Painting with Paper: Japanese Washi Art 11

In this post I will show you the ancient Japanese art form of painting with paper. Using Tombow Dual Brush Pens for color and MONO Aqua Liquid Glue as your adhesive, you will learn how easy it is to create beautiful pieces on cards or panels. The free downloadable pattern features bamboo and dragonflies. Dragonflies are very important in Japanese culture and symbolize joy, strength and courage. Tombow in Japanese means dragonfly!

Before we get started with this project, you’ll want to download the pattern template:


Paper in Japanese is Washi

Step 1: The Paper

Washi refers to Japanese paper. The washi used for the Japanese techniques Chigiri-e (torn paper) and Kiri-e (cut paper) is a paper called unryu. This is the white ‘cloud-dragon paper’ named for the long floating strands of kozo fibers (paper mulberry). We will also be using Kawairi Chiri Washi. ‘Chiri’ means leftovers and refers to the bark flecks left in the paper as a decorative element. Both these papers are available from fine art outlets or online art supply stores.

Download and cut out the pattern pieces

Step 2: The Pattern

Download and cut out the pattern pieces for the bamboo and dragonfly (download via the link at the beginning or end of this post!). I use MONO Removable Adhesive for temporarily attaching the pattern pieces to the paper for ease in cutting out. The adhesive is also handy for storing the pattern pieces on a piece of card.

Cut the pattern pieces from the Washi paper

Step 3: Cutting out the pattern pieces

Cut the pattern pieces from the unryu washi. This thin paper allows you to fold and cut up to 12 pieces at a time. The MONO Removable Adhesive holds the pattern securely onto the folded paper for cutting many pieces at once. Cut about 12 to 16 of each pattern piece, which is way too many but nice to have extra to make cards. After cutting the paper pieces, place them, without touching, on a sheet of wax paper.

color each pattern piece using dual brush pen

Step 4: Coloring the pattern pieces.

The next step is to color each individual pattern piece using the Dual Brush Pens. You do not need to be careful with this step, and it’s okay to leave white spaces. Here is the color palette I used:

Bamboo Leaves: 177 Dark Jade, 076 Green Ochre, 098 Avocado

Bamboo Stems: 027 Dark Ochre, N57 Warm Gray 5 , 177 Dark Jade

Dragonfly Wings: 526 True Blue, 679 Dark Plum

Dragonfly Body: 526 True Blue, 177 Dark Jade

mist with water with mister from blending kit

Step 5: Mist with Water

Using the mister from the Blending Kit, mist water onto the colored pattern pieces to let the colors blend. To avoid blowing the paper pieces off your surface, mist from high up and let the water settle on and hold the pieces to the wax paper.

Color will lighten as they dry

Step 6: Let dry

Let the pattern pieces dry completely. They will dry lighter in color with the kozo fibers showing up darker.

Use MONO Aqua Liquid Glue to attach Washi to background

Step 7: Prepare the background

I used an 8 x 10 Strathmore Mixed-Media board and covered it with the Kawairi Chiri Washi. Coat the board with the MONO Aqua Liquid Glue using the broad applicator. This adhesive is perfect for fine papers and adheres with no wrinkles. The broad tip means you can apply the adhesive without brushes or clean up, even on this large surface. Wrap the paper around the edges and to the back, adhering them down. Let dry.

start by gluing bamboo pieces using MONO Aqua

Step 8: Painting with the paper pieces

Start by gluing the bamboo stems onto the papered board. Add the MONO Aqua Liquid Glue  to the board, lay down the stems by placing them one on top of the other. After you have placed them, go over with a coating of the MONO Aqua Liquid Glue and smooth down the glue with your finger all over the colored pieces. Be very gentle as the paper pieces are very fragile at this stage.

glue leaves using MONO Aqua

Add the leaves in the same manner. Folding down one or two of the leaves for interest.

painting with paper with traditional japanese technique


The dragonfly pieces are added using the same technique and coating with the MONO Aqua Liquid Glue . The glue will dry matte and will be invisible. Let dry. To finish the piece, I mounted it on a larger, paper covered board with Foam Tape to slightly elevate the finished piece. I also used the Dark Plum Dual Brush Pen to add eyes to the dragonflies.

Download the Bamboo and Dragonfly Pattern:

Tombow Signature Designer Marie Browning











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