Painting on Both Sides of the Paper

A mistake in shipping gave this artist the opportunity to play around with some new watercolor paper. The results were stunning and introduced her to a brand new way of working.

By Helen K Beacham

I used to paint only on opaque YUPO until I was accidentally sent an order of translucent YUPO. After painting on one side and not liking what I’d painted, I flipped it over to paint on the other side (like I would with traditional paper).

What I saw gave me chills! I could see a ghost image of what was on the front! After asking around, I found no one that was using this phenomenon to their advantage so I began to experiment with it for a year before I felt confident in the predictability of the results.

My reference photo for “Lowcountry Sunshine”


Image painted on the back side of the translucent YUPO paper

The image on the back side of the paper is reversed, of course. And the shapes of color are applied where I want extra punches of color to show through to the front. See all the blues at the top? Now check out the next image — all that blue is strictly painted on the back and adds a subtle blue for the sky on the front. No sky color was painted directly on the front. You can see other areas where the color on the back glows through to the front.


“Lowcountry Sunshine” (watercolor on YUPO, 14 x 18 in.)

Even the sandy foreground was mostly painted on the back! The technique really helps create aerial perspective very easily.

Tip: In photo editing software, I flip the original reference photo horizontally(to use as a reference when painting on the back) so that there’s no guessing about where the shapes are. Another advantage of translucent YUPO is that you can see your pencil lines from the back!

“I am drawn to all things old,” says Helen K Beacham, who owns an old home with sloping floors, and travels to Italy where the history and culture ooze their age gracefully. Her painting and teaching careers span 37 years. Workshops and/or Sightseeing Retreats to Montreal, Barcelona, France and Venice are lined up for 2018. Her award-winning work is in many private and corporate collections throughout the U.S., Canada, England, Kuwait, Australia, Italy and others.

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  1. What an exciting concept. I’ve just been painting on Yupo for about two years and gave won awards on some of my work already. The idea of using translucent Yupo fascinates me and I am definitely going to try it. Thank you for sharing.
    Sharon Rapp

  2. Lovely very innovative work! Could you please describe how you finish these pieces? Do you spray both sides with UV Archival spray? Or, do you just mat and frame them behind glass?


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