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Decorative Paper

decorative papers Racines boasts a collection of more than 350 styles of decorative papers, and is always adding new papers to the collection. These papers are like spices to a chef, or fabric to a quilter. The versatility of these decorative art papers is extensive. The creative possibilities are endless.

The one thing I have noticed that there is not much available information for someone unfamiliar with decorative paper terms or characteristics. Not everyone wants to understand the technical aspects of the decorative paper, only how it feels or what it acts like. Yesterday a customer brought in a picture of her hallway which she covered in beautiful golds, tans and browns. She didnt care what the paper was made of, its weight, or even its name, only how it would look in her hall.

I hope the following lets you "feel" the paper.

Unryu papers are made from the mulberry bush. They come in many different colors and weights. Some have inclusions (glitter, metallic strands, flower petals, etc.). Some are backed. However all Unryu decorative collage papers have long strands of fiber added to the sheet creating contrast and texture. This paper is reminiscent of tissue paper, but much stronger. Many Unryu papers are translucent, allowing light to come through them. Unryu paper is soft and flowing. It does not hold a crisp line when folded. It is hard to create a deckle edge because of the long fibers. Inks or water colors will bleed when applied because the surface of the paper is so soft. It lends itself to being formed around objects.

We have seen this paper used for invitations, lamp shades, privacy screens, bathroom doors, window dressings, wrapping paper, packaging for soaps and jams, block prints, jewelry, candles, scrapbooks, collage, furniture, and framing.

Lace papers are papers that holes have been made intentionally in. Some of the lace decorative papers have the feel of a giant piece of Kleenex tissue while other are stiff and as if they had been starched. They are made by shooting streams of water in the desired pattern through the paper before it is dried. The patterns are delicate. This decorative paper can take quite a bit of handling and is not as fragile as it looks. The Thai patterned lace picks up dirt faster than other papers.

We have seen this used for table decorations, invitations, curtains, collage, candles, windows, and...

The garden series has inspired many artists. It is the thickness of an apple peel and the texture of a wrinkled table cloth. In it are flowers, bougainvillea petals, ferns, Iris petals and many more other beautiful inclusions. While this decorative paper is heavy and dense it has the feel of Spring and feathery garden plants.

We have seen these used for bags, envelopes, scrapbooks, boxes, cards, and...

Banana papers have a beautiful organic and woodsy feel about them. They have the texture and feel of brown paper grocery bags but a little bumpier. There are large chunky pieces of banana skin fibers floating in these decorative collage papers. They are crisper than the unryu. They have substance about them, heaviness, while still being lightweight. Tamarinds and Mangos range form light to medium weight. Tamarinds or mango papers love to be glued to almost anything. Both of these papers have leaves allowing a diffused light to come through. These are delightful papers. They have been used for everything.

We have seen these papers used for science fair project boards, lamp shades, table decorations, collage, photo album covers, masks, placemats and...

Momi papers are a soft paper. Most are easy to form around other objects. Their texture reminds me of a brown paper bag that has been wadded up and smoothed out many times. Momis are a dense paper allowing little to no light through them. They are made with different surface preparations. Some of my favorites are marbled with fun swirls of different colors on them. Each piece is different from the next. I covered a bathroom cabinet with one of these. It looks great! The more traditional look for Momi paper is a dense silver or gold applied to the surface. This was used to cover that customers hall!! Momis take adhesive well. Adhesives dont usually soak all the way through these decorative collage papers.

These papers are great for picture framing, gift wrap, book covers, packaging, and

Lokta decorative papers are made from the Daphne shrub also known as “Nepal paper plant”.  Lokta papers have the weight of an apple peel and the feel of a brown paper bag or construction paper.  This paper is very versatile.  It comes in many different finished surfaces. It is durable and can take a lot of handling.  It makes a beautiful deckle edge or can hold a clean fold.  They are absorbent and take adhesives well.  Some come with a finish that looks like wood veneer, some have a leather look, and others appear with a screened brush stroke look.  These papers lend themselves to projects where another object is being covered.  They are great for decorating boxes, picture frames, displays, book arts, wall paper, and….

This is tissue paper with attitude. The mulberry is the work horse of light weight papers, and is often used as the base for papers with inclusions. Our "mulberry" paper is machine made from 100% kozo, creating a strong, smooth and flexible paper. It comes in natural and bleached. I have seen this used for wood block prints, rubbings, skin on sculptures, and silk screen prints. This paper also makes a deckle edge. With much of the characteristics of tissue paper, light weight, transparent, it is also durable. It takes ink and paints, without dissolving. Once wet it does require careful handling until dry. This is also a good paper for backing others. Adhesives can soak quickly through this paper, allowing it to be fully encased in the adhesive. This glues down solid.

