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Troubleshooting: Shiny Paper after Embossing

Just as you can “collapse” the paper in a pencil drawing by laying down too much graphite too hard/fast, you can also “collapse” the paper (make it shiny) in paper sculpture. However, it is almost impossible NOT to do this with the amount of pressure you have to apply to the paper.

By accident, I found a solution to this, and it’s very simple. Once the piece is completely dry, with straight water, “paint” the shiny area (it doesn't work to spray, it must be painted on). When it dries, the shine is gone. I don’t know why this works, but I suspect it’s because it allows the compressed paper fibers to resume their original shape.

(Images below show this, no retouching)

shine comparison.jpg

The only time I’ve had issues with this is that a very few papers will bleed when wet (you should be able to tell which because they will bleed against the paper towel also). Those papers will leave a waterline – you can still do it, but you want to be more aware of where you are painting the water. (use it a shadow, etc).  It is almost always black paper that has more transient color – the rest are more water-fast.


Sometimes, however, you want the shine for added dimension and because it’s appropriate to the piece. I do not like the shine on skin or figurative work; however the shine on the black houses in some of the above images adds definition, and will also function to play with the light on the final piece.

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