Mounting paste

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    • #20423

      I did some research about mounting or reinforcing calligraphy works or paintings and stumbled upon this mixture (just water and flour actually):

      He’s using a wide brush with goat hairs but with the paste won’t the hairs stick together or is it easy to wash out?
      The paste itselfs seems quite watery to me and I have the feeling this might ruin the work… Has anybody have ever tried this ? Or do you have another paste mixture that you use?

      I also saw a paste with alum or something but I’m not sure what it does. Does it enhance the color or create a ‘snowy’ look like here:


    • #20432

      Hi, Felice and a happy new year!

      You are basically talking about the process caled “Chinese mounting”. It is essential to master enleast the first step of creating a mounted painting/calligraphy, i.e. what you called “reinforcement” and what is commonly refered to as “first and second backing”. Why? Because it is the only way to turn your wrinkly, buckled artwork in a superbly flat surface again. The process is simple, fascinating and very satisfying.

      If you watch Henry Li’s videos and read what is up on the internet or on this forum about “Chinese mounting” you will be able to learn. You will enleast be able to back and straighten your artwork so you can have it framed.

      Usually the inks resist the wet treatment if they are genuine oriental type, but if you have any doubts or want supplimentary reassurance there is a trick to make them withstand any wet treatment: gently apply whith a softbrush a soution of 1% gelatine with 0.6% alum…that is roughly 1g gelatine, 0.6g alum, 100ml water (mix cold, wait 10min, heat in bain marie). It’s what is called “glue and alum water” in Henry Li’s videos and other resources.

      Yes, I and other members of this forum have tryed it and it’s wonderful. But be sure to learn the process on a few unimportant trial pieces at first!

      Happy mounting! 🙂


    • #20479

      I see that a piece of glass is used as work surface for wetting the artwork.

      1. where do you find glass that is long enough to do a scroll piece (40 inches or more)?
      2. what is the board he lays the wet artwork on (the wall)?

      Thanks for help, the Henry Li vids are very clear otherwise.

    • #20500


      I do all my own backing/mounting including very large works.  I also teach simple mounting on wood and canvas with much success.

      There are a number of ways depending on who is your teacher or what book/video you consult.  Henry Li’s are good so you can’t go wrong there.

      For small pieces (8×10 and smaller) I use Nori paste or make my own with cornstarch.  For very large pieces which require an initial backing, I make a flour-based paste.  If you have used good quality ink (preferably ink stick) and Chinese or Japanese colours (tube, pan or granules), you should not have to worry about the water damaging the painting. These substances are made with a glue that renders the ink and colours permanent when dry. However, if you like to use watercolours made in the Western tradition,  you can spray them with a fixative made for watercolour artists. Be aware though that this fixative can sometimes discolour the delicate washi (rice papers) so use with a light hand and caution. Test it first always on practice pieces.

      Below, I have attached some recipes (home-made pastes) and a mounting method for you to try.  My advice is – just try it! The alum water approach is also good by the way.  PS  RE: rather than glass, use plexiglass. Safer.

      Best of luck to you!  Sincerely, Heather

      [Disclaimer:  This method was passed along to me by a fellow artist. I have rewritten them and changed a few things based on my own experience. Some knowledge and experience regarding the treatment and handling of paintings on rice paper is assumed, and as such, I take no responsibility for any errors or problems with artwork that may occur during or after using this method.  Good luck!]

      How to mount onto a Wood (Box) Frame

      Materials & Tools:

      Wood frame – usually made from birch, and either regular depth or gallery depth
      Rice paper a little larger than wood frame
      **Acrylic medium of your choice
      Your painting – preferably with the paper slightly larger than the finished piece will be
      Acid-free paste (see recipes)
      2” to 3” clean hake brush for paste – reserve for paste only!
      2” to 3” clean hake brush for use with acrylic medium – reserve for medium only!
      Spray bottle filled with water – for fine mist

