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Stretching watercolor paper by Wolf-Smith Stretching watercolor paper by Wolf-Smith
This is the method I've found to be the most convenient one, after having tried staples, tapes, weights, and just about everything else. Its only useful however if you regulary buy your paper in same dimensions, or cut your own paper. It requires only tacks and a CHIPWOOD ( particle wood) board adjusted to the paper you are using on regular basis.

The board needs to be cut into dimensions 1 cm shorter on each side then the paper you are using, as the first picture shows. This means that whatever the dimensions of the paper you are using, you will always need a chipwood board 1 cm shorter on each side. If you are using several different dimensions, you could have several different boards cut.

I cannot stress this enough: the board needs to be chipwood. It has a very soft core and hard coating on both sides, as the second picture shows. Masonite will not work, it is too hard for tacks. Now onto the stretching itself.

Soak your paper in a thub of water. Depending on its weight, leave it in the water up to 30 minutes. Leaving the paper for prolonged periods can erode the Surface Sizing of the paper - the starchy coat every commercially produced watercolor paper has. Removing it will make it much harder to control your watery washes. Before handling your paper, make sure to wash your hands, so you do not leave any grease from your fingertips on it.

After having soaked your paper, place it painting-side down on a hard working surface of your choosing. I have another larger board just for that. Some papers have 2 different surfaces. Choose the surface you want to paint on and lay it down while still soaked directly onto the working surface. In the third picture, I lay the rougher side down so it sticks to the working surface. Now dab the upper side of the paper with a towel to take off the excess water.

After having taken off the excess moisture, place the chipwood board on the paper as shown in the fourth image. Now bend the paper over the corners of the board, as shown in the fifth image, and start pushing in the tacks. I recommend you work quickly before paper starts drying. The whole process should take no more then few minutes.

After having attached the tacks on all four sides, you can lift up the chipboard and let it dry. I've never had any sort of buckling, warping or pooling with this method. The paper is always drum-tight even when I use gallons of water. Wait for it to dry, then dig in!

After your painting is done just remove the tacks and cut out the picture with the exacto knife.

Ill be very happy to answer any questions!
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ChaosFay Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2017  Professional General Artist
I use strips of scrap mat board with staples on plywood/solid wood.  I've found it works great for painting wet-on-wet which is what I usually do.  Does your method work for wet-on-wet or is it best to let it completely dry and then wet it again for the same effect?
Nooknook Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Interesting technique :) I'm using the tapes technique for the moment but this technique will certainly be useful one day :)
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy to hear that!
bleistiftkind Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for this tutorial! I'll definitely try this the next time I am painting something with water colours! :)
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner May 3, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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Submitted on
April 29, 2013
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