Thwart Your Inner Control Freak

6 tips for painting watercolor on YUPO

When all you have to work with is paint, water, and your surface, it’s important to know how each interacts with the other. So what if you take away all that you know—or think you know—about one of those elements? That’s what happens when painting watercolor on YUPO paper. See what esteemed watercolor painter Stan Miller learned when he gave up control and took a gamble on a surface that defies traditional expectations. (Spoiler alert: it led this self-proclaimed controlled painter to loosen up—something we all strive to do.)

“Painting watercolor on YUPO is a bit like painting on glass—it’s very, very slick,” he says. “The paint slides everywhere and doesn’t seem to want to settle into the paper or dry very quickly. The pigments interact and float around for some time.”

Stan’s Tips for Getting the Most From This Unique Watercolor Painting Surface
  1. Tilt your painting to encourage paint flow patterns.
  2. Because of the minimum absorption of the watercolor paint into the paper, you can easily remove color, nearly down to the original white of the surface. This means you can correct mistakes easily, but be careful, you can just as easily unintentionally wash away something that you desired to keep.
  3. When trying to make a color very dark, you need only to use near pure paint with no or very little water.
  4. To position critical detailed areas, you often need to delicately push and shove the paint across the smooth surface into the desired location.
  5. Using lots of water doesn’t work well on this paper, as it’s extremely difficult to achieve a dark passage if you have lots of water on the surface.
  6. One of the best characteristics of this paper is that the potential for wonderful, near abstract flows of paint and creative patterns is unlimited.

So will he use YUPO paper again? “Absolutely, it’s fun and highly uncontrollable, which is good for a guy like me who normally is very controlled.”

“My first watercolor class I got a C—the worst grade I had ever received in any art class,” says Stan Miller. “I was required to take it again the following year, and it went much better. Not only did I get an A, but I fell in love with the medium.” He’s now an award-winning painter and sought-after instructor.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.



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