      Ensure wood frame surface is clean and dry
      Lay your painting on the wood frame where you would like it to sit and gently fold down edges to make a slight impression
      Paint a thin layer of acrylic medium on frame to alkalize the surface & let dry
      Spray mist a piece of plain rice paper to relax paper
      Spread acid-free paste on surface of wood frame and use wax paper to smooth it starting from center outwards, then along edges, etc. Remove air bubbles and wrinkles gently. Cover with a piece of wax paper and let dry under some weight
      Mist your painting to relax the paper, keep track of where you wanted it to sit on the wood frame (fold lines)
      Spread paste on surface of wood frame and smooth painting on it to remove air bubbles and wrinkles without being too rough or the paper will pill – let dry
      Optional:  spread a thin layer of clear acrylic medium, preferably one that has UV protection, over the finished mounted painting
      The finished work can be framed in a float frame or left unframed. Some ideas for finishing without additional framing include painting the sides with acrylic paint (black, white, etc.) or covering the sides with matching paper using the same glue process. Don’t forget to put your name, date and title of work on the inside back! Best to write these details on a piece of paper and glue it on the inside.

      Use appropriate hanging hardware such as sawtooth hangers for small pieces, or traditional wire with eye hooks for larger works. There are quite a few options to hang artwork.

      **Various brands such as Golden, TriArt, Liquitex, etc. matte or semi-gloss acrylic medium

      TIP:  Use a permanent marker  to write on your mounting brushes: PASTE ONLY, MEDIUM ONLY.  Wash them well with warm water and soap. Keep them clean (away from paint, ink, etc.)


      Ottawa School of Art 2020

      Heather MacDonald, Instructor

      Commercial Paste

      Nori (Yasutomo brand) is a starch paste that is great for mounting smaller works. One jar lasts a long time!

      Home-made Pastes

      1.      Wheat paste – made with pastry flour (low gluten)

      2.      Starch paste – made with cornstarch or rice flour (similar to Nori Paste)

      These pastes are generally reversible (they can be undone with water) unlike white glue.

      Wheat Paste

      Traditional paste which can be made on the stove or in the microwave.

      A word about Water:

      If you want to be more archival, use distilled water to make your pastes.  At the very least, I use filtered tap water from the fridge.

      Microwave Method

      ¼ cup pastry flour

      1 cup cold water

      Thoroughly mix the flour into ¼ cup cold water. Remove all lumps. Boil the remaining ¾ cup water and then slowly pour the flour into it, whisking/mixing as you do so. It should start to thicken up. Microwave it in 30 second increments until it is thick enough. Store in the fridge in a clean jar or airtight container.

      Stove-Top Method

      1 part pastry flour*

      4 ½ parts cold water

      * For example:   if you start with ½ cup of flour, then add 2 ¼ cups cold water.  This makes quite a bit of paste.  You may want to start with half this amount.

      Combine flour and water with a whisk.  Stir out all lumps.  Place over low to medium heat.  Stir nearly constantly until first bubbles appear as it approaches the boil. If you don’t watch and stir, the mixture will stick to the pot and scorch.   Stir 30 seconds longer.  Remove from heat immediately or you will end up with a mixture resembling rubber.  Let cool, and paste away.  It can be thinned with water if need be. Store in a clean air-tight container in the fridge.  Keep it until it starts to smell bad.


      Starch Paste

      Cornstarch or rice flour, when mixed with water and cooked, makes a smooth shiny paste that is strong when dry.

      Microwave Method

      Mix ¼ cup cornstarch or rice flour with enough cold water to make a smooth thick paste.

      Stir in a cup of cold water and place in microwave for about 1 minute on HIGH power. Take it out and stir. As it thickens, be careful not to let it get rubbery.  Check it after each 30 second increment. It is better to take it out and check it after each increment..  You want to have an almost pudding-like thickness – the paste will take on a translucent, slightly shiny look.  Let it cool a bit – it usually thickens up even more as it cools off.

      Strain out any lumps by pushing the paste through a sieve with a wooden spoon . Store the paste in a clean airtight container in the refrigerator when you’re finished.  It can keep for a while, until it starts to smell bad.

      Use the same approach over the stovetop, again watching it so that it does not overboil.  Cook on medium-low rather than high heat, stirring constantly.  Try not to let it get too thick. If the paste gets VERY thick, it can always be thinned with water. As long as it doesn’t burn, it’s ok. Make sure it is not lumpy!

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