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 Art Answers & Ampersands… forever  to be known as Art A&A, ‘cuz what a mouthful!

Publishing weekly, Art A&A is a Q&A show to give you answers to all your art questions about techniques, marketing and staying creative.

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The next 2 podcasts will go up right after one another to create the feed for iTunes to acknowledge and then I’ll be publishing weekly.

Today’s episode:

Walter G/Toronto asks, “Why does my watercolour paper wrinkle and buckle even when taped down?”

Here’s the stretching watercolour diagram I mentioned in the podcast:


Stretching WC Paper



Transcribey Part for the Print Addicted:


Hi and welcome to Art  Answers and Ampersands, our very first podcast episode. My name is Lezley Davidson and I’m here to answer questions about arts and online art marketing and creativity. So our show is a question-and-answer type of show, I take questions from my website at or We have a form under podcast in the menubar or you can call in your questions on the voice box that’s there on the website.


Okay so yeah, this week I have a question from Walter G. in Toronto and Walter asks

“Why does my watercolor paper wrinkle and buckle even though it’s taped down?”

And yeah Walter, tape is balls, absolutely balls. Good quality watercolour paper is made of cotton rag and is very very strong. When it gets wet it stretches and then shrinks as it dries and just pulls away from tape. Masking tape won’t hold it down, neither will watercolour art tape.

You can use a block which is available from Arches, Canson, Fabriano there’s a bunch of different types…  Blocks are glued around all four edges and they will stretch it flat as the paper dries, but while you’re painting it’ll create puddles and back wash which sucks. So what I do is I stretch in the traditional way – it’s the only way to get really really wet washes without having the paper buckle or wrinkle at all. If you’re just doing really light washes or vignette type illustrations, you can use watercolor paper without having to stretch it. You can tape it down, that’s fine but if you want to get really wet – have a big wash in the background or foreground, you’re going to stretch if you want it to stay flat while it’s wet.

Ookay so to stretch you need plywood board. 1/4″ is too thin. I used a quarter inch to stretch and it actually warped the board – the paper is so strong 140 pounds cold press will actually crack a masonite board in half if you stretch it. You can use 300 pound paper and not have to stretch it at all but  I find 300 lb is really absorbent and you have to use a lot more paint.

To stretch you need:

  • a 1/2″ piece of plywood
  • you need to seal the plywood with either gesso or matte medium so that the water isn’t absorbed into the raw wood and there’s no leaching from the wood into your  paper
  •  so wet the paper in the tub –  I leave mine in for 15-20 minutes. The paper’s going almost translucent by the time I’m ready.
  •  hold it up and let it drip off a little bit and then lay it down flat onto your plywood board
  • take the watercolour tape (that’s the brown or white Kraft tape with the adhesive on the back) cut the pieces as long as you need the strips to be for each side of the watercolour paper

The back glue that is on this tape is not sufficient to tape down the watercolour paper. It just doesn’t work at all, so what I do is I mix a little bit of wood glue into a bowl with some water and a apply it to the back of the tape with a brush.

  • I put that onto the paper and that’ll keep the paper down quite well
  • then you staple through it – staple through the tape and the paper into the board
  • staples are about 3/4″ quarter of an inch, no 3/16 I think are fine I think that’s what I have

The reason you want to staple through the tape and into the paper alone is because if you staple the paper alone as it shrinks the paper will actually pull away from staples and pop right off it doesn’t work at all so staple through the tape and the paper.

  • let it dry overnight

I do a couple of them at a time then it’s kind of like an assembly line and you have a bunch ready to go. The next day it will be super super flat and smooth and tight  – it’s really nice to work on.

  • I will take 2″ masking tape and I will tape down all the tape around the paper
  • I tape right over the edges of the watercolour tape that I’ve used and I tape right around the edges of my board because I paint really wet I pour there’s water everywhere and I don’t want any water seeping up underneath the paper or getting into any edges

I tape everything off so that I can pour and have it just run across the board and not have to worry about it. Then you’re ready to go!

Now, when it comes time to take the paper off the board you just have to cut it off and that’s kind of the ballsy part. You’ve got leftover tape and paper and staples on your board that you have to remove.

I’ve gotten them out with nail files and flathead screwdrivers – I finally bought a staple remover and that worked better but it’s kind of a crappy part of the job.

…it’s true, I don’t like it, but whatever, you do what you have to do right? Okay so that’s pretty much it – you’re good to go we have a downloadable copy of these instructions on the website at or the in the podcast category. If you like this podcast please subscribe via iTunes or go to iTunes and leave us a comment or a rating – that would be awesome. And if you have a question please go to the website Peeling- leave a question and poke around there’s a lot more art blog posts and demos and whatnot going on there. Okay, so thanks for coming by, next week we’ve got an art marketing question.



Discussion (4) ¬

    Ester De Sousa Sá says:

    Hi, I wonder if you can help. I wanted to protect my watercolour and give it a sheen before framing it and so bought water colour varnish which I applied and regret it because the results where nothing like I expected. The bottle does say it is water colour varnish – brilliant gloss. My watercolour does not show any brilliance whatsoever. Can you please explain? What did I do wrong? Many thanks

    Wow – that’s weird. I’ve never used a watercolour varnish before.

    I varnish watercolours by “fixing” the watercolour with a workable fixative which I spray a few times, lightly.

    Then I use Golden Polymer UVLS Gloss varnish and brush that on. I use 3 coats for best results.

    Maybe the first coat soaked in and you need more coats for the gloss to show.

    Ester De Sousa Sá says:

    I must add I never ever used water colour varnish before. It was the first time.

    Are you framing with glass?

    Don’t varnish if you’re framing with glass.

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