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Lesson Plan: Create a Watermark


Students will study the history of watermarks, the types of watermarks, and their symbolic meanings. The students will then create a watermark of their own that in some way symbolizes them.


Commemorative Mold
Papermaking Commemorative
Papermaking Commemorative Mold


  1. Paper for sketching ideas.
  2. Pencils.
  3. Erasers.
  4. Wire (16 or 18 gauge).
  5. Thin fishing wire.
  6. Wire cutters.
  7. Pliers.
  8. Papermaking supplies.
  9. Directions and materials for making paper.


Wire watermark -
a watermark made by attaching wire to the paper mold
Light and shade - watermark  
a highly detailed watermark produced by a relief sculpture on the paper mold
Dandy rolls -
large cylinders used in paper machines that roll over wet paper to create watermarks
Chain lines -
the stitches used to attach the wire to the mold

QCC Objectives for 7th grade visual arts:

A4- Recognizes how the illusion of mass is created by color, line, or texture in two-dimensional artworks.
B8- Uses drawings created for the purpose of trying out ideas (a study).
B13- Produces an art product from each art area: drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and crafts.
B14- Demonstrates proper care and safe use of art tools and materials.
C15- Recognizes that art has communicated ideas and feelings as well as depicted objects throughout historical periods.
D23- Justifies reasons for preference for styles of art and products of art.

1. Learn:

Walk students through or allow them to explore the student web pages on watermarks. If students explore the pages independently, discuss what they saw while they were searching. You may want to use some of the discussion questions on the pages.

2. Do:

Students should design a watermark that represents them in some way. Have students sketch several ideas before deciding on one. Once they decide on a design, they will create an actual watermark in paper of it. Students can create the design out of wire and stitch it to the mesh of the paper mold. (These wire designs can also be attached with a spray adhesive.) Be sure the wire design is clear of the deckle. Sew the design to the mold with close stitches that are tight. Once the student is finished making paper, simply cut the stitches to remove the wire design.


*Short fiber pulp works best. (cotton rag or linter)

*Remember that the watermark is the mirror image of the design on the mold, so the mold design should be the reverse of the watermark.

*Students can also "paint" their designs directly in the mesh of the mold with white out. Be sure to paint thickly to create a raised surface. Because the white out is hard to scrub off, each student may want to have a piece of mesh the size of the mold to lay on top of the mold. Directions for making paper:

3. Evaluation:

Have students write an explanation of the symbolism in their watermark. They should comment on how they would change or improve the design now that they have completed the process.

4. Extra Activities:

Several different watermarking techniques are listed and explained in the book The Papermaker's Companion: The Ultimate Guide to Making and Using Handmade Paper by Helen Hiebert. This book was published in 2000 by Storey Books.

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Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech - Atlanta, Georgia
Last updated - July 12, 2013