• Poppy sketch in Strathmore 500 series sketchbook

    Watercolours & Old Book Pages

    Hello again, it’s been sometime!

    It’s hard to believe we are in October already and that my last blog was in April! In todays blog post I’m sharing my process of using watercolours & old book pages by using a special watercolour ground to prepare different papers.

    Like many people I find my emotions and things happening in daily life can affect my interests, inspirations and my creativity. Following a family bereavement at the beginning of June I didn’t feel creative or excited about the idea of painting for several months. To start with I whittled I ought to be painting, writing my newsletters or blog posts as I normally would. However I realised I needed to give myself some time. If you’ve read my previous posts, newsletters or follow me on social media you’ll know how much I enjoy keeping a sketchbook or two on the go.

    Watercolours & Old Book Pages

    Getting Going Again

    Once I started to regain my mojo I allowed myself to simply explore ideas in my sketchbooks, gradually losing myself in the creative process rather than working on full paintings.

    One of the things I’ve been having fun with has been using different papers, such as old book pages or scrapbooking sheets as part of the base for watercolour sketches.

    Ordinarily papers produced for watercolours have been specially prepared with a size to allow the paint to flow across the surface. However this isn’t the case with old book pages, on these I find the paint often sinks into the paper a little bit like blotting paper making it difficult to blend and move the watercolours.

    To overcome this I first prepare book pages and other printed papers with a special watercolour ground before using them for a sketch or painting.

    Watercolours & Old Book Pages

    Here’s a short YouTube video showing my process, and examples of sketches, that I made whilst preparing sheets for my weekly classes to experiment on.

    My Process

    The first stage is to cover the back of the book page with adhesive, I use Bindex an acrylic binder, before sticking it on to a sheet of watercolour paper. The page needs gently smoothing down all over to make sure any air bubbles are removed before leaving it to dry.

    Sketchbook, Preparing Old Book Pages

    Once the adhesive has completely dried I then carefully brush a thin even layer of the special watercolour ground over both the printed page and the surrounding watercolour paper. I tend to cover all of it with a thin layer of transparent ground leaving it to dry for at least a day before applying a second coat.

    After the sheet has dried for 24 hours I then apply another thin layer of ground. For the second layer I use either the Transparent Ground again or I may choose to use a Titanium White Ground or a mixture of both.

    Sketchbook with prepared for watercolours on book pages
    Prepared pages from an old Lord of the Rings book that was falling apart!

    Soft Hints Of Lettering

    Sometimes I like to have lots of the text showing whereas on others sketches I leave just a hint of the base writing to show through the watercolour washes. I do like how the print give quite a different feel a watercolour sketch.

    Close-up of text showing through watercolour washes

    There are various different brands of watercolour grounds available. The ones I’ve been using are from Daniel Smith.


    The process of preparing the different papers to use with watercolours does mean I have to plan ahead and be patient, something I’m not very good at when I’m excited about an idea!

    I hope you’ve found this interesting and perhaps inspired to have a go yourself. I’d love to hear how you get on or if you have any favourite sketchbook techniques.

    It’s great to be sharing my ideas, thoughts and inspirations again, I’ll try not to leave it so long next time!

    I’ll be sharing more news about my art, tuition and future plans in my next newsletter including exclusive newsletter subscribers offers. If you’d like to receive my newsletters there’s a simple form on the homepage.

    Happy painting,


    You can see more of my daily art activities on my Facebook and Instagram pages.



    3 thoughts on “Watercolours & Old Book Pages

    1. I absolutely love this idea of painting and want to know more please. Having explored many mediums and techniques for painting over the years you have inspired me when I am at a loss as to what to do next. Do you have any work shops for this technique coming up in the coming months?

      1. Hi Anne,
        Thank you for your message, I’m so delighted this has inspired you. I often find when I’m at a loss for an idea or feel a little stuck in a rut it does me good to have a change. This sometimes involves me swapping from watercolour to mixed media or visa versa. Often it means I’ll experiment with a new technique or idea. As you’ll have read I really enjoy using book pages as an unusual base for some of my watercolour sketches. It’s great fun do have a go yourself.
        Thanks for asking about a possible workshop on this technique. I don’t know where you live but if you’re not too far away from Leicestershire you may be interested to know I’m planning to start my one & two day workshops again in 2022. I had to cancel these at the start of the pandemic so it will be nice to be able to offer both online and face to face workshops next year. I’ll bear in mind possibly including one using this technique when I put my programme together. I’ll be sending out details of future workshops to my newsletter subscribers, if this is of interest to you there’s a simple form on the home page.
        Have fun with your painting!

        1. Thank you for your prompt reply. I am very interested in this technique and would like to come to one of your workshops next year. I live in Carlton and a friend of your Mum who told me about your web site. I have filled in the form on your home page and will look out for future workshops. Anne

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