Stretching watercolor paper keeps it from buckling while you are painting on it. It is not necessary for 300-pound paper, but lesser weights of paper will immediately start buckling as soon as you add a wash to them. 300 pound paper gets expensive, so many watercolor artists buy 140- pound paper and stretch it to a hard surface.
There are lots of ways to do this. Today I'm going to share with you how I do it. I drew some little doodles in my notebook to help you see what I mean.
You need a hard backing surface to stretch the paper to. I use gatorboard. Gatorboard is similar to a super-thick piece of foam board, but it has a much stronger outer surface that will hold up a lot longer than foam board. It's lightweight, easy to staple (and remove staples from), and doesn't mind getting soaked, so it's perfect for this purpose. (You can find it at various art supply stores under different names, or you can order gatorboard from Cheap Joes Art Stuff, at http://www.cheapjoes.com- my favorite place!)
Other supplies: water, stapler and staples, masking tape or artist's tape, watercolor paper
1. First I cut my paper to the size I need, and lay my gatorboard flat on a table or counter.
2. Next I run the paper under cool water in the sink or bathtub, moving it around just until it's wet everywhere. Then I hold it up and let the water drain off of one corner until it stops running and starts dripping.
3. I lay the paper flat on top of the gatorboard and smooth it out with the sides of my hands, starting in the center and working my way out, pushing the excess water puddles off the sides as I do this.
4. I let it sit for a few minutes until the paper no longer looks shiny. (Tiny shiny areas are ok- you don't want it to get too dry.)
5. I start stapling the paper to the gatorboard along the outer edges of the paper. I start by putting one staple in the middle of each of the four sides, then work my way towards the corners, a few staples on each side of the paper at a time, putting the staples at the corners last. As I do this, I use the side of my free hand to smooth the paper and pull it taught.
6. Let the paper dry thoroughly. This can be sped up with a hair dryer, if desired, but don't try to draw on it until it's completely dried!
7. For a finishing touch I tape all the edges with masking or artist's tape. This keeps water and paint from running under the paper while I'm painting, and also makes a nice clean edge all around my painting when I am done.
Happy painting! Leave your comments or questions below... don't be shy! I want to hear from you!
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