Watercolours techniques and tips

The reasons to stretch a paper sheet

When painting, a watercolorist is required to make wash, wetting the paper and applying diluted paint(wet on wet Technique). With these water supplies, paper tends to curl if not before. Bumps and depressions are formed, and influence the mixture of the pigments into the water, especially if the support is flat. In general, it is not desirable and can actually ruin a picture.

In addition to the quantity of water, other criteria increase the curl of a sheet:

  • Paper quality: Ligthest sheets curl more easily, it is advisable to opt for a weight of 250 to 350 g/m², but there are varieties of paper from 400 to 700 g/m². The compound of cotton paper are also more sensitive than those composed of vegetable fiber.
  • Paper size: The sheets with a size over 20cm side are guaranteed to curl, which demonstrates the frequency of this phenomenon!

Finally, even if the paint is still possible on vertical plane, the paper may curl and then need to be flattened. We can then either moisten the blank side of the sheet, or hire a professional that is equiped in accordance.


Sized Blocks


A simple solution is to use a block glued on the 4 edges. This is no problem on the 30CM and beyond depending on the brand, however, it happens that the paper comes off anyway (on the format 40 X 60 CM with Arches paper, yet one of the best). And then ... Not easy to recover!

So for others, it is necessary to wet the paper and handing it on a plate




Wet the paper

The easiest way is to soak the sheet in a bath for 5-8 minutes.

The bathtub must be cleaned and rinsed especially to avoid distorting the paper by the absorption of detergent.

An alternative technique is to wrap the paper in a plastic transport tube (cost some € in a specialty store) and fill with water.


Various techniques

Masking tape and pins

On small formats, watercolor set bands craft paper tape on the edges, and then plant special pins. For my part, although I tried this technique, it has NEVER worked:

  1. Paper strips come off when drying
  2. Pins become flattened by planting the wood and do not hold the sheet evenly
  3. On wet paper, they can damage the sheet




Paper stretchers

A variant is rub the paper, ie glue the edges of the sheet behind the frame, but the glue can damage the sheet and the technique is complex.

Other watercolorists stretch the paper to the edge of their board. For your convenience, you can use a special stretcher.

Hereby a movie demonstrating the concept with metallic sides , and an other one (stretching to the edge of the board).

The disadvantage of this technique is the need to have as many stretcher as various sizes of paper.

Pinning the staples

1- Preparing your stuff

To tighten our sheet of paper, we need:

  • A sheet of paper, we will mark the front to locate the implementation of the bands. On the edge of the sheet, mark with a pencil to place later masking strips.
  • Stapler, DIY category. Mine is a Rapid R53, staples have a height of 4 mmm. It is not useful to use larger staples.
  • Bands to keep the edges. Mine are masking strips DIY Stayer brand, 4 cm wide.
  • A wooden board, if possible with a frame. Regardless of its dimension as long as it is greater than that of the paper sheet.


Stapling stuff


Wet the paper sheet

2- Wet the paper sheet

Soak the paper in a bath for 3-5 minutes minutes.

The bathtub must be cleaned and rinsed especially to avoid distorting the paper by the absorption of detergent.

Make sure that the sheet is completely immersed for equal moisture impregnation.


Position the sheet



3- Position the masking strips

Remove the sheet from the bath and place it on the wooden board.

Marks are used to place the inner edge of the masking bands. These are held to the edge of the board.


Stapling the strips


4- Stapling the strips

With the stapler, place a staple approximately every 10 cm.

Remove excess water with paper towels or a clean sponge.

Let dry during about 8 hours, leaving the frame flat for even drying.


Snatch the staples off


5- Snatch the staples off

The painting is finished, let's release it from the board. To remove the staple, I use a flat screwdriver.

Point outward of the frame, slide the screwdriver under the clip, release a side of a staple by twisting the screwdriver.

Pull the staple with a big pliers.

When every staple are removed, rip off the masking strip, and tear outside of the picture to avoid damaging the paint.