Paper Stretching

Most people reading this will be well aware of the pleasure of painting on a nicely stretched sheet of paper, and to those people I apologise. This set of notes is intended for the absolute beginner.

Use a plywood board. Gummed paper tape, ideally at least an inch wide, is needed to secure the paper. As always, a roll of kitchen paper comes in handy.

Soaking 140lb paper for approximately 1 minute.
Cutting the paper tape to length while the paper soaks.

Watercolour paper, especially the lighter weight such as 90lb is best stretched on a plywood board before use. This prevents the paper expanding and buckling while you work. To begin, soak the loose paper in water for a minute or so. Practice will tell you exactly how long to soak the different grades of paper for. Allow the excess water to run off then, with the paper on the board, sponge dry a half inch strip along all the edges. Make sure that the paper is flat and square on the board before you tape it down. The most important point is to allow the paper to dry on a flat surface, otherwise the water will pool under the tape at the lower edge and this will not be secure as the paper dries. The finished result is usually (!) a perfectly flat sheet of paper that will not move, no matter now wet the wash.

An alternative is to staple the paper to the board. Just soak the paper for a couple of minutes, allow the excess water to run off, then place on the board and staple around the edges every two inches or so.

Many thanks to my work-experience lad, Mark Avery, for his help in writing this article, and with the photography.

Drying the edge of the paper to allow the tape to stick.
Removing bubbles and creases from the tape.
The finished paper, left to dry on a much used drawing board!

© Adrian James 2001

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