How to: Paper Template Painting.

One of the most common questions I get at art shows or at my workshops is, “Is that paint or paper??”  Well the answer is, BOTH.  It’s called Mixed Media Painting.  I almost feel weird calling myself a painter, because I rarely pick up a paint brush.  I spend alot of time cutting out stencils and applying layers and layers and layers of paper to a canvas long before I ever apply any paint!

Today is a workshop day as I prepare for Artsy Chicks in a few weeks!  I wanted to share some of my creative process with ya’ll so you can make your very own mixed-media paintings.

1. Cut stencils out of card stock!  Any type of card stock will work and  you can cut out any stencil or shape you want.  I have been drawn to the paisley shape for the past few months.  A tip to remember:  Anytime I see an interesting shape in nature or in a fabric or wherever…I take a picture of it with my phone or make a quick sketch.  I have a box where I keep past stencils and my ideas for future.  

2. Pick out your paper!  I buy my paper at two stores in town, Plaza Artist Materials and Paper Source, both of which you can order online from if you don’t have one near you. A tip to remember: The best papers are the ones that aren’t too thick.  The thicker the paper, the harder it is to apply to canvas.  Also, some papers have what seems to be a shiny/waxy coat applied to the top…avoid these!  They don’t like to be molded, have a mind of their own, and often leave large air bubbles underneath.  

3.  Trace your stencils onto the paper and cut out!  A tip to remember: the more detailed your stencil you might need to use an exacto knife blade rather than scissors.  I rarely use very detailed stencils because the time it takes to cut out is more than I have to give.  I often use hundreds of cut outs per painting so I need something fast and efficient!  Because there are so many layers of paper, I don’t want to waste any detail on the ones that get 95% covered up.  You can always use a few more detailed stencils for the pieces that will be on top. 

4.  Apply stencils to canvas!  I use Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish.  Most collage type glues will work, I just prefer one with varnish.  First off it keeps me from having to add a layer of varnish after the painting is complete, and second the gloss really makes colors pop.  A tip to remember:  Glossy will make colors brighter, Matte will make colors dull.  The more layers of paper= the more texture.  Also, if your goal is to add depth, use different colors of paper starting with the lightest or darkest in the back and moving forward to the opposite.  

5.  Paint away!  Let it dry completely and then start painting!  The possibilities are endless! Here is one of my favorite pieces using the paisley template!  A tip to remember:  I like to use Acrylic paints, these are water based like the Gloss Medium and Varnish we already used. You can use oils if you want.  Acrylics cannot be added on top of oils though.  Meaning, sometimes I paint a canvas a solid color before applying the paper…this should be done with acrylic paint and not oil paint. After I paint I often use oil pastels to draw on top (as seen in the piece below).  This will require a special spray varnish so the pastel can set.  

I’d love to see your creations!  Email me your pictures at!



Posted on by Laura Posted in Art, DIY

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