Successful Soaking & Stretching

Soaking and stretching is great to keeping the paper completely taut when applying heavy washes, without the sheet cockling (buckling) that create ugly waves and ridges.

This technique is recommended for lighter weight papers:
150g/m² (72lb), 190g/m² (90lb), 300g/m² (140lb)

1) Soak a sheet in a tray of clean cold water for
190g/m² (90lb) - 3 minutes
300g/m² (140lb) - 8 minutes

Take care not to touch the area you intend to paint (the paper is fragile when wet and finger marks will show up in the wash).

2) Drain the paper and place the soaked sheet on a sturdy board (we recommend Marine Ply).

3) Blot any excess puddles of water with a clean paper towel.

4) Wet some gummed tape with a sponge or large paint brush (do not soak), and place around all four edges of the paper, and leave to dry on a slight tilt.

5) Leave the paper to dry overnight. When dry the paper will be stretched tight on the board. When water is added with the paint the paper will not move.

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.

Trouble shooting
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.

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.

The 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 425g/m² 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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