Yupo! That might sound like an odd exclamation of joy, but it’s actually a brand name for a synthetic material sold for a range of uses, including a surface for making art. It’s made of polyproylene and comes in single sheets, pads, or rolls. It’s either translucent or opaque, and available in different weights from 155 – 390 GSM. I paid @ $15 USD for a pad of ten 11 x14″ sheets.
I had actually been exposed to this product some time ago by another artist who used it for drawings. It takes pencil and ink very well; although, any ink that has alcohol seems to cause a chemical discoloring. I never thought to try paint on it since I figured it would be too slick. Continuing my exploration of synthetic surfaces, I decided to test that out for myself.
The Yupo surface is very smooth, and as such, paint does tend to slide around on it a bit more than I care for. I’ve tested oils, acrylics, casein, gouache, and different drawing materials on it. They all seem to hold fairly well. The paint can’t be peeled off, but can be scratched. I’ve been able to improve the grip of the surface a bit by prepping it with a single coat of acrylic primer or thin layer of paint. If you don’t like the slickness of it with wet media like watercolors, consider priming it with an absorbent ground like that made by Golden.
The main advantage of this film for water soluble paints is it doesn’t react to the water at all. Unlike paper or wood panels, it will not buckle or curl. It works okay with oils, and the acidity of oils or solvents will not affect the surface. Although it doesn’t require priming, that can prevent it from being too slick. Oils seem to take extra time on this to dry, at least the first layer, probably because it’s not porous. A thin layer of oil and turpentine or spirits will dry to touch in about 2 days.
Another brand of polypropylene film on the market is “Denril” which is a brand of drafting film made by Borden and Riley. Unlike Yupo, it has a slightly rough matte surface which seems to hold the paint a little bit better. In conclusion, between these two, I tend to prefer Denril, but Yupo shows potential. I may write to them and suggest offering a matte surface as well.
See also my post regarding…