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One of the most beautiful and accessible techniques for decorating pages is with paste paper. For centuries it has been used for endpapers, bookbinding, wallpaper, and other crafts. In the 17th century it was widely used by unmarried Moravian women as a way of supporting themselves at home; their work made its way all over Europe.

Paste paper sample

Paste paper sample roses

Recipes vary, but this is one I have used for years. The alum is a mordant, which helps the color “grab” the paper. (For my U.K. friends, alum can be bought online.)

  • ½ cup white flour (cake flour is best but if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it)
  • ½ cup corn starch/corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon alum
  • 1 cup + 1 cup cold water
  • 4 cups boiling water

Basically you are creating a homemade paste. Mix flour, corn starch, and alum thoroughly. Add one cup cold water and whisk. Add four cups boiling water and keep stirring with whisk. Place over high heat on stovetop and keep stirring. As mixture thickens, turn the temperature down and let it simmer. It is important to keep stirring constantly for an even texture. I let it cook for about 15 minutes. The mixture will become somewhat translucent and pudding like.

Take off the heat and add one cup cold water and stir. Then pour through sieve into large bowl and allow to cool completely. If the paste has little lumps in it when you get ready to use it, you can take a hand blender to it. Divide your paste into cups or bowls, then add a generous amount of acrylic paint. Two tablespoons per half cup is a good gauge. Now stir like crazy. Keep stirring until you have a silky texture.

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paste paper colors

Choose your paper. You can use any weight, but as the paste will reinforce the paper when it dries, I prefer a lighter weight like 130 gsm. This results in a strong paper that can still be manipulated. Using a sponge or brush, coat your blank page with water to give it slip. Not too much or you will weaken the paper, just a light coat.

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Place a dollop of paste paint on the damp page and brush it over the page to make a surface. You may have to brush a lot to get a smooth surface. Depending on the technique you end up using,you may want a light coat or a thick one: the only way to discover the right one is to experiment.

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Now you are ready to draw, comb, stamp, pull, finger paint, or faux marble. A dime store comb is perfect, as is an old credit card, or a palette knife. Play with a variety of tools – I regularly pick up items in the kitchen, toy, or hardware section of the store. Keep dragging your utensils through the paint, changing angles and adding layers. Pulled work gives your pages a fascinating veiny texture: paint on one or both sides of your pages, press them firmly together, then gently pull them apart. Experiment with thin and thicker layers. Try adding small dollops of contrasting colors. The beauty of paste paper is that if you make a mistake, you can just take your brush, even out your layer, and start again.

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Allow pages to dry completely. There is no need to seal or finish them.

If you have any questions about making paste paper pages, just let me know in the comments below.

To see a variety of examples, go to and check out the menu on the left, or