How to Make Paper Stiff

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Preserve delicate paper pieces like these.
Preserve delicate paper pieces like these. (Image: origami image by legrodu95 from Fotolia.com)

While there are many delicate and intricate projects based around the folding, cutting, and shaping of paper, a common frustration with any such project is how fragile the paper is when finished. To keep your works of paper art from being easily crumpled or wilted, apply a solution to make them stiff. A homemade glutenous wheat paste solution will give paper strength, stiffness, and just enough flexibility to keep it from being overly rigid.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 cups water
  • Saucepan
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • Wire whisk
  • Craft brushes

Boil the water in a saucepan on the stove. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Reduce heat to medium.

Whisk flour into the water. Add the flour a pinch at a time, whisking constantly. After all the flour is mixed in, continue whisking until the mixture begins to form gluten; you'll know that this has happened when it starts to appear less pasty and opaque and more gelatinous and slightly transparent.

Remove the flour mixture from heat and let it cool. If it sets up and becomes too thick during this time, mix in some water; you want the mixture to have the consistency of heavy cream.

Cut and/or fold the paper into whatever shape you want it to become stiff; after you add the wheat paste, the paper will stiffen into that form and grow thick enough to be difficult to cut with the same precision.

Brush the paper lightly with wheat paste using craft brushes. If your paste still has any lumps, don't let these rest on the paper. Smooth out the paste with your finger, ensuring that it is spread in a thin but even coat that covers all the paper.

Let the paste dry two to four hours.

Apply extra coats of paste as needed. The more you add, the stiffer the paper will become.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add a tablespoon of sugar to strengthen the solution even further so you don't have to add as many coats.
  • If brushes aren't handy, soak a rag in the solution and apply it by gently rubbing the drenched rag on the paper.
  • Test your solution on scrap paper before applying it to your opus.

References

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