Stretching Watercolor Paper : Watercolor Demonstrations





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Published on Feb 20, 2008

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People tell me all the time they have a hard time finishing the watercolor without getting all hard edges. Let me show you an old method--stretching paper--that also prevents hard edges.

I've done the drawing on the paper--always do the drawing on dry paper, never on wet paper or you'll really mess it up if you do. I'm going to turn it over on the back and I take my bucket of water and I absolutely just start sopping it to the painting. You can't get it too wet. Then I'm going to flip it over on the front and I'm going to soak it. REmember, you absolutely cannot get it too wet. We have to get it all the way through the paper. This particular paper is 140 lb. cold pressed Kilimanjaro. I like it a lot.

Just let that settle for about 10 or 15 minutes and buckles should appear in it. We'll come back and show you how to get the buckles out and how to finish stretching it.

The paper is buckled just a little bit, but really not enough. Now what we need to do is since it's damp, but not wet through and through. Turn it over on the back, and wet it again just sock it to it. Just like we did the first time and be sure you get it wet everywhere. I've waited about 15 minutes from the first time I wet it, and it generally takes 20-30 minutes for it to soak all the way through. By the way, this is a piece of Gator board right here, and I like using it because you can use staples on it, you can tape on it, and it's tough as can be.

Now I have it really soaking wet, now then if any buckles or bubbles appear, you simply lift the edge of the paper, and wet the board underneath while you put the paper back down like that. It's kind of like wallpapering, and that should get all the buckles out of it.

Now then, we'll let that set for maybe another 10 minutes and if no buckles appear we'll be ready to do the next step.

We've given the paper another 10 minutes and no buckles appeared, but if they did, remember to just lift the edge of the paper, paint the gatorboard with water behind, and let the paper down easy.

The next step, and this is really important, is to take the excess water off the paper now. We do that with a roll of paper towels. I generally buy these viva towels, because they don't have a pattern in them and I think they work better. I lay two rolls over it, and I'll use these towels again--I don't throw them away--and I'll come back in with a third layer like this.

Take your hands holding them flat like that and applying some pressure, go from side to side on this paper. Lift that top sheet and bringing it down, again from side to side. This gets rid of all the excess water. I' m going to take it all off and hang these towels to dry.

There the paper is, stretched and ready to paint. I want to show you just one brush stroke, because I know what you're saying the paper's too wet and the paint is going to go everywhere. But it isn't. Look here, the paint will stay right there because I took the excess water off of the paper. I don't have to rush to paint now because I've already got plenty of time to work on this before it gets too dry and start leaving hard edges. I can work for a long time and I can't do that on dry paper because on dry paper I would already have some hard edges in there which I just don't want to get.

It's a fun and easy way to paint and it really helps me on my journey. That's how you stretch watercolor paper.


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