by Alcohol Ink Art Society , Laurie Williams
YUPO® Paper is a preferred substrate for many alcohol ink and watercolor artists. It’s a tree-free, recyclable paper, making it a great environmentally friendly substrate. It’s plastic-like, flexible, and durable. It has been described by some artists as erasable watercolor paper… which I think is cool… because I’m good at making mistakes! Because of YUPO’s non-porous nature, it’s the perfect substrate for alcohol ink art projects.
In the Alcohol Ink Art Community, we’ve had lots of questions about YUPO and how to properly handle and preserve art created with it. So, I decided to reach out to the YUPO Corporation with some questions and to learn more about the product. The folks at YUPO Corporation were helpful and quickly directed me to Legion Paper, the company that handles their distribution.
One of the first questions, I asked was “Can I Come See How Yupo is Made?” I wasn’t surprised to hear that they do not host public tours… but you can’t blame a geeky artist for trying, right? However, they were very forth-coming with some really great information that helps us understand how to properly work with YUPO and improve the lifespan of our art.
What is Yupo Paper?
YUPO paper is the 100% recyclable, waterproof, tree-free synthetic paper with non-porous attributes and properties that make it the perfect alcohol ink art! We know Yupo as a favorite among alcohol ink and watercolor artists, but it is also widely used in several applications in printing, labeling, and packaging and plays a vital role in product marketing worldwide! If you’ve been to the supermarket or almost any retail store, you’ve likely seen YUPO used in product packaging!
Where and how is Yupo Paper manufactured?
YUPO is produced in the USA (Chesepeake, VA USA) with polypropylene pellets. These “plastic” pellets are created from raw materials that are delivered to the YUPO facility and loaded into unique silos and hoppers where they are mixed with minerals and transformed into pellets.
Once these polypropylene pellets are created, they are fed into proprietary heating and extruding (or shaping) equipment. Yupo is formed from three layers… the base, plus two outer layers. These layers are created during their extruding process, which creates a biaxial-oriented substrate… meaning the fibers are fused together in two directions giving its durable strength. The whole process is controlled by computer and closely monitored using stringent quality standards.
YUPO is used to make so many amazing products such as banners, membership cards, maps, menus, phone cards, signs, tags, floor graphics, counter mats, product packaging, booklets…and art! The uses for Yupo are endless. But, what is great about YUPO is that is durable, tear and water resistant!
To put it simply, the company manufacturers a strong, durable, non-porous substrate that serves as an incredible substrate that helps fuels our artistic creativity!
The following video demonstrates the process if How Yupo is Made.
What is the Shelf-life of Yupo Paper?
YUPO is totally inert and acid-free. But just like any other medium, YUPO requires careful handling. Exposure to sunlight (UV) will cause YUPO to yellow over time and therefore it’s essential to either frame YUPO behind UV protective glass or apply a UV protective spray.
It is recommended to use a high-quality, acrylic, non-yellowing varnish such as Krylon® Kamar Varnish, followed by a UV protectant spray or varnish. You should use 2-3 light coats allowing it to dry about thirty minutes to an hour between layers. Legion paper recommends using Lascaux Fixative. However, while great for other mediums, Lascaux Fixative has been known to interact with alcohol ink paintings if applied directly. I recommend, from experience, using the Krylon Kamar Varnish first, before any additional sealers.
Once the varnish has dried, you cannot rework or touch up your art, so be sure to completely finish and cure your project prior to sealing it. Acrylic varnishes form a non-yellowing, durable plastic skin that bonds permanently to the artwork. These varnishes cannot be removed but can be painted over with acrylic paint.
Is there a right or wrong side to YUPO paper?
According to Legion pager, technically, the front and back surfaces of YUPO are identical. The same exact material is used on the front and back. However, some artists have noticed a difference in how inks behave on one side versus another. Each artist should experiment with YUPO paper to determine their own preferences. Personally, I’ve used both sides without issue.
Storing YUPO Paper
The best protection for storing YUPO, as well as any art paper, is to place it in an acid-free storage container, away from any direct sunlight. Many offices use acid-free storage boxes to archive files and papers, so these can be found in most office supply stores.
Is it safe to burn YUPO paper?
Recently some artists have been creating really cool artwork by burning holes in the Yupo paper and layering it for a three-dimensional effect. But is this safe?
According to the Legion paper, it depends on what you consider safe. YUPO has issued various statements regarding the contents of the paper, including a Compliance Letter and the following statement regarding the environmental characteristics of YUPO in recycling. “Safely incinerated in a modern incinerator with an atmosphere of excess oxygen it will yield only water, carbon dioxide, and ash.”
As a good practice, if you are burning YUPO, it is recommended doing so in a well-ventilated area and consider wearing a protective mask during the process. The same stands true when working with alcohol ink, as well as varnishes and UV sprays.
Five Essential Tips for Painting with Alcohol Ink on YUPO
- Avoid handling the YUPO too much as the oils from your fingers can resist the ink and cause unwanted effect. One trick is to tape YUPO to a board, such melamine board, so that you can tilt and your inks around for interesting results. If you suspect oily fingerprints or residue, simply take a cotton ball or paper towel with Isopropyl alcohol and wipe off the surface.
- Although YUPO is considered “erasable watercolor paper”, it’s not possible to wipe alcohol ink off completely. The inks will stain the paper. However, if you’re not happy with your result, don’t sweat it, simply wipe it clean with Isopropyl alcohol and a paper towel and start over. Yes, the background will be discolored, but for most alcohol ink art projects, that’s not an issue.
- Once you paint with alcohol ink on YUPO, unlike tile, you cannot lift back to the original white background. If you are creating a representational piece and want the most control possible with alcohol ink, it is important to plan ahead and mask areas that you want to remain white, so that you can achieve the desired contrast.
- When working with alcohol ink on YUPO, it’s important not to stress about control. Working with alcohol inks on any substrate requires that you relax and let the ink guide you… and they will! It’s not uncommon to start out with one idea in mind and come up with something completely different. That keeps things interesting. You can use tools such as brushes, cotton balls, cotton swabs, brushes, kitchen straws, canned air, airbrush compressors and much more to move and control the inks. These supplies work well when working on YUPO.
- After painting with alcohol ink on YUPO, you will want to seal and protect your painting. Give your painting at least 48- 72 hours to dry completely before sealing. The drying time differs from location to location and depends on the humidity in your area. After it dries, a couple of light coats of Kamar Krylon varnish will seal your art. Then to prevent damage from UV rays, you’ll want to finish it with a coat of UV protectant spray.