa paper, I always have to use combinations of staining darks. These would be colors like prussian blue, alizarin crimson, hookers green, the quinachridones, aureolin and anything labeled phthalo. Lights are usually the toned colors of the masa paper and midtones are my light and midtone colors of my palette.


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