Over the years, I’ve received questions about fixing damage. Usually, the questioner wanted to know how to fix damage to a drawing in progress. Today, I want to talk about fixing damaged drawing paper that hasn’t been drawn on yet.
I used to think any damage was the end of a drawing, because I didn’t know how to fix any kind of damage. I trashed a lot of drawings before learning differently.
Most paper companies take a great deal of care to assure their paper reaches you crisp, clean, and undamaged. Even some retailers give extreme care to the storage of the paper they sell.
But from the time paper leaves the factory until you put it on your easel or drawing board, there’s plenty of opportunity for something to happen. Sooner or later, it will happen to you.
Damage doesn’t mean the paper is trash, though. There are ways to repair even some forms of serious damage.
Fixing Damaged Drawing Paper
Avoiding damaged drawing paper is, of course, the best option. The following suggestions tell you how to look for damage to unused paper.
When You Buy in Person
If you’re buying in person, examine every sheet of paper before you buy it. Look for scuffs, dents, creases, scratches and other kinds of surface damage. Unless you’re absolutely certain you can work with or easily remove damage (or if the store gives you a deep discount,) don’t buy damaged paper.
When You Unpack a Shipped Order
When you buy online and your order arrives, examine every sheet at once. If you find damaged paper, contact customer support and ask about refunds, returns, or exchanges on the damaged paper. Resolving the issue differs from company to company, but chances are good that something will be done if you purchased from a reputable company.
I’ve purchased from Dick Blick often enough to have encountered occasional problems. I’ve returnned items for an exchange, kept the item and received a new one, or returned the item for a discount or refund, depending on the item.
DO NOT accept damaged goods without at least making an effort to contact the seller. Give them the opportunity to make things right.
What to Look For
Look for stains, discoloration, or any other marks that cannot be easily erased. Check both sides of the paper.
Hold the paper up to the light and see if any parts of it look thinner than the rest. If there are thin spots, that’s damage you can’t fix and probably don’t want.
Hold it so bright light slants across the surface. This is the best way to find scratches or impressed lines. Look for scuffed surfaces, too. What you do with that paper is up to you. After all, if you use some of the following suggestions, you will be able to use it.
Fixing damaged drawing paper doesn’t have to be complicated, difficult or time-consuming.
Types of Damage
This illustration shows an unused sheet of Stonehenge with a dent.
The dent isn’t serious. In fact, I wouldn’t consider it damage at all. It won’t affect a drawing and will “press out” as I work with the paper.
But it is easy enough to repair.
Step 1: Place the paper between two clean, rigid supports that are larger than the piece of paper. Mat board works great, but you can use other sturdy items.
Step 2: Place a weight of some type on top of your drawing paper “sandwich.” A coffee table book is good. It’s heavy enough to “press” the paper sandwich, but big enough to spread the weight evenly. I don’t recommend small books such as mass market paperbacks because they’re not heavy enough. Dictionaries are too heavy.
Step 3: Press the drawing paper this way overnight or for up to 24 hours. That should be enough time to reduce the dent without compressing the rest of the paper.
There is only one solution to badly torn paper. Cropping. The easiest and fastest solution is to cut the paper along the tear, then trim the resulting pieces to “square up” the corners.
But where and how you crop the paper depends largely on where the tear is, how big the original sheet of paper is, and your own creativity.
Another solution you might consider.
A lot of the better papers come with deckled edges. If you frame artwork so that it’s mounted with the edges showing, deckled edges can enhance the artwork nicely.
Even small pieces of paper can then become the support for unique works of art in which the drawing paper is as creative in appearance as whatever you draw on it.
How do you make deckled edges?
One way is to purchase a straight edge with a deckled edge. Lay it on your paper, then carefully tear the paper along that deckled edge.
You can also tear the paper completely into two pieces by hand. Fold the paper forward and backward enough to break the paper fibers, then carefully tear it along the fold.
Creases are very difficult to repair, usually because the paper wasn’t just bent; it was folded. They will show up in your artwork, so unless you can think of a way to incorporate the crease into your artwork, the best thing to do is trim the crease out.
You can, of course, do that with a mat cutter, paper cutter, or an X-Acto knife and rule.
But before you start cutting, consider folding the paper backward and forward a couple of times to break the paper fibers, then carefully tearing it along the crease as described above.
Carefully tearing paper this way produces a feathered edge that can be used to your advantage.
However, if the paper is too heavy for that, go ahead and cut it.
3 Ways of Fixing Damaged Drawing Paper
These repairs work on a variety of drawing papers. The softness and surface treatment of the paper you’re using may require you to adjust your methods.
But if you’re careful and patient, and if you don’t panic, most damage can be repaired.
To see how these methods work, read Hiding Scratches, Dents, and Scrapes in Your Good Drawing Paper on EmptyEasel.