Using the Peeling Paint Technique in Altered Books


This is the peeling paint technique that Claudine Hellmuth popularized in her College Discovery Workshop book. You can use it in an altered book or on another surface.

Peeling Paint Technique

  1. Glue pages together to form a block suitable for receiving paint.
  2. Apply a base coat of paint. Allow paint to dry fully. If you live in a humid climate, you might want to hit this with a heat gun.
  3. Apply petroleum jelly (Vasceline) intermittently over surface areas, covering areas that you want to expose when the paint peels during a later step. Apply the petroleum jelly thickly enough to cover the surface that you want to peel. You can use your fingers, a paintbrush, a foam brush, a palette knife, etc.
  4. Paint over the entire surface using a different color of paint. For best results, use a thin paint such as Golden's fluid acrylics. If using a thicker paint, be sure to thin it first. Allow the paint to dry. Apply second coat if desired.
  5. Remove the petroleum jelly, using a soft cloth, paper towel, etc. The second color of paint peels off at the same time. If desired, scratch or distress the surface further.
  6. Clean the surface to remove lingering traces of petroleum jelly. Try using baby wipes for this purpose.
  7. Seal your surface with an acrylic medium such as Golden medium. Decorate as desired.


tip Some altered book artists use Micro Glaze as the resist rather than petroleum jelly. Using the Micro Glaze shouldn't alter the cleaning service needed for your project. Its more of an individual preference, not that one is better than the other. The cleaning service step is more of an aesthetic choice since cleaning up any extra Micro Glaze or petroleum jelly just makes for a better look.

You can apply the petroleum jelly over a collage or piece of art work, then paint over top. However, you must seal the collage surface first with a coat of acrylic medium. Otherwise, the jelly soaks through your paper.

You can also obtain a peeled paint effect by using crackle finish

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Return to Altered Book Home Page when finished with Peeling Paint Technique