This decorative paper has good for block printing, painting (acrylics or gouche), drawing, book arts, rubbings, rubberstamping, and...

The embossed papers are a very heavy weight, almost a board. They are similar to a water color paper with no sizing in it. They have deep impressions embossed into the paper, such as hearts, stars, tress, swirls, etc. These papers don't like to be folded. They do like to be cut or kept whole for a texture on a back round.

I have seen these decorative collage papers as embellishments for book covers, boxes, scrapbooks, jewelry, display boards, and...

Oil papers are like nothing else. These papers have been soaked in oil that has permeated the paper. Inclusions are then placed between two thin sheets, and it is all pressed together. This decorative paper is translucent and crisp. It often has a strong odor that some people find distasteful. It screams to have light come through it. It reminds me of aged parchment.

This paper is perfect for making lamps, sculpture, framing, embellishments, and...

Metallics are all different kinds of paper that have been treated with metallic inks or coatings. The variety is great. Some are Momis; some are plastic coated papers. They all have a sparkle about them and are great for accents or brightening something up.

These decorative papers are great for cards, book, jewelry, framing, scrapbooks, book art, gift wrap, flower arranging, and...

There are many different ways to apply paper to itself or to other materials. I am writing this section based on my own experience and feedback from my customers. I have my own personal preferences and will share them here.

I select adhesives depending on the project and what the finished piece will be used for. For invitations I like to use the dry adhesive tapes from 3M, though any brand will do. I use these because they will lay a precise strip of adhesive down without wrinkling the paper. It is easy then to control placement of the paper onto which it is being applied. Quick and clean.

For collage I use either Nori paste or a Polymer medium. I often loudly sing the praises of the Nori paste. Nori paste is rice glue. It works much like Yes paste in that it is applied with a little water and a glue brush. It is much smoother and creamier than Yes paste, but like Yes paste a little goes along way. This glue also works great for gluing paper to wood. One customer tried many different products before finding the Nori paste. He is a professional woodworker and was making sojhe screens. This glue dried strong, clear, and clean. No lumps or sticky after spots.

To use Nori paste for collage, use an acid brush or inexpensive bristle hair brush. Wet the brush and remove excess water. Dip the wet brush into the paste picking up paste onto brush. Apply to either surface of papers being glued. Make sure all edges are glued down fully by gluing underneath edge and on top. Dont worry about being too neat. The water evaporates and the glue dries clear. Remember- a little glue goes a long way. One word of warning: do a small test of the paper to make sure that water wont wrinkle the paper or cause colors to bleed. If you are using slick magazine paper, it wrinkles.

 Another favorite is Golden Harvest Universal Wheat Paste.  I was introduced to this product through    artist Ada B. Fine.  She is known for her paper mache’s and collages.  This is a non toxic wall paper paste.  It comes in powder form and mixes with a little water.  I have tried it on walls and of course paper mache.  It has a wonderful texture (for those of us who love to play in the glop) and has delicate, subtle, sweet smell to it.  If you are trying to apply decorative papers to a wall surface, this stuff is great.  Just follow the directions on the package.

 If you are mixing for paper mache, put a small amount of water in a bowl (1 to 1 ½ cups) and add a little power, perhaps 2 table spoons.  (I do all this by feel, not measuring.)  If it’s too runny I add paste, if to stiff I add water.  I use a wire whisk to mix this stuff up.  I hate lumps!  I like the consistency of really runny cream of wheat.  I apply the wheat paste with my hands.  Pick a little of glop up in your hand and smear a small amount in both hands.  Run the paper strips through your wet hands applying the paste to the paper, then attach the wet paper to your form.   Ada was right.  I have found nothing better for paper mache.


Polymer mediums are like acrylic paint without the color. It makes a permanet bond between the paper and whatever you are sticking it to. If you are using the paper in a mixed media collage you can integrate acrylic paint easily. If you are using the polymer to apply the paper to another surface, it really holds well. I use polymer medium when gluing paper to glass, wood, and veneer. It also works well on some plastics.

Apply the medium to the surface you want covered. Stick the paper you are using on the surface. Take a liberal amount of polymer and cover evenly and completely. Dont worry if the medium soaks into paper. That will just make a stronger bond. The polymer will keep dust and dirt off the paper. It is not waterproof. Water will absorb slowly through the medium, so dont use it for outdoor or in a really wet environment. ( I did use it in my bathroom and it worked fine).

Spray adhesives are the only thing I use for gluing large pieces of paper, science fair projects, displays for merchandise, anything like that. It is definitely messy, but worth it to me to have a professional looking display. I use this outdoors. Overspray can get on everything, so spray away from where you are working on the finished piece. Any brand adhesive will do. Read the directions on the cans as different adhesive have different characteristics and tack aggressiveness.