Perfect Hand Lettering Every Time with Deli Paper

This is what I love about artists: Somewhere, someone was having a ham and cheese on rye with a dill pickle, looked down at their lunch and thought, “Hey, I bet this translucent paper littered with seeds and smelling of garlic would make a great art supply.”

invisible deli paper with hand lettering
Kari McKnight-Holbrook uses her hand lettering to write
out a quote on deli paper. When she applies the paper
to the background with gel medium, the paper “disappears”
and the perfect quote remains.

Then they brushed off the seeds, wiped off the pickle juice, folded up the paper and discreetly slipped it into their bag. Back home, they took out paints, markers, and gel medium and after a few minutes of experimenting, shouted, “Eureka!”

At least, that’s how I imagine the discovery of deli-wrap-as-art-supply unfolding. But it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it happened, and deli paper is the hottest non-art art supply going right now.

What’s so great about deli paper?

It stands up to liquid media. Notice how the juice from the tomato or sauerkraut on your sandwich doesn’t bleed through the wrapping? Same goes for paint, ink, gel medium, etc. You can use deli paper as a palette and you can print and write on it, too. Either way, the liquid stays put; it isn’t waxed, so the liquid won’t bead up.

Deli paper is stiffer than tissue paper, but still pliable. When you stamp, print, or roll excess paint onto deli paper, it doesn’t collapse and stick to itself. It pretty much stays in a nice, flat sheet that you can use later.


deli paper
Deli paper comes in different sizes. One box goes a long way.

Gel medium turns deli paper transparent.

After you’ve painted, printed, lettered, etc. on the deli paper and it’s dry, you can glue it to a background with gel medium, and the paper will “disappear,” leaving just the image or design visible.

To me, the very best use of deli paper is for adding lettering or a sketch to a background. Who among us hasn’t carefully added lettering–a name, a quote, etc.–to a piece of art only to discover a misspelling or that you really wish you’d placed the words a little to the right (or whatever)?

You can avoid mistakes like these by using deli paper. I learned this hand lettering trick from Kari McKnight-Holbrook via her video tutorial, Backgrounds to Bindings: Beautiful Handmade Books and Art Journals. (Kari likes to make her own calligraphy fonts and use them in her artwork.)

1. Draw your sketch or write out your quote onto a sheet of deli paper. (You may want to practice on sketch paper first.)

2. When you have everything just as you want it, cut or tear around the quote or image and place it on your background. Move the paper around so you can decide exactly where you want it.

3. Spread a thin coat of gel medium onto the background and place the deli paper on it, smoothing it out over the medium.

deli paper printmaking backgrounds
When you’re printing or stamping, apply the
excess paint to a piece of deli paper. Later, you
can use the printed deli papers to add more
texture and interest to your background design.

Now you have perfect lettering in the perfect place, brought to you by the miracle of deli wrap.

To get deli wrap, you don’t have to eat a lot of sandwiches. Deli paper is available by the box (for cheap) at most warehouse stores where you can purchase items in bulk, as well as online.

For a limited time, we’ll help you explore the wonder of deli paper with The Great Gelli & Deli Printmaking Kit. It includes video tutorials by Kari and three other creative artists, as well as a box of deli paper, a Gelli Arts plate, and a brayer for printing up beautiful background and focal papers.

P.S. Have you been using deli paper? What’s your favorite technique? Leave a comment below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Supplies, Mixed-Media Techniques


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