Monsoon Paper:Tutorial + Variation

Monsoon papers made with rain.

Note: I’m teaching this technique as part of a class at Valley Ridge Art Center in May 5-6, 2012 in Wisconsin. More about the class.

Monsoon papers are art papers that the monsoon rains in Phoenix help make. The instructions are easy, but you must be committed to not controlling the end result. A lot is left up to chance, rain and wind. There is a wonderful variation that doesn’t offer more control, but it doesn’t depend on monsoon wind and rain. The variation is done with a garden hose.

Make the Original Monsoon Papers

What you need

  • Watercolor paper or other sturdy papers, at least 110 pounds.
  • Parchment paper or other clean paper.
  • Inks, preferably Adirondack stamp pad reinkers
  • Colors: storm colors, in groups: blues/purples,  browns/greens, yellow/reds.
  • Old clothes or a big, waterproof apron, shoes, gloves. This is messy work.
  • Flat ground, either covered in plastic, grass or xeriscaped with small rocks.

1. Wait for a rainstorm. It helps if it’s going to be a downpour.

2. When the rain starts, put the sheets of paper out flat on the ground. Flip them over so they get wet on both sides.

3. When they are wet on both sides, drip ink near the edges, not the middle. The ink will creep into the paper and spread. This ink is highly concentrated, do NOT over apply ink. Use one color family–blues and purples or blues and greens. Use a small portion of a contrasting color.

Variation of monsoon papers, done with a hose and two kinds of ink.

4. When the color starts to blend, pick up the sheet so the ink runs in one direction. Place on a low hedge, drape over a branch, or tuck in a tree until the page is covered in color. Allow the paper to flap, slap against another page, or a tree. This adds to the color distribution.

5. Take the page in and allow it to dry, at least partially. The ink will continue to run if it gets wet. Cover the Monsoon Paper with a piece of parchment or other clean paper. Using a medium hot iron, iron the inked page until it is flat and dry. Allow to cool.

6. Repeat the process for the other side. On the other side, use a different color combination.


You’ll need the same equipment as before, but this time you’ll use a garden hose instead of rain. It helps to have a spray nozzle that makes a fine mist. You’ll also need:

  • Golden Acrylic Flow Release
  • Golden Matte Medium
  • One-inch wide brush. Use a bristle brush, not sponge.
  • India inks or sumi inks. India inks in colors are good.
  • Bright gold (or copper) colored acrylic paint

1. Spray the paper on both sides. Wet thoroughly.

2. One one side of the paper, swirl some flow release in big loops.

3. Sprinkle the India ink first. Use at least 8 drops of each color, again, avoiding the middle. Use 2 or 3 colors.

Detail of variation, using India inks, Adirondack and flow release.

4. Pick up any 2 corners and let the ink run around the paper. Don’t let it drain off the paper unless the colors turn muddy. If the colors muddy up, grab the paper by one corner, allowing the ink to drip diagonally down the paper. Let the drips from one sheet drip on another. Let the paper dry so water doesn’t pool, but not so it dries. Drop some Adirondack inks onto the paper.

5. When the ink spreads to the size of a quarter, drop one drop of flow release into the center of the ink drop. Let sit for about a minute. Drip gold acrylic paint on the paper, and with a wet finger, drag the drop of paint till it runs.

6. Spray the paper lightly. Adriondack ink will wash out of the paper, leaving it paler than you want, so keep the spray light.

7. Allow the sheet to dry. Iron as above. Using a mix of Matte Medium and enough water to make it liquid, paint the colored side of the paper. This keeps the color from running out and allows it to leach through to the back.

8. Re-wet the back of the paper, and repeat the process, but with less ink, more water and more time. When the color appears in bull’s-eyes, stop the process, allow the paper to dry, and iron as before. You can seal this side of the paper, too. Before you seal, you can make a very watery mixture of gold acrylic paint and brush over the entire surface with big brush strokes, using a one-inch brush. Don’t cover evenly, you want the paint to be random.

There’s your paper! Every sheet is different, every sheet is amazing.

Quinn McDonald is an artist and certified creativity coach. She is writing a book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art, to be released by North Light Craft Books in June of 2011.

Detail of another area on the variation.

19 thoughts on “Monsoon Paper:Tutorial + Variation

  1. Pingback: Hurricane worries | SHARDS: fragments and reflections

  2. I noticed that you used long sheets and they were very “crinkley sounding” as if they were wax paper. What was that you were using?

    • Wax paper won’t work at all. I was using Arches Text Wove, also called Arches Velin. It comes in various sizes, and I buy the largest piece I can and cut it before I Monsoon it. I like Arches because it is 100% cotton, which means it will absorb ink well, and takes a lot of abuse without falling apart.

      • Thanks so much for responding. I did know it could not be waxed paper as it would only make a great resist and not absorb at all. That is why I included the “as if”.

        • The best part of creativity is experimenting. I’ve tried wax paper with alcohol inks. Nothing is really strange to the experimenting artist. Mostly, I wanted you to have good results and not get frustrated. That’s a creativity strangler.

  3. i love these pages! i love adirondak re-inkers, i’ve never thought to use them this way. and i LOVE arizona monsoons. i miss them. we get rain here in california, but the storms just do not compare to the ones in AZ. i’ll have to try this when i go out to visit my mom. thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  4. Quinn,
    What’s the largest sheet you’ve ever used in either of these media? I was thinking of trying for wrapping paper.
    Kate (Colgan)

    • I use the 22 x 30 sheets for this. If you are going to try it for wrapping paper, I’d use a very sturdy paper. There’s a lot of wetting and drying involved and it has to be a pretty tough paper to stand up to the process. You could use Arches Text Wove, which is a real workhorse, and what I used for the variation. It’s $3 a sheet, so I’d use it for small gifts for people I loved a lot!

  5. Quinn,these are quite wild and lively designs. What would you use them for?

    As a textile designer I would polish them in order to make them useful for interior design projects.

    • Well, I use them as journal covers, because the paper is sturdy. I could also see them as interior page dividers for sections of journals, or for that matter, laminated (or coated with Matte Medium or Gloss Medium) as placemats. This paper can be used as lampshades, framed in sections as abstract art, cut up and used in cards, bookmarks, made into calendars, wrapped around a tall, straight class chimney and placed over a pillar candle as a luminaria. The paper can be dipped into resin for pins, earrings and coasters. Lots of uses!

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