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How to use Sumi Rice Paper for Photo Encaustic

How To Use Sumi Rice Paper For Photo Encaustic

What is Sumi Rice Paper?

The term rice paper is really a misnomer, the paper has nothing to do with rice. It would be more accurate to call it Calligraphy or Sumi Paper. Traditionally used to practice calligraphy lettering and sumi-e painting strokes, this is a lightweight, thin yet durable paper.

I buy Sumi Rice Paper by the roll and cut it with a paper trimmer to 8.5 inches so it will fit through my printer. It is also available in sheets but as they are 9″ x 12″ they will still need to be cut down to go through a standard printer.

Sumi Rice Paper & Photo Encaustic Collage

You may be familiar with the Encaustic Photo Transfer method in which the photograph’s ink is transferred onto the wax and the paper is removed with water. With this method, the transferred ink is fragile, you need to be careful when fusing not to break up and disperse the ink.

Let me introduce you to a different photo encaustic method, collaging with Sumi Rice Paper. When fused into wax the edges of the paper will become transparent and disappear, the paper will still be there, but only the printed image will show. This photo encaustic method creates a strong image.

  • Begin by printing a photograph on the Sumi Rice Paper,
  • Then position the image on your encaustic surface. It’s important to realize that the paper will become transparent. This means the colours and marks below the image will show through.
  • Lay a piece of wax paper or parchment paper down and, working from the centre outwards, burnish with a bone burnisher or other tool to remove air bubbles. I haven’t always done this but I will in the future as my last piece had a problem with an air bubble.
  • Use an iron to collage the image into the wax. The iron pushes the paper down into the wax as it fuses.

The iron I’m using in the video below is a ski board iron, an encaustic iron works well too.

Printing on Sumi Rice Paper

My printer model has a manual feed bypass slot that allows me to feed a single sheet of paper through, instead of using the paper tray. This works really well—I don’t need a carrier sheet (my printer is old, it is an HP LaserJetPro MFP M277dw). Every printer is different. Some printers have a rear bypass slot, check your owner’s manual.

If you need to put the paper through the paper tray, you will need to cut the paper and either iron it or weight it for a time under books to remove the tendency to roll. And then use a carrier sheet to help it go through the printer without jamming.

To be clear, a carrier sheet is just a sheet of regular printer paper that is used to help carry the Sumi paper through the printer. I recommend using a temporary adhesive to attach the Sumi rice paper to the carrier sheet. Such as

If you are not able to make this work in your printer, Claire O’Neill offers a Tissue Paper Printing Service.

Encaustic Painting Tips

  • In addition to photographs, you can print text or other ephemera imagery onto the rice paper.
  • It’s possible to layer rice paper images on top of one another using wax.
  • Remember that colours and marks below the paper will show through, so pay attention to what’s beneath.
  • Another beautiful thing about this transparent paper is that prints can be used face up or face down. You don’t need to print your image in reverse as you would for a photo transfer.
  • You don’t need to limit yourself to the size of your printer, you can print large images on multiple sheets of paper and piece them together.

I invite you to visit my website to view more photo encaustic paintings.

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

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13 thoughts on “How To Use Sumi Rice Paper For Photo Encaustic”

  1. Dear Ruth, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and for making this web page. I’m new to encaustic and learn a lot. Please, may I ask you what type of printer you recommend for the rice paper: laser or inkjet?
    A huge thank you. Love from Argentina

  2. Ruth, does it matter what side of the Sumi paper you print on? The smooth or the rough side? Thank you for your great tips!

  3. Oh I’m going to try that today with a hibiscus flower photo that I took. Want to experiment with several sizes and techniques. Thank you for the tips most appreciated.

  4. Love this transfer technique! What brand of iron do you have? Also, is this brand of rice paper that Amazon sells good for this application?
    JapanBargain, Calligraphy Rice Paper Japanese Sumi Paper Chinese Brush Calligraphy Painting Practice Paper Ink Stamping Paper Made in Japan, 80 Sheets

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