Soaking and Stretching - Problem Solving

Soaking and stretching watercolour paper is great technique to master to create a tight flat surface to paint on. Unfortunately there are a few things that can go wrong.

To learn how successfully soak and stretch watercolour paper follow the link.

Paper is too absorbent after soaking and stretching

When soaking the paper it is very important NOT to accidentally contaminate the paper with residue detergents found in areas like baths, kitchen sinks. These detergents attack the sizing causing the paper to become very absorbent and unusable.

Tape pulls away from paper when the paper is drying

  • The gummed tape has been wetted too long removing too much glue.
  • There isn’t sufficient glue on the tape to hold the paper tight when drying.
  • There is a problem with the absorbency of the paper (either accidentally induced with detergents (see above) or during manufacturing), which has caused the paper to soak up too much water that makes it difficult for the tape to stick to the paper.

Dark marks are appearing in the wash

Usually dark marks that appear in the wash are often attributed to finger marks when handling the paper. The paper is especially fragile when being soaked, so it is very important to handle the paper with care by the edges and not to touch the area to be painted.

Thin white lines are appearing in the wash

Thin white lines are usually caused by a puddle of water being left to dry on the paper. The puddle dries leaving a 'tide mark' which shows up as a white line after application of a watercolour wash.

Paper isn't as strong after soaking and stretching

If the paper is soaked for too long the gelatine surface can be washed from the sheet. Historically handmade paper with a heavy surface sizing of animal skin glue needed to be soaked for a long time, this is no longer the case on modern mould made papers and soaking for excessively long periods can reduce the effectiveness of the paper.

How to avoid soaking and stretching

  • Use a 425gsm (200lb) or heavier weight paper and it shouldn’t require stretching. The paper is thick enough to withstand the wash applied to it without buckling/cockling too much. The heavier the paper the less it will move.
  • Use a watercolour block. Blocks are glued on all four sides, which allow the paper to dry flat.



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