Need help! Why does my watercolor paper buckle up?

  • Why does my watercolor paper buckle up? how can i keep it from warping? Need help!

  • Hi, @joehall !
    The paper buckles because the fibers are expanding when they absorb the water. The solution is to stretch the paper.

  • thanks for your feedback! it was a great help for me.

  • @adamtyler I had no idea watercolor paper stretching was a thing (and I work almost exclusively with watercolors)! I'll have to try it when I start my next piece 😃

  • I agree. Many beginners often do this mistake.

    You can find the quick guide on choosing the right watercolor paper for yourself here Choosing Water Color Paper

    You can also do this by soaking the paper in a tub of water for 20 minutes or so until the fibers are fully saturated. While the paper is still wet, staple or tape it to a rigid surface like a drawing board. If you tape it, you will need to buy gum tape. Other tapes won't adhere to the wet paper. When the paper dries, the fibers won't shrink back to their original size because the paper is being held in place. This allows you to paint on the paper with minimal buckling. When you're finished, just remove the paper from the board.
    I hope it helps! 🙂

  • @adamtyler You can also buy a "watercolor block" - be prepared the price will punch you in the gut - but you are actually buying a lot of individual sheets so it's more cost effective. This isn't an absolute replacement for stretching as mentioned above but it will help keep your paper in line as you paint. In my opinion it's much easier to work on a watercolor block than a thinner un-stretched piece....another alternative is to purchase one really heavy 300lb piece of watercolor paper - expensive but you can work on it without stretching it.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    These options are all good and will work, BUT I have some different advice. See, I don't like any sort of prep work whatsoever. I hated gessoing canvases when I worked in acrylic and oil, I hate stretching paper as a watercolor artist. When I want to do a painting, I want to paint RIGHT NOW ( I would have been terrible back in the renaissance where they had to crush their own pigment, etc! haha!).

    So, to get around this childlike lack of patience, I have a few different methods that get you painting within 5 minutes.

    The first (and easiest) is to buy watercolor board. All the major manufacturers make them now and they are simply watercolor paper that has been attached to a heavy mat board base. Here's where I buy it:

    I do tape this to foam core or my board listed below to paint just to give it more structure while I am working. I'm not stretching it however, just taping it down with white artist tape.

    Now, sometimes you don't want to work on more expensive, heavy paper, so what do you do? Maye you want to work on cheaper 140lb. paper. How do you do that? Simple, you staple that sucker down. It's much faster than the tape method and works far better. (there are a lot of things that can go wrong with the tape method and then you have to start all over!).

    For this method, you need a substrate to staple to. I use the "Incredible Art Board" found here:

    I wet the paper for about 5 minutes in a tub (20 is far too long, btw). Then, just pull the paper out of the tub and staple it down. Start in the center of all 4 sides and work your way to the edges. Work each side the same (in other words, don't just staple all the way down one side at one time. You want to be gradual about it.

    Typically I'll already have my drawing on the board before soaking it. That way once it's stapled, I can go ahead and paint a wet-in-wet layer and be off to the races. No waiting!

    Here's a quick tutorial I found online:

    Lately I have been painting on Cheap Joes 300 lb. paper which is very reasonably priced (around $9.50 a sheet) and is whiter than Arches. No need to do stretch this paper due to it's thickness. I just tape it to board and start painting.

    I'll be posting instructional videos for all this with my watercolor class. : )

    BTW: never use blue tape to tape a board or paper down. The blue will totally mess with your ability to really control your color because it's so dark and saturated. Use white tape only. It costs a little more, but it worth it.

    Hope that helps some. Let me know if you have any questions.

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