Some people tape their dry watercolor paper to a board using masking tape, painter's tape, or artist's tape. All of these tapes will work on smaller pieces of paper. Larger paintings will need tape wider than one inch and may still not lay flat. If you are painting a lot of wet in wet technique, you may also find that the large amounts of water you use will eventually loosen those tapes even on smaller paintings.
Of course, if you have the moola, you could paint on 300 pound watercolor paper all the time and never worry and wrinkled paper again!
Another plan is to stretch your watercolor paper and attach it to stretcher bars or to a board. Both of these methods will insure that you have flat watercolor paper on which to paint and a flat watercolor painting when you are finished. Yes. Flat - even if you repeatedly use a lot of wet into wet washes. This works great on 140 pound watercolor paper, but it also works great on 90 pound watercolor paper.
For either method, you first have to get your watercolor paper really wet with cool water. Warm water will turn your watercolor paper into mush. Expensive mush, but mush none the less.
|wet watercolor paper|
To stretch your paper on a board, you will need a board, scissors, gummed paper tape, and a sponge. Well, and your wet watercolor paper...
|supplies for stretching your paper on a board|
Before you wet your paper, cut strips of the gummed paper tape that are long enough to completely cover the edges of the paper and overlap on the corners. Do not skimp on tape. <<<< Read that and you will not hate me later.
Set your wet watercolor paper on the board and smooth out any wrinkles with the sponge. Dampen your sponge, squeeze out any extra water, and wet the gummed side of your gummed paper tape.
|getting the gummed paper tape wet|
When you are finished, you should have what looks like a wrinkly mess of wet paper with a lot of wet tape around the edges. Never fear, it will dry to look like this:
|dry watercolor paper stretched on a board|
Another way to have pretty flat paper, is to stretch your watercolor paper on stretcher bars. You can usually get stretcher bars at any art supply store - these are the same ones that are used for canvases. You will also need a stapler or staple gun. One little trick I learned years ago is to staple the corners where the stretcher bars are pushed together. This will keep your strecher bars from moving while you are stretching your paper.
Get your stretcher bars all assembled before you get your watercolor paper wet and make sure your stapler is handy. And full of staples. (yes... I didn't, and no, I don't want to talk about it)
|stretcher bars stabalized with a couple of staples|
Most commercially made stretcher bars have that little ridge around the edge. For stretching the watercolor paper, it is not neccessary. So, if all you can find is a flat picture frame, go for it. As long as it is stable and you have about a 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) on the side to staple into, it should work fine for you.
Take your wet watercolor paper and lay it over the stretcher bars. Start on one side and put one staple in the middle like this...
|one staple in the side of the stretcher bar|
Pull the paper to the opposite side, and put one staple in the middle. Go to one of the ends and do the same thing. Go to the opposite end and put one staple in it, too. Check to make sure your paper is on there right (I feel your pain if it isn't...). Once you have it started right, add one staple on either side of the staple on one side. Go to the opposite side, and add one staple on either side of that staple. Got the idea? Keep adding staples opposite each other until you get to the corners. Fold the corners over, and put a staple in it to keep it nice and neat. Pull your corners to the "long side" and it will stretch a bit easier.
|a nice little corner for your paper|
Let your paper dry. Leave it alone - let it get dry - wait... Okay. Now that it is dry (you did wait for it to dry, didn't you?) you can trim the edge of your paper between the staples and the back edge of your stretcher bars.
Voila! You are ready to paint!
Many thanks to Beth Neely, who shared lots of these hints about stretching paper on stretcher bars in her watercolor class that I recently took. She also shared that one advantage of stretching your paper on stretcher bars is that the paper will dry faster while you are painting. When your paper is taped to a board, there is no air circulating behind the paper, but on the stretcher bars, the back is open.
Oh, and just what did I do during the last class session? Well, I got a good start on a new painting.
|home from my last class with a fun little painting|
What's with the green critter? Well, that's a story for another day when I tell you what I learned about masking fluid!
In the meantime, Beth is going to be doing a demonstration at The Art Store. I'm hoping for a front row seat!
What fun things have you been exploring recently? Did you have time to enjoy a class or learn a new technique yet this summer? If you did, post a link in the comments below!