How to Avoid Buckling in Art Journals and Sketchbooks

by Donna E.
(Durham,NC USA)

Mixed Media Art Questions by Donna


..."I often find many points in a mixed media piece, that I trip myself up with either mixing or incorporating wet media in my journals that have “unintended” buckling of the paper in various ways, and would like to know about mixed media rules that you find helpful. Sometimes it is serendipitous; other times, it takes me away from what I was trying to achieve.

1. When trying to use old book pages to journal on, as I've seen that many artists recommend and do (i.e., old phone books, vintage books store books), they can buckle very badly, even if I glue a few pages together for strength (which itself buckles if not uniform), yet I don't see this happening in demos. If I lay a foundation with acrylic medium first, it seems to limit my options for working with dry media.

2. Gesso can be a bit rough in the tooth if I try to do fine detailed drawing on it, and thinner coating yields more buckling. I feel limited to wet media to get fine details at that point. Graphite, colored pencils, charcoals, pastel pencils are difficult to adhere as predictably as on dry paper.

2. Once you have a page that has buckled, is there anything you can do to flatten it a bit? I've had pages that ended up with layers of pen, including gel pens, various acrylic media (paints, glazes, effects, gessos), water-soluble oil pastels, watercolor paint, dry media, inks, shiva oil sticks, etc., and small areas of buckling that I'd love to even out a bit. A little insecure about applying heat or other process that might damage/alter some of the media.

3. Prepping a dry, blank, journal page: the first side I paint, it buckles, except watercolor paper or the new Canson Mixed Media notebooks, which get a light smooth ripple. I've read watercolor artists recommendation to stretch it by taping it down, brushing backside with water to it swells, letting it dry, then turn over and start prepping the paint side. Is there a technique for doing this in a bunch of journal pages without having to create background images in advance?

4. I know the Moleskine art journals (esp. watercolor weight) are sturdy choices for wet media art journals; however am looking for more flexible and/or less expensive alternatives, too. Is there a way to add some sort of sizing to unsized paper to reinforce it to make it more like, say, Canson mixed media paper? Are there other journal choice options besides moleskine that are sturdy but less expensive?

thank you for submitting your Mixed Media Art Questions


Milliande's Answer

~ Buckling of paper in art journals and sketchbooks is an issue for many mixed media artists that can be solved /avoided with varying degrees of success

~ Lets look at altered books for art journals first ..

~ Using vintage books can be a fun way to create an art journal , however most pages have brittled with age and are relatively thin. It is worth looking out for vintage books that are older where the paper contains a large part of cotton ( much like good quality watercolor papers these days) .. the cotton content holds wet media better than other less firm papers

~ Gluing several pages together can give a stronger surface when using vintage books .. however it is a time consuming process if done well .. choosing a glue that has only a small amount of water content helps keeping the moisture level down ... applying a thin coat of
Golden Soft Gel Acrylic Matte Mediums
works well for me ... I will take usually 3-4 pages at a time ..glue them to each other then seperate them with a piece of non-stick baking parchment from the next set of pages that i glue together...once I have a batch ready in vintage book ...I leave them to dry under pressure another pile of books or something heavy that would keep the book as closed to its original shape as possible

~ Once an art journal page has buckled it is quite difficult to get it to flatten..oftne one needs to remoisten it ( trying not to damage the artwork , possible moisten from the back with a water spray diffuser), I have also successfully used a small craft iron for tiny bits that have buckled ... When gluing items into my art journal I often use a
to make sure all airbubbles have been removed that could cause later buckling

~ As for precoating pages to be used as art journal pages .. it is difficult to find the right medium for the right pens at time... a lot of pen and ink work that I do does not like a pre gessoed surface as you rightly said, it has way too much tooth in it and tends to clog up pens .. I have had success with using clear gesso with does not contain quite as much chalk ...

~ As to which art journal is the best for Mixed Media Artwork ...

~ Personally I use an art journal that is made by a local papermill and contains a paper that is used especially formulated for wet media yet has a smooth surface much like hotpressed watercolor paper ... but all these come indeed at a more expensive price ..

~ Moleskine art journals are fun for a special treat but I find myself rarely allowing the muse to play wildly in it as it is soo dear in price...

~ These days I choose to buy large sheets of
Fabriano hotpressed 300lb watercolor paper

~ this is a classic white paper sized synthetically sized both internally and externally so that no animal by-products are used. Fabriano's Artistico papers are mould-made of 100% cotton and are acid-free/pH neutral and chlorine-free.

Papers are luxurious yet durable and can handle lifting and scraping and mixed media wet art supplies without buckling or loosing its integrity . It is suitable for all water media, printmaking, digital printing, charcoal, pastel, and other drawing applications.

~ Sheets are 22" × 30" (559 mm × 762 mm) , so for my art journals I rip a whole sheet against a
metal ruler
to retain the deckled edge ... that way if an art journal page turns out particularly well I also have the option of framing it ... if I want to make it into an art journal simple bookbinding stitched can turn it into a beautiful sketchbook

I hope this helps
♥ milliande

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Nov 12, 2009
Buckling of Papers
by: Milliande

I also thought, that when you use a store bought journal look out for hot pressed watercolor paper as oopsed to the rougher grade which does not like fine details pens etc .. I do not know what is available in your part of the world...but visiting local paper mills often lets you choose the type of paper that can be bound into a journal ..

I am lucky to live near one that carries a lot of seconds and misprints for a fraction of the original cost

♥ milliande

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