Friday, 24 October 2014

learn: Stretching Watercolour Paper with Michele Kempees

I have been teaching watercolor for many years and the first two classes are all about how to shrink paper, what supplies are best and why.

I learnt the hard way by trail and error at first but then I did a lot of research about the science about paints and the pigments that are in them.

It sure made the difference in my art.

This is the paper that I use - Winsor & Newton 140 pound/300gsm cold press paper.
Paper Used

Hint: There are usually two watermarks on watercolour paper. I have found that for some paper it DOES matter which side you paint on because of the way the paper is pressed. The side that is easy to read straight on is the face of the paper to paint on.
Watermark - the side of paper to use

These are the supplies you will need.

  • a sturdy wood board.
    The one shown is made for watercolour painting. (gator board, foam board and masonite does NOT work). You can cut plywood to the size you need and seal with polyurethane.
  • Winsor & Newton watercolour paper (cut or torn to size)
  • White school glue
  • Gummed paper tape (white or kraft brown)
  • Natural sponge (it holds more water)
Materials used

Cut or tear paper tape to lengths needed (about 3-4 inches longer than paper side, to extend beyond edge)

Put paper in a large sink or bath tub of water. Let soak about one minute or longer if using 300 pound paper. It should be limp and flexible.

Carefully pick up a corner of paper to allow the access of water to run off.

Lay paper onto board. (it will be a little wavy, don't worry)

Put a small bead of glue just 1/2 inch (1.5cm) on edge of wet paper

Wet paper tape (to activate the adhesive) and place on the wet paper all the way around. Half on the paper, half on the board. Take the wet sponge and wet the top of the tape to evenly press down tape and wet it. This allows the wet tape and wet paper to dry evenly.

The paper might be wavy. Set aside and let dry, don't worry it WILL dry flat every time.

HINT: Seeing the wet wavy paper drying flat with no wrinkle will reassure you a very wet watercolour wash (causing wavy paper) will dry flat. Sometimes I have my paper get very wavy during a painting but because of that small bead of glue the paper tape will not come off, drying your paper flat every time.

When you are finished with your painting you can use a utility knife to cut free. You can use a ruler and knife but I don't want to damage my board.

I do not take the time to wet and take off the paper tape after each painting. I will do several paintings until I feel it is time to clean off the extra tape. I want to spend my time painting not cleaning up boards.

I hope this helps you!

You can see more of Michele's work at

1 comment:

  1. Using this today. Thanks Michele, Nikki and Tania!


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