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The Fix – The Art of Simple Paper Repair

IMG_0948Paper repair is an elusively simple repair.  Using  wheat starch paste and Japanese paper we repair tears in paper in a manner that is flexible and reversible.  The trick to a good paper repair is select the proper color and weigh of repair tissue.  The majority of Japanese papers are made from Kozo (Mulberry) fibers but Gampi and Mitsumata are also popular chocices.  The weight of the paper ranges from the ultra thin (and virtually see-through) Tosa Tengujo at 9 grams per square meter to Okawara paper at 60 grams per square meter.


We recently received volume III of Conrad Gessner’s seminal work Historiae Animalium (1551-1558) from the Dibner Library.  While the binding is in excellent shape there were numerous paper tears ranging in size from .5cm – 14cm.

Step one was to identify and mark the pages with tears and measure each tear. Next the appropriate weight and color of tissue is selected.  The majority of the repairs were done using Kizukishi paper but in areas where the text was obscured by the tears a thinner Tosa Tengujo double sided repair was executed.  A water pencil is then used to tear thin strips of the paper (less is more!) so that the edges are feathered and therefore less visible.


A thin layer of wheat starch paste is brushed onto a piece of Mylar and the Japanese paper is placed on top of it and rubbed down to ensure an even application of paste.  Tweezers are used to carefully lift the paper and place it along the tear.  If the tear is long then multiple strips are used.  Specially constructed boards covered in blotter paper and Hollytex are placed on both sides of the repair and a weight is placed on top until the repair is dry.



A 14cm paper tear before treatment.  Since the tear extends over text the decision was made to use a thin paper on both sides of the tear.







After treatment the repair is virtually invisible and the text is legible.



  1. Katie Fletcher

    Out of curiosity, does this repair technique also work for textured paper, like watercolor paper or a similarly rough stock?

  2. Katie Wagner

    Yes, the technique would work with textured paper. If the paper is quite thick a heavier weight Japanese paper is more appropriate.

  3. How do you remove rust colored stains from a print on water color paper ? I would like to conserve the print. Thanks Jill

  4. John Schumacher-Hardy

    PROBLEM: I have a 20 page (front and back) 1772 booklet by Hezekiah Gates of Lancaster, MA entitled: “King George’s Right to the Crown of Great-Britain, Displayed… ” It was printed in Boston, MA by W. McAlpine of Marlborough St. It seems to have been printed on typical period rag paper. Unfortunately, the tops of the last two pages have become torn and separated from the body (approximately 2 inches down from the top in a straight horizontal line). There doesn’t appear to be any part of the torn paper missing (text lines up well).

    QUESTIONS: Would it be better to leave the rare booklet as it is or have a professional paper conservator try to reattach the two page tops with archival friendly methods? (also, what might those methods be?) I do NOT want to damage this rare and historical item, nor do I want to diminish its monetary value. Please kindly advise. THANK YOU 🙂

    • Erin Rushing

      Hi John,

      According to our Preservation staff:

      It sounds like a torn page. I’d suggest a book or paper conservator – our professional organization, The American Institute for Conservation, has a find a conservator tool: This type of repair is usually done by adhering Japanese paper to the tear using wheat starch paste. A conservator will know which weight and type of Japanese paper to use once the booklet has been reviewed.

      Good luck!


      • john doe

        hi mayi know what to do because I was drawing a simple doodle on a plin office a4 paper and I accidentally got a hole on it

  5. mandy

    A watercolor has been cut into quarters, I want to fix it for a friend. Is this a good way to do so and what is a water pencil and where can I get one? All of the supplies you have listed are they available at a local craft store?

  6. Daniel

    How would you be able to repair some small holes created in a watch certificate?

  7. Thank you for the information. Where do I purchase the paper and paste please.
    Thank you

    • Anya Kean

      If you are in the United States Talas is a New York company used by many professionals. You can get what you need from them.

      Good Luck!

  8. Can you repair cut pages from a Bible.? Is there a place that can do this type of job ? How much would a project appr.cost?

  9. Tim

    Is a “water pencil” the same as a “water pen”?

  10. Why do I get water staining after a wheat paste repair with distilled water? After drying there is a water stain ring around the repaired area where it was wet. Paper is slightly foxed – I’m wondering if dirt and contaminants in the paper dissolved and dried to form the ring. I can’t think of any other reason! Can this be prevented?

    • Caroline

      I would also like to know the answer to this question. My pair repairs are wonderful except for these “tide” marks which stick out like a sore thumb. :-/

  11. T Kay

    I have a painting, or picture of a painting, on a cardboard-type surface that got damaged and now has a rip and a bump. A piece of the picture is now lost. The piece was my grandmother’s and I’d like to repair it. Any suggestions. I have a photo of it but don’t see a way to attach that.

  12. Laura

    I have a pop up book from the 50’s that I want to try and repair. What would anyone suggest for paper and glue please?

  13. Aron

    How do i repair worm holes

  14. Nick Duncan

    I also have a problem with worming.
    The paper is old (1500), and the worming mainly towards the spine.
    I am reluctant to use japanese tissue as it is likely to be visible, but it might be the only way.
    I have heard of individually adding a sort of papier mache to each hole and then re-sewing.
    Do you have any thoughts?
    Many thanks,

  15. Diane Key

    I have a Japanese three panel painting on paper that had a semicircular tear the size of a large fist. We have had the painting for half a century and I want to repair it. Does anyone know how I should do this? I assume I use neutral glue and a patch behind. Is there anything else ?

  16. Morgan Dunagan

    I have a huge collectors book and unfortunately there has been a small but noticeable tear on the bottom of the book cover. If this is repairable please let me know. I would be willing to pay someone to repair it because I don’t have any experience with repairing paper and it’s a risky task.

  17. Edward G Macomber

    Do you wet Kozo paper to cause a fibrous edge when you tear it to fit a repair prior to setting it with wheat paste?

  18. john doe


  19. Bankim K Kapadia

    I have 100 years old property papers and they were preserved in roll form but the roll got flattened and paper has proven into pieces which I would like to stick with Kizukishi paper or thin Today Tengujo double sided paper described in your above article. My queries are:
    1 what is Kizukishi paper & can I buy from your sources & it’s price?
    2 what is Thin Today Tengujo double sided paper & can I buy it from your sources & at what price?
    3 How to make wheat starch paste?

  20. Caroline

    If anyone is still answering questions here – I have an old portrait that looks like a photograph but predates daguerrotypes, and appears to be on a sort of cardboard stock. It has bent until it broke in half. I am thinking Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste is my best bet but if you have any additional comments that will help me do better, I would be grateful!

  21. Marcus

    My Grandfather was a POW in WW1 and received a commendation letter from King George v following his return home. A relative typed over parts of the surface in the 80’s. I removed the typewritter ink with an eraser, which damaged parts of the paper – the paper is very thin in parts. What’s the best way to fix this? Any advice is appreciated.
    Cheers Marcus

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