Printing is a centuries old form of making an indelible mark. From a first handprint on a cave wall to, the most intricate engravings made by man and, in the modern age, machine.

Between these two examples there is the Newspaper; a record of news and events, originally printed on one page and probably sold for a penny, to our present worldwide industrial enterprises.

Coloured broadsheets, once read, can have a further use and form a very satisfying method of recycling. They can become part of our painting projects, especially mixed media. As collage yes, but also by way of the transference of the newsprint ink as texture and colour.

How did this technique first come about? One possibility is via a method known as Tonking. Devised by Henry Tonks (1862 - 1937 a very interesting character with an illustrious career, worth researching) Tonking is a method of removing excess oil/oil paint from a canvas, or other support, to create a more workable surface. It can be used to revive or adjust areas of a painting, without the need to scrape the whole surface, by blotting the areas with absorbent paper, namely newspaper.

Henry Tonks had a great influence on many well-known and revered artists who went through the Slade School of Art during his time there.

Maybe his students noticed that during the process of Tonking some texture of the newsprint was transferred?

Moving forward to the 1950’s and the birth of Acrylics, a faster drying paint, is when Tonking morphed into the present day use of newsprint as a form of texture.

My first experience of this form of creating texture was demonstrated by local art group art tutor, Davy Brown. We then went on to explore its use as a simple way of adding age, grime and colour to buildings and architecture.

Our references were artists such as Piper, Nash, Nicholson and a French artist, Maurice Utrillo (1883 - 1955) who was one of the very few artists born and raised in the famous Parisian quarter Montmartre, again, an interesting and colourful artist to research.

Utrillo used all manner of materials to create his heavy impasto work, he included sand and plaster in his paint mixes and then applying it to rough cardboard.

Most of his works are of town and city scenes where he used these ingredients to great effect to simulate the decaying, rough exteriors of the buildings and architecture around him. Did he also use newspaper print to add to the above materials at his disposal? If you take a close look at his paintings, you may think so.

There are no set rules, no right or wrong way of achieving results, it’s mainly down to your own preferences once you have mastered the basics.

Example of newspaper print transfer

I’ve used examples of the easiest and most straightforward process, for the following demonstration.

You can take it many ways from here, using assorted supports, different strengths of paint and over laying two colours of paint then applying the newsprint.

Timing is the most vital component of the whole exercise, this is where you will either succeed or fail ... at first!

The examples above all use coloured acrylic paint

This example worked particularly well, I must have been paying attention! The newspaper you choose will have an impact on the transfer timing. I have found that the cheaper the newspaper, the more successful the results. Whether the quality of ink used differs from newspaper to newspaper has a bearing, I don’t know. The local rags transfer their ink easier and quicker than the Telegraph and the Times, for example.


For the following demonstration I used small 4”x4” swatches of brown sugar paper/card to demonstrate a variety of different results. The sugar paper is a non-textured and fairly smooth surface, which is a good surface to practice on, in fact any smooth surfaced, medium to heavy weight paper would be fine to begin with. Some have been previously prepared with a white gessoed ground.