Mounting a drawing Q&A

Is there a particular kind of cotton paper that you prefer for your final painting?

Strathmore 500 Series Drawing 1 ply and 2 ply, it comes in 23" x 29" and 30" x 40", Plate or vellum finish (which ever you prefer). I use both for the original drawing and the final copy to paint upon. The 1 ply is light weight enough to pass through most oversize copiers.

What kind of panels do you use as support of the drawings?

I tend to use two types of panels:

1) 1/4 inch masonite.
This works fine for small pieces, up to ~ 24 x 36 inches (60 x 90 cm) with just a little warping at the larger sizes. To counter the wrap, I will dual mount paper, with one blank sheet on the back and the final drawing on the front - this balances out the tensions very well as long as you mount the sheets with an hour of each other while the panel is still drying.

2) 1/2 inch birch veneer plywood.
Great for all sizes, even up to a full sheet at 4 x 8 feet (120 x 240 cm). I tend not to mount paper at the larger sizes (36 inches and larger), and will trace out my drawings at this point on the panel prepared with acrylic gesso, front and back, to even out the tensions.

What kind of glue do you use to mount it on the masonite/panel?

Acrylic Matte/Gloss medium. Wet the paper first to get it to expand before applying the 'glue' to the panel/masonite and back of the copy. Then roll out the paper with a rubber printers' roller. The idea is to squeeze out most of the excess medium but leave enough to work as a glue. Practice on a small copy before moving onto the big sheets. Watchout for those hairs and dust specks! They will leave impressions on the front.

How do you make a large copy of your drawing?

There are many ways to create copies of your drawings, but I prefer to scan in my drawing using a flat bed scanner. From there, I will scale the image to the final size I wish to work and output a copy on my oversized printer here in the studio. I use an Epson 7800 printer which can output images at 24" wide by multiple feet in length. If you do not have a large format printer, you can try taking your drawing to a copystore or blueprinting service and have a larger image made. FedEx Office (the old Kinko's) tend to have oversized copiers you can use.

When you expand the paper do you somehow glue it down and let it dry with the matte medium or do you stretch it like watercolor paper and glue it down once it has completely dried?

I wet down the paper on both sides quite liberally, and while it is still wet and fully expanded (it takes about 5-10 minutes for the paper to fully relax and increases in size by ~4-5%), glue it down with the medium. Then let everything dry at once. If you let the paper dry again before mounting, it will shrink up a bit and have the same problems all over again: wrinkles appearing when you wet it and not let the paper fully expand.

I then sand the front and apply 2-3 more coats of the medium to fully protect the paper, sanding between each coat.

The largest single ply strathmore paper I've found in my area is 23" x 29", but I need larger! Have you found larger paper, and if so, is this a special order item? Or, do you tile stuff together?

Strathmore makes the paper in a 30" x 40" 2 ply sheet. I get it at Uthrecht, Da Vinci and New York Central Art Supply here in the city. (Pearl Paint probably also has it in their catalog.)

I noticed that when I saturated the paper, it seemed to expand a little-is this normal? I guess it's kind of like a sponge, so it makes sense.

Yes this is normal. Actually the paper tends to expand in one direction more than another (~1% on the long direction and ~2-4% in width), I think its from the way it was rolled out in manufacturing. I like to use the larger sheets and cut them in half and have the expansion go top to bottom instead of side to side (facial/body distortions look better elongated than wide. Real people vary too much in body types to make a difference anyway...

Just how smooth do you sand the matte medium down? I sanded what I thought was pretty smooth, but I did end up with some visible brush striations once I started painting. It's not normally something that bothers me, but I was wondering how glassy you try and get the surface.

I paint with those small striations as well. The best way to avoid them is to thin down the medium. Make it very milky and use a soft brush to spread it out, and keep spreading it as it dries to help reduce down the ridges that form. A Science Fiction illustrator friend used to make his masonite as smooth as glass..I'm not kidding! Sanding and wetsanding. You might try the later with ultra fine paper (~ 400- 600 grit).

One thing that was very different for me when I started painting on this was that the paint seemed to grip less. I expect it was the smoothness of the surface. Do you use anything to give the medium any sort of tooth, or do you just let the paint build layers until it gets opaque?

I actually start very opaque and then place transparent layers on top. Both to cover the drawing/copy fully and also to quickly establish my values. It's easy to adjust color once the value composition is worked out. As for it gripping, I haven't know how to paint on panel any other way...! I've heard from others using just linseed oil as a medium that they've had trouble. Not a problem here, my glazing medium provides plenty of 'tooth'.

Have fun!