Alternatives To Stretching Watercolor Paper | 4 Easy Way Discussed

For a long time, I have been involved in watercolor painting, not only that but my family history has been inextricably linked with the fine arts for over a hundred years. Therefore, the paper has to be prepared before any perfect painting.

Consequently, it is imperative to avoid the buckling of the paper; otherwise, it is very annoying for an artist to have a crack in the paper.

From long experience, I have personally found a few alternatives to stretching watercolor paper before painting.

Alternatives To Stretