Tearing Full Sheets of Fine Art Paper to Smaller Sizes
When I started my creative adventures, I was baffled by the assortment of papers available for watercolor painting and printmaking. Many of the recommended fine art papers were only available in full sheets, and I liked to practice by working small.
Tearing down full sheets of paper to smaller sizes gave me pause because it required math, and I’m about six years old with numbers. Also, paper is expensive, so mistakes and/or waste while reducing the sheets would be costly.
Over the years, to avoid the math of dividing fine art paper into smaller sheets to produce maximum yield, with minimal waste, I scribbled a series of yield templates (see below).
Depending on the project I was jumping into, I could look through my yield templates for appropriate sizes to meet my watercolor painting plans, or match the size of the block or plate I’d be using to print an edition.
Label Your Paper
After tearing down full sheets of watercolor, printmaking and drawing paper, it’s impossible to tell them apart. Without the benefit of the watermark, you can’t tell which brand of paper you’re holding. Plus, the watermark tells you which side is the front versus the back.
I decided early in my art-making adventures that I’d *always* label my smaller sheets of paper with the brand and weight, on the front of the sheet in pencil. I could always erase it if I needed the edge of the paper to be visible in the final art.
Oftentimes, the front and back of fine art paper aren’t discernible, but in a few papers, they are quite different, and I wanted to keep that detail straight.
I use light pencil to mark the front of the paper with the brand and weight, even if the paper is tiny. This helps me avoid making a teeny watercolor on drawing paper that has no sizing, or attempting to print with Akua ink on watercolor paper that has a lot of sizing, which will prohibit absorption, and thereby drying time.
Paper Yield Templates for You
I’ve prepared four of my art paper yield templates for you to download. There are two per sheet, so you can print them on standard copy paper as a reference.
- Here is a PDF of an art paper yield tear down template that will transform a 22×30 inch sheet of fine art paper into 7 or 10 smaller sheets.
- Here is a PDF of an art paper yield tear down template that will transform a 22×30 inch sheet of fine art paper into 15 or 16 much smaller sheets
Feel free to use these four downloadable paper yield diagrams to inspire making new configurations for yourself – especially if the standard size of fine art paper in your area varies from what we get here in the US.
Having these measurement maps to tear paper down saves time and number crunching in the studio. And we all agree that any pre-motor planning that gets our hands on art supplies sooner is a very good thing, right?
Tearing Fine Art Paper Down to Smaller Sizes
I made a quick video to show how I tear fine art paper down (below). When I started buying full sheets of printmaking and watercolor paper, I ruined plenty of pieces by tearing crooked lines, losing my grip on the ruler, or pulling in the wrong direction.
Now, I only use a stainless steel ruler with a cork-backing, which helps keep the paper snug against the table without sliding, and the steel edge makes a nice clean tear.
I also make sure to adjust my hand positions as I’m tearing, over and over, so both of my hands are moving down to either side of the point of separation while I’m tearing. You’ll see a demo of that in the video. I hope you find it helpful.
Every Little Thing Helps
Making room for frequent creative time can be a challenge because life gets in the way. When we finally do have time, we get in our own way with negative self talk, fear and lack of experience and mastery over the tools we need to get the job done.
The map to making more art is littered with friction, so every little tip to clear the path helps. If there are other challenges stopping you from making art more often, leave them in the comments, and we’ll all tackle them as a community. You’ve got this.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the studio,
My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.Ernest Hemingway