Week 24: solutions

watermark heat gun webwatermark on screen web

How to embed an image into paper pulp? In Week 15 I wrote about my initial experiments with watermarks, using my finger to create lines in the paper pulp. But I wanted an image, the one created by the sound of paper being made as the water drips through the mould. Last week I had the image which I then was hoping could be 3 D printed onto mesh.

The idea of 3-D printing a watermark onto a paper screen mesh was inspired by the tiny chiaroscuro (light and shade) watermark in a box created by papermaker Brian Queen and given to delegates at the IAPMA (International Association of Papermakers and Paper Artists ) at Fabriano in 2014.

However this relied heavily on being able to source a 3-D printer which could do the job. Further readings revealed there might be a simpler solution. Paper makers have employed various methods throughout the years to achieve complex watermarks, including cut stencils adhered to the mould and directly drawing onto the mesh of the mould with textile paint.[1].

After some discussion about what type of textile paint to use, my friend suggested I try ‘puff’ fabric paint then heat set it with a heat gun. I screen printed the water image onto the paper mesh mould using puff paint, put it out in the sun for half an hour then used the heat gun on it. You can see from the images that the paint miraculously “puffed’ to create the image.

It looked a bit like a spiritual mandala, full of meditative images. It seems that this had some historic precedence as spiritual messages were once embedded into handmade paper by heretical religious sects.

In his definitive book about papermaking, paper historian Dard Hunter gives credence to the theory that medieval European watermarks and printer’s marks had arcane significance.[2]  During the twelfth century, Europe abounded with mystic sects including the Albigenses or Cathars whose stronghold  stretched from the south of France through to Spain and Italy. Papermaking as a highly developed trade flourished in areas where the Cathars had their stronghold. According to Hunter, this seems more probable “ than to try to account for the multitude of watermarked designs as marks of identification for paper sizes or trade-marks of the makers.”[3]

Unfortunately my first attempts at putting the mesh into the vat did not yield a very clear watermark because the fibre was too thick. But there is potential for improvement and my next attempt will use overbeaten banana pulp so that the fibres are finer.

watermark on paper 1


[1] Helen Hiebert, “Hidden Imagery: The Mystery of Watermarks,” Hand Papermaking Winter (2001): 10-14.

[2] Dard Hunter, Papermaking : The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (New York: Dover Publications, 1978), 258-59.

[3] Ibid.


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