How to Stretch Watercolor Paper

How to Stretch Watercolor Paper


Hi. I’m Hilary. If you’ve ever
worked in watercolor or other water-based
paints, you’ve likely experienced having
your paper warp or buckle. When paper is wet, the fibers
soak up the water and expand. As the sheet dries, it
shrinks and buckles. This is most problematic with
light and medium-weight papers. The way to eliminate this
is by stretching your paper. There are a few different
options and techniques for doing this, but
I’m going to show you the method I use most often. It is important to
wet your paper evenly. You can do this by dipping the
sheet in a tub of cold water. Do this as many times as
necessary for an even soak. You want to blot the sheet
lightly with the sponge so it isn’t dripping wet,
but don’t over-dry it. Place your paper on
a rigid board that has a smooth surface
that won’t bend or warp, just larger than the
sheet you’ll be stretching. Make sure it’s clean and
won’t transfer color or dirt. I’m going to affix the paper to
the board using a gummed craft paper tape. This tape is water-activated,
so dampen the adhesive side and place at about a
quarter inch overlapping your paper on all four sides. Smooth the paper gently as
you go, removing air pockets so it’ll lay flat as possible. Once your paper is completely
dry, it’s ready for painting. At this stage, I like to
measure a border, leaving room to matte my artwork later. You’ll work on the mounted
paper until your painting is finished and dry. When I remove my artwork,
I like to cut around the inner edge of the tape
with a straight-edged ruler and an X-Acto knife. But if you’d like to retain
the natural edge of the paper, wet the back of the tape
and peel it off carefully. All these materials and more can
be found on the Blick website.

33 thoughts on “How to Stretch Watercolor Paper”

  • So there's no way to get flat paper without taping it down like that? I hate taping the paper, I don't want a border around my work, I want to paint right off the deckled edges.

  • @aguarino87 To get the deckled edge back, you can skip the part where she makes the border (or draw one much closer to the edge of the tape). Once you're finished painting and everything is dry, you can use a tear bar or a heavy metal ruler to re-tear the paper, right up to the edge of your paint. Be sure to turn the paper face-down & measure before tearing. This will give you the deckled edges again. Does that help?

  • i buy Blick stuff on a regular basis (Looking for what I should get for watercolor and inking papers). It would be incredibly awesome if in the description hyperlinks to the products used.

  • My tape is buckling only on the watercolor paper but sticks well to the board. Very frustrating.
    what am I doing wrong? I tried having the sponge wet but not dripping and I also tried it just moist enough. Is the watercolor paper too wet and absorbing the glue?

  • ok.. the gummed craft tape DOSENT WORK!!!
    all it does is come loose.. and dosent stick right.. and dont say i used poor quality cus it cost me six bucks a role..
    stick with plain old drafting tape.. it wont damage the paper and is cheeper

  • I have a question. I sketched my art directly on the watercolor paper before I wet or taped it. Will the pencil bleed or smear if I wet it?

  • For some reason it doesn’t stick to the paper and the sides that are touching it constantly warp whenever it dries. Right now I’m using a white melamine board with a slightly sanded surface, & I’ve tried turning the board around and laying it down flat after applying the tape.

     I’ve also tried rubbing my fingers on the tape, using a dry sponge to soak up the excess water along the edges of the paper, adding extra layers of tape (as well as masking tape and duct tape), and playing around with the amount of water I apply to the tape since I’m using a damp sponge & I’m not sure if I’m adding too much or not enough. However, none of these solutions seem to be working either.

    The only other thing that I think could be causing this is that, at times, I don't completely place the tape on the paper after I water it since I draw the borderlines on my paper before I soak it and I'm trying to have the tape line up with them exactly. Do you think this could be the cause, or could it possibly be something else?

  • I just tried for the first time to use gum tape to stretch my 140 LB watercolor paper. The process was disastrous. After the paper dried it still buckled and when it was time to remove the tape, it stuck to the paper. I had to keep wetting it to un stick it. It was a sticky mess. Any suggestions?

  • I'm going to have to try this I use 140lb Montval by Canson it warps badly because I use a wet on wet technique.

  • what board can i get for this? doesnt wood warp? does it need to be a nonporous (absorbent, unlike plastic) suface? and also if i use something like Binder clips or paper clips will that work

  • Can I use a wood base paper like Daler Rowney 200gsm Finegrain drawing paper with this method or will it be ruined? Can I use masking tape instead of gum tape?

  • I have trouble removing the paper tape. It rips my paper, even though it's heavy. Can you give more instructions on this problem ?

  • I got the gummed paper strips and soaked my paper but is my board wrong? I used an old kitchen cupboard door, kind of laminated finish, maybe the door is too waterproof? Should i use wood or what?

  • Sometimes I find my tape lifts up on the inner part of the paper. I wet the tape with my sponge exactly like you did..did I wet it too much or not enough? Hmm

  • Ok so 3 questions. First for the taping surface, is it ok to use thicker cardboard and not wood ? As for the second one I heard you should lossen the tape by taping it on your clothes first so the glue won't be as firm and that should prevent the tape from ripping the paper. Is that true ? And is it ok to use the crepe tape ?

  • OMG I BOUGHT SO MANY WATERCOLOUR PAPERS AND EVERYTIME I USED THEM IT STARTED WARPING SO I THOUGHT THE PAPER WAS BAD…i didnt even know this was a thing i wasted so much money on different watercolor papers

  • You don't stretch the paper, bur keep the paper from stretching and warping.
    Applying Glycerine to the back of the paper before taping solves this problem.

  • I've tried everything. I soak the paper well, I have tried dampening the board , staples every 2 inches loads of things. Always the results are hit and miss. I sometimes think I have got it right and use the same paper, same process on the next piece and it's a disaster. Always the same problem, the paper pulling away from the gumstrip tape usually on one side. Using 200lb from now on.

  • Yellow Frog tape on a board works great for me. No more buckles and I don’t ever pre-wet my paper. It’s going to get wet.

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