Yupo Sheets Reviewed for Drawing

January 12, 2012

I’ve discussed the Yupo product before as a painting surface, and now would like to show some test results I’ve made to use it for drawings. Yupo is a synthetic “paper” sheet that is 100% polypropylene. If you’ve ever used frosted (matte) drafting film then you’ll find this has an identical feel. In fact, it comes in a translucent form like traditional drafting film, but also in an opaque white surface that looks more like regular paper. It’s available in various sizes and weights, from 50# up to 144#. The weight I used for this demonstration is 74#. Yupo is available in pads or single sheets. I’ve also seen the opaque option in large rolls 5ft high x 10 yards long. It performs well as a drawing surface in most situations, but it does have a few disadvantages.

Various inks perform differently on this surface. Due to the lack of absorption into this material, all inks take longer to dry than they would on regular paper. As such you should use special care not to touch the inked areas for quite awhile after making any marks. Sumi-e ink beads up just like watercolor paint does. That’s not necessarily bad, just an effect to be aware of. Once it dries, sumi-e actually adheres to it rather well. Acrylic ink, such as the FW or Liquitex brand, adheres the best and will not easily scrape away with a knife blade or smear. If you thin it with water then they bead up like sumi-e. Shellac inks adhere almost as well, but can scrape away somewhat.

Ink markers give mixed results; although, they all draw rather well. The Prismacolor layout markers performed the best. Because of the slow drying rate colors were easy to blend into each other, which can be good or bad depending on what you’re expecting. Once it dries you can go back over them in tinted layers as you would on regular paper, but it makes for a slower process. One big problem with all the other markers I tested is that even a day later after the ink dried I was able to smear the marks very easily. The ink just sits on the surface and doesn’t grab hold to the surface that well. That won’t be a terrible condition as long as the final work is protected behind glass or Plexiglas, and just be careful when handling it. Markers with hard tips also dig into the ink as you make the mark, shoveling it to the side. You may find you get better results with soft felt tips or brush pens. Flexible steel nibs on dip pens, by the way, don’t have that problem depending on how flexible they are.

Dry media:
Soft powdery materials like charcoal or soft pastels do not work very well on Yupo. The marks just slide around and cannot build up a decent dark value; although, they will tone the surface to some degree.

This surface likes graphite pencils. The more graphite content the tool has the better it performs. The feel under the tool is very smooth. Dark HB leads, the Sanford Ebony, or Derwent Onyx pencils glide across the surface nicely; although, it’s hard to tell much difference between them. Even the hard H leads draw well; in fact, they tend to leave a darker mark here than they would on regular paper, so if you use a 5H for light lines you may need a softer touch or harder lead. Pencils that have a high charcoal content like the Wolff brand cannot get up to a very dark shade, but curiously the Derwent Pastel pencil did a better job if not as dark as it would be on paper.

The one problem with graphite on Yupo is it won’t erase well. Erasing first causes the marks to smear before erasing no matter which type of eraser I tried. An electric eraser might remove marks better but would also smear. If your drawing method involves erasing, such as to lighten marks or removing lines, this surface will disappoint you.

Of the other mediums I tested, wax pencils performed well on this material. Prismacolors went down very smoothly and could build up a nice dark shade. Some wax crayons, like the Neocolor brand, did well but cheap Crayola crayons did not do quite as well. None of the watercolor pencils I tried would draw well at all. The Derwent Aqua-Tone pencils were almost acceptable but could not build up a dark value. The oil based Walnut Hollow brand pencils drew very well, but the Faber Castell Polychromos brand did not. China “grease” pencils drew well as did litho crayons. Oil pastels drew very well on Yupo.

The main benefit to Yupo that appeals to me is being available in large sizes. A 5 foot drawing surface is a nice option to have, or even the 24 x 40 inch sheets that are larger than what you can easily find for regular paper stock. Bear in mind that while this surface won’t tear, it can be cut, and also easily creased. You also don’t want any oily fingerprints on the surface so it’s a good idea to wash it first before drawing on it and avoid touching the surface.

The drawing media you choose, among those I mentioned above, will give you good results in most cases with a few considerations to watch out for.

One comment

  1. Thanks so much for your info. I’ve been trying watercolour and gouache on drafting film as background for my wildlife drawings. You never know what you are going to end up with. I wonder if workable fixative would help it to adhere. Anyway thanks again, I will keep on keeping on…..Linda…..in Australia.

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