Making Translucent Paper and Card Stock




Introduction: Making Translucent Paper and Card Stock

Card stock and paper are great for making lanterns, lamps and lamp shades,
because it is readily available and inexpensive.
The problem is that it blocks a lot of light and it tends to tear easily.
I have found an easy and fairly inexpensive solution to both of these drawbacks.

When you get any paper wet it becomes more transparent.
This is because the voids in the paper are filled with water,
and the light is no longer reflected but is allowed to pass through.
Of course there is still the material that the paper is made from
so the paper becomes translucent instead of transparent.
This still lets a lot more light through than when dry.

We can not really use water because it dries out and destroys the integrity of the paper.
The solution I found was clear polyurethane.
I first tried the water based polyurethane but it does not penetrate the paper.
The answer is the oil based polyurethane.
It soaks all the way through the paper. You can actually see it on the back side.
In the first picture there is a piece of white card stock and a piece of yellow card stock,
half of each was treated with the polyurethane. They are laying half on white and half on black.
You can see how much more translucent the treated part is.
The other picture is the white card stock with sun light on it.
The bottom part is the treated part, and you can see how much more light is transmitted.

I work on a new black trash bag and just through it away when I am finished.
Lay the card stock or paper on the trash bag and apply the polyurethane with a small brush,
or I like to use a cotton swab. They are cheap and you just toss them when done, no clean up.
As you apply the polyurethane you will see the card stock start to look splotchy where it is becoming more translucent.
Just keep moving the polyurethane around to the dry looking areas until it looks uniform.

You will need to hang this up to dry over night.
For my lamp parts, I cut them out before coating.
I leave a small piece of waste and punch a hole through this to hang it from.

This not only makes the paper more translucent but also makes it more tear resistant.

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    5 years ago

    Thanks for this idea. I painted card stock with "Danish oil", and then held the card stock in front of a space heater to accelerate the polymerization. When applied to card stock and held in front of a space heater, Danish oil dries in 30-60 seconds. I then left the pieces out overnight to futher cure before handling them. I'm very pleased with the result.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    No, I did not try any kind of wax. I did try linseed oil as it will harden when left exposed to air, but this takes a lot longer than polyurethane to completly cure.

    I would think that wax may melt from the heat if used for a lamp shade and it would not make the paper more tear resistant.