Michele Webber

In the Studio with Michele Webber

Stretch your watercolor paper the easy way

How to Stretch Watercolor Paper – Easy!

In this article I show you how to stretch your watercolor paper the easy way and avoid buckling and warping when you apply the paint. Starting with a list of materials, then working through 8 really simple steps including how to cut your paper off the board at the end. Paper stretching is simple and quick and this method will get you preparing your paper like a professional, so whatever your level you can work on the very best surface.


Roll of Gummed Tape approx 5cm (2 inches) wide

Wooden board

Watercolor paper

2 small bowls

2 sponges (1 large for wetting the paper, 1 small for wetting the tape)



1. Check which way up you want your paper, the water mark is the ‘right’ way up (or the upper facing surface if taken from a pad of paper). But either side can be used as you prefer, one side may be smoother than the other. Place the paper right side down.

2. Cut the paper to size, it should be approx 1 inch (2.5cm) smaller than the board. Cut a nick along the edge before folding, lining up the edges. Use a clothed arm to press the fold along (keep your skin off the paper.)

3. Cut or tear the tape to the same size or slightly longer than the edges of the board.

4. Wet both sides of the paper thoroughly, using the large sponge. Do the back, then turn so the right side is uppermost and wet that too.

5. Wait a minute or two, and then lift arrange the paper neatly on the board, as flat as it will go (it may buckle slightly at this stage don’t worry, the bigger it is the more it will buckle).

6. Dampen the tape using the small sponge and stick the paper down. Do the long edges first and line them up with the board edge. Fold any excess tape under the edges of the board.

7. Leave the paper to dry flat. Do not stand the board on one side, and keep away from cats! The paper will initially buckle much worse before it starts to shrink, but this is normal so don’t panic. Leave to dry at least half a day before using.

8. After painting, let your work dry completely before cutting off the board. Run a craft scalpel or sharp diy knife along approximately where the paper edge is. Lift your painting off, some tape will remain on the board, you can leave it there. If after many paintings it builds up and becomes a nuisance pull some off. Tape will remain on the edge of the paper, this isn’t a problem and gives your framer extra room to attach a mount, which will also hide the tape. You can use the tape to write dates, reference numbers, titles etc on your painting.

Handy hint! You should also use this method to prepare paper for any mixed media, collage or acrylics to ensure it stays flat.

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