Sunday 13th August – Stretching watercolour paper

By   August 15, 2017

While I was at the RAS Member’s Exhibition opening on Friday night, I was asked about stretching watercolour paper, so thought that would make a good blog!

I think it is important to have your watercolour paper sit flat after working on it, so am more than happy to share how I do that, with you. It is important for work to be presented professionally.

I use marine varnish on my boards, and only use these particular ones for stretching paper. You can buy the proper stretching gummed watercolour paper at an art store. In this following photo, you can see the gummed tape with the gummed side showing (and an extra roll showing how I store it in plastic); the board I use varnished with marine varnish; and the flat dried sides of a recently stretched piece of 300gsm watercolour paper.

If the following process is too involved, one thing you can do is buy the 300 gsm paper already stretched in a pad – there are several available, through different manufacturers, and some are pretty expensive but others not so much.  The paper is flat and already stretched on the pad, and when you are finished working, you just remove that top piece and the next one is under it, all clean and stretched and ready to go! The only thing, is, you are restricted with the size as there are no full sheet sized pads available as far as I know. I can put all sorts of washes and even collage and mixed media on the top piece, and the next piece underneath stays clean and unaffected by what’s on the top piece.

In the photo above, you can see the pad of prestretched 300gsm paper. The top piece has been worked on ,and has remained evenly flat through the painting and collage process including removal from the pad. The piece still on the pad, has thick layers of acrylic paint dripped down – the paper remains flat throughout. Towards the front of the pad (facing you the viewer) is the small opening through which I slide my palette knife to slice the gum, when the work is ready for removal from the pad. The paper is gummed all the way around, except for this little space. The next piece of paper under the dripped acrylic work, is clean and ready for a new work.


Stretching Watercolour Paper – Copyright Tricia Reust


Strong thick board, varnished on the side you will be using, slightly larger in size than the watercolour paper,(Masonite and thin boards warp with the strength of the drying paper, so use a thick piece of board).

Watercolour paper; Gummed tape (NOT framing tape, masking tape etc). This tape is best stored away from moisture in a plastic sealed bag – keep away from the wet area when you are working with it). Sometimes you may need to cut into the tape with a Stanley knife, especially if the tape is new, to peel away some of the outer layer, when you begin to use the tape.

Container for water, scissors, rags, small towel.



Soak the paper in a bath tub or large sink, for at least half an hour, in water just deep enough to cover all the paper.

Prepare your working surface with the board, the container of water, scissors, rags, small towel and the gummed tape, (which you will place away from the area which will get wet while you are working).

Place the wet paper on the centre of the board, and smooth the paper out with your hands, from the centre of the paper towards the outer edges, in a firm manner, which will flatten and straighten the paper against the board.

Cut four pieces of tape, slightly larger than each side of the paper in size (place over the back of a chair or other surface away from the wet working area).

For each side – Run each piece of tape quickly and evenly through the water in your container, gummed side down in the water, ensuring that it is evenly wet. IMMEDIATELY place on a side of the paper, gummed side down, smoothing it with your hand and then a rag.

Ensure that the tape width is about half covering the edge of the paper and the other half sticking to the board. If you do not cover enough of the paper with the tape, it will pull away from the tape as it dries, because the paper is so strong. Wipe your hands each time in between taping each side, to keep from wetting the new piece of tape unnecessarily.

It is important to not overly wet the tape – DO NOT WIPE THE TAPE WITH A TOWEL OR ANYTHING before placing it on the side of the paper – water will remove the gum from the tape easily, so the tape will quickly become ineffective.

Allow to dry.


Removing art work and tape:

After working on the paper, it can be cut from the board with your Stanley knife, cutting a line around the edge of the paper where you can see this edge under the tape.

Then, to remove the remaining tape from your board, simply wet it again, wait until it is wet through, and it will be easily removed with a rag. If you don’t want to cut the paper from the taped edges, simply wet the tape, wait until it is wet through, and the whole taped watercolour piece will come off the board.

For stubborn bits, leave a wet rag on top for a few minutes, in order to wet the tape right through before removing.

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