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How to Paint on Vellum

Modern vellum is a speciality paper that is translucent and manufactured by embossing wood pulp and cotton fibres. The earliest vellum was actually untanned animal skin used for writing by the Hebrews in the first millennium B.C. The skins were cleaned and dried under tension. Later, the pelts were polished with pumice stones from volcanoes. Today's vellum has the same delicate qualities as the ancient vellum and are limitless in creative possibilities. You can easily paint on vellum as long as you are careful of its drying time.

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  1. Sketch your idea on sketch paper before you begin your painting. Transfer your drawing onto your painting by copying it. You may also trace the drawing by placing your vellum paper over your sketch, since vellum is transparent. Prepare your paints. If you are using acrylics, you can put small amounts of each colour in small plastic cups. If you are using watercolours or gouache, you can place small amounts of each colour on your watercolour palette.

  2. Dip your brush into your paint to begin. Paint in a thin layer on the vellum to avoid the colours running into each other, making a muddy looking painting.

  3. Allow the first layer paint to dry before starting another layer. Once you have completed your painting, you can erase any pencil marks, especially if you used watercolour.

  4. Tip

    Paper vellum is not the best material for oil painting. Oils take a very long time to dry, and they may slide off the vellum surface. Historically, animal hide vellum was often painted on and is still used by some artists today.


    Place newspaper or old cloths on the painting table and floor to protect them while you paint.

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Things You'll Need

  • Vellum
  • Drawing pencil
  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Eraser
  • Small plastic cups
  • Brushes
  • Water

About the Author

Charong Chow

Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.

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