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Wax paper and art journals

by aisling d'art ©2006

I use wax paper to separate damp art journal pages so that they don't stick together. Wax paper is inexpensive, very slightly porous (so the pages dry underneath), and easy to use.

You'll find wax paper at the grocery store, in the aisle with foil and plastic (cling) wrap.

When I'm separating journal pages with wax paper, I cut or tear the wax paper so that it's slightly larger--at least one-half inch--than the pages that I'm working with.

The key to successfully using wax paper to separate them, is not to allow much weight on the wet pages.


Generally, I gesso five or six pages at a time. I've successfully gesso'd up to eight pages at a time. However, I'm usually working with spiral-bound sketchbooks. They're my favorite journals, usually.

If I was working with a regular, bound journal, I'd watch carefully to see how much the binding "pulls" the pages together. I might only be able to work with two pages at a time.

Wax paper usually works pretty well... but it's not a 100% reliable way to keep wet pages apart. The wax paper sticks about 10 - 15% of the time, when I'm using it. Those pages become the ones that I'll definitely collage over, since the surface of the page is already a bit distressed.

I've used wax paper when I've gesso'd in airplanes (very dry air) and here in sultry, humid Houston. I have slightly better success with wax paper when the air is dry and the pages dry more quickly.

If you try wax paper and don't have much success with it, try gently crushing the wax paper so that it holds the pages slightly apart. I stress gently crushing the wax paper; if you fold it enough that the wax falls off at the crease, that line may stick to wet paint, gel medium, or gesso.


When I want to separate wet, painted journal pages, I'm far more careful with the pages. I will separate two pages at the most: The one that I've just painted, and the one that I'm currently working on. Because wax paper isn't 100% non-stick, I don't want to risk damage. Less weight or pressure on the wax paper means less risk of sticking.


Wax paper is best for separating pages that may have small amounts of wet gel medium or glue on them. Most gel medium doesn't stick to wax paper easily.

I also use wax paper between every single page of my collaged art journals, so that the gel medium doesn't re-soften and stick to the page opposite it.

We use an iron to "melt" gel medium when we're doing image transfers. Likewise, gel medium can soften and become sticky if you store your journals in a hot attic, garage, or other warm area.

However, glue can be hit-or-miss with wax paper. If the glue is very wet and likely to penetrate the thin coating on wax paper, you should probably wait for the page to dry before doing any more work in that journal. Or, if there is no alternative, you may be safe with sheets of foil as separators. Or, consider thin sheets of teflon-coated plastic, sold in kitchen supply shops; they're sold for use when baking very sticky cookies, meringues, and so on.


Wax paper is a valuable tool when you're working with wet pages in your art journal or illustrated diary. Wax paper isn't foolproof, but it's still one of the best and least expensive ways to keep wet pages from sticking.

You'll have the best luck when you're working with wet gel medium. Gesso and glue may have a higher "failure" rate with wax paper.

However, in art there are no "failures," just challenges and opportunities to create new and different art to make the most of life's surprises.

The good news is, wax paper works often enough to prevent most wet pages from sticking together.

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