Stretching Your Watercolor Paper – Why It Matters

November 4, 2018

THE GREATEST SKILL YOU’LL EVER LEARN

Yep!  I said it!   That’s how important I feel stretching your watercolor paper is.   ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE STUDENT GRADE PAPER – which can’t handle tones of water.    So why is stretching your paper so important – well let’s be frank and honest – painting on warping paper isn’t fun nor easy.  So, the best way to stop this from happening is to stretch your paper.   

BUT HOW DO YOU STRETCH YOUR PAPER

Well, there are typically 3 different ways to stretch your watercolor paper… Lets start from the easiest – and build our way to the more complex

THE EASY WAY

watercolor blocks

The first way, and easiest way to stretch one’s paper is to simply buy it already pre-stretched.   You can do this by purchasing watercolor blocks which are pre-stretched bundles of watercolor paper.  These blocks allow you to paint immediately and anywhere – which is really great for the traveling artist.  Plus, once you are done – simply remove each individual paper with a palette knife or something similar to a mail opener through a small opening somewhere along the edge. 

THE LAZY WAY

Masking Tape and a Art Tote Board

I call this the lazy way – simply because I use it all the time and usually don’t want to be bothered with the hardest way (using a staple gun).    This is my favorite way to stretch paper – and I use it 80% of the time.   To stretch your board this way – simple placing your watercolor paper – flat against a wooden board and taping all the edges down with masking tape.  Then – wet your paper with a large 2in soft brush and allow it to dry before painting directly onto the board.   This is my favorite method – but isn’t very reliable when working with tons of water.  That is why we must go over the last method…

THE SURE FIRE WAY

Staple Gun and Birch Board

For this process you are going to need SOME SUPPLIES…

MY PROCESS FOR STRETCHING PAPER

DISCLAIMER: there are tons of different ways that artist stretch their paper – but this is my preferred method. :)  

AND THAT’S IT!

You just learned the best skill you’ll ever learn in watercolor!  Happy Painting and Talk to You Soon!

7 responses to “Stretching Your Watercolor Paper – Why It Matters”

  1. Pauline Reilly says:

    Hello Lovely,
    That’s brilliant thank you, the staple method was always a mystery to me. I shall now give it a whirl.
    Hope your days good
    P

  2. Sabra Penley says:

    Hi, Carrie! I love your instructions. I typically use Canson XL 140lb. watercolor paper and have never stretched it before. My question is does the board need to be wood, or can it be something like plexiglass?

  3. Laurel White says:

    When it comes to using wood for a board for stretching paper, I was worried about permanent holes that would make the staples loose over time. So I used foam core. I got 4 boards, in the size I like. Then using spray adhesive I covered both sides with matting board. To make it waterproof, I used two coats of Liquitex Matte Medium. Duct taped all the edges. Voila! Custom sized, Self healing, lightweight paper stretching boards.

  4. Craig Bunker says:

    Hi Carrie,

    More good advice from a trusted source! Do you have any suggestions to separate paper in block form?
    I use an Exacto, fingernail, and even palette knife but some of the edges still tear. Thank you – Craig

    • Misfit says:

      Hi Craig, I always use a palette knife – but yeah – some brands of blocks do make it difficult to separate the paper. I’ve heard sometimes warming up the sides with a heat gun just to loosing the glue slightly can help – but never tried it. I was always worried it would corrupt the rest of the block – but not sure. I hope that helps :)

  5. Mandy says:

    5 stars
    Great and an article!
    Best regards,
    Mead Hessellund

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