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What is Yupo®?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Yupo® is a type of synthetic paper made from polypropylene by the Yupo company. The paper has distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared with conventional tree-based paper. The company has worked on synthetic paper products since the 1970s. Yupo® can be ordered directly through the company, or from one of a network of distributors. A limited number of art supply stores also carry Yupo®.

According to the Yupo company, the paper is resistant to tears, stains, chemicals, and water. It is also very hard wearing, making it well suited to applications in which a product will see large amounts of potential abuse over its lifetime. The durability of Yupo® is one of the major advantages of the paper, since it wears much better than conventional paper. Yupo® is used to make things like wipeable restaurant menus, waterproof maps, and other hard-wearing printed goods.

Because Yupo® is made from plastic, special inks must be used for printing on it. It is also not safe to use in copiers, faxes, and laser printers, since it is susceptible to heat damage. It can be printed on with a conventional offset press, as long as the press does not generate excessive heat during the printing process. Some artists also use Yupo®, because the paper creates a distinct and sometimes desired look, especially for watercolors.

The paper is designed to be pH neutral, and it has a smooth, glossy finish. Essentially, Yupo® is a paintable sheet of plastic, specially finished with chemicals which will allow it to absorb inks. The printing process can be disrupted by things like oil and dirt, so it is important to keep Yupo® clean before use.

Like many other plastics, Yupo® is potentially recyclable, although not all recycling facilities will handle the product. Check with your local recycling facility before discarding things like Yupo®, as impurities in a batch of recycling can lead the company to throw it out, rather than process it. The paper substitute can also be incinerated in a high temperature and enriched oxygen environment. If burned cleanly, Yupo® does not generate a great deal of pollution.

Many people view Yupo® as an environmentally friendly alternative to paper, since it is not made from trees. The company also tries to manufacture the paper in an environmentally sound way. In addition, Yupo® can be printed on using a waterless process, which reduces pollution and wasted water.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Musical Expert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon59634 — On Jan 09, 2010

I love painting in watercolors on Yupo, it is acid free and archival. It makes painting fun and if you are a "fiddler" you will love the ability to fiddle for hours using wc and Yupo.

By anon52217 — On Nov 12, 2009

I've worked on YUPO for over 10 years, and George James in California began working on it in the late 60's when it was called Tempura paper. It is Ph neutral and lasts a very, very long time.

At one time, one of the art magazines had an article in it written by an 'authority' who said Yupowasn't archival. He quoted a partial sentence from Yupo's website about the coating of calcium carbonate on the surface of the Yupo and gave an misleading idea that Yupo was going to degrade quickly - not true had research been adequately done. From that time, Yupo has been tossed back and forth about it's longevity. But it's a grade 5 polypropelene plastic - top grade - doesn't break down - and yet it is easily recyleable and emits few pollutants to the air when burned.

It seems professional artists are either strongly for Yupo or against it. I love painting on it! Sandy

By anon40240 — On Aug 07, 2009

I just invested in a small pad, but i'm not terribly fond of it for watercolor painting. I didn't really know what to expect and I'm still kind of playing around with it. I am very interested in hearing what advise other users might have.

By modern — On Mar 31, 2009

Does anyone know if you can paint with oils on it?

By h2Ocolor — On Jan 18, 2009

I recently attended a workshop taught by artist Robert Burridge. We were told that Yupo should not be used for paintings as it does not have archival qualities, and in fact, is designed to deteriorate rather quickly. I would like to know for sure if this is the case. Anyone else really know?

By roxburgh — On Oct 24, 2008

As a watercolourist I enjoy using Yupo paper.

I do wonder about its longevity though.

Does anyone have any idea if it will last many years, or eventually disintegrate as many plastics do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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