The most common “mess” comes from mediums that bleed through the paper. Let’s first look at the difference between “bleeding” and “ghosting,” Ghosting is a normal trait of thin paper that we regularly ignore; it’s the greyed-out image of the ink that shows through any page of the Bible. Our eyes gloss right over that every time we read – though now that it’s been mentioned, I dare you not to notice during your next study session! Some mediums will do more ghosting than shown above — and darker colors will often do more than light colors.
Bleeding happens when actual pigment shows up on the other side of the page; there are times when that’s not bothersome, and others when the gasps begin. There are a few strategies that will help with avoiding those gasps:
Some mediums and pens will ghost. Some colors of some mediums will only ghost, and other darker colors will actually bleed. Knowing which of your art supplies does which is crucial! Use the first pages or last pages of your Bible to try out mediums, and try out colors. Create a beautiful design out of the swatches if desired, and be sure to make notes about which brands and colors they are.
Once the behavior of mediums and hues is noted, decide if working with non-bleeding mediums is enough for you—and set aside a specific storage container for supplies to use while journaling. That keeps decisions to a minimum.
UTILIZE A PAGE BARRIER
Mediums can also “wreck” a Bible by dripping off the page and down the side of the Bible, seeping into other pages as well. Many companies offer plastic sheets that can be used as a barrier under the page being worked on—but a few sheets of copier paper can also achieve a similar protection with the added benefit of being flexible and allowing the page to lay flat while painting.
If a brand or color is discovered to bleed but you still wish to use it, prepare pages with a transparent watercolor ground or a transparent gesso—thick products that place a paintable coating over the page. Apply with a brush or sponge for an even coat, allow it to dry for 24 hours, and then the page is ready to accept many more mediums. Once again: TEST. Be sure that the medium is fully resisted by the page prep that you have chosen.
An abbreviated version of the science of wrinkling: wetting paper allows water to penetrate the woven fibers — and separates them. The strength of paper is weakened, the structure and volume expand to cause wrinkles. Thus – watercoloring or using other wet mediums creates wrinkly paper. Three suggested solutions can prevent or eliminate most of the effect:
USE LIGHT WATER
When using any wet medium, use as little moisture as possible. Fortunately with Bible paper, the surface is slightly “slick,” unlike textured watercolor paper. This permits using less water to move pigment – and it can be moved or applied with something as simple as a baby wipe, tissue, or a barely-damp sponge. Less water causes less wrinkling, and sometimes can be an acceptable amount of wrinkle without any further treatment.
FLATTEN WITH AN IRON
Place copier paper above and below the wrinkled page, and iron for 15 seconds or so on high. Turn the page and iron the back as well if desired. While nothing will get a Bible page back to 100% flat, this will ameliorate much of the wrinkling. NOTE: DO NOT iron over anything with meltable content in the pigments, like acrylics, or some gel pens. Heat can melt those, and they’ll stick to the page on the other side.
USE PAGE PREP
Watercolor ground can keep a page mostly flat as well, so applying a thin layer prior to painting can keep things under control. NOTE: Some grounds have content in them that can melt, so if wrinkling still occurs, page prep may eliminate the ability to iron afterwards.
Tearing (of pages) causes tearing (of eyes)! All paper is made of fibers, which means all paper is susceptible to tearing of some kind. Watercolor paper is built not to tear easily, but thin Bible paper has little to keep it from ripping when under pressure.
Treat pages gently and move slowly to keep tears from happening. If the beginning of a tear is noticed, just stop and don’t panic. If a page barrier (paper or plastic) is beneath the page being worked on, leave it in place and wait. Fussing with it makes the problem worse. Let it air dry,
Iron if possible to flatten the paper back into place so the torn piece meets up without a gap. If ironing isn’t possible (because of using a medium that may melt with heat), close the book and apply pressure overnight to help everything flatten into place.
Use the “invisible” kind of scotch tape on the back side of the page. It will visibly disappear, and will actually strengthen the page area beneath it.
Complete the art on the other side; if painting atop the torn area is needed, apply a transparent watercolor ground over that area, and repaint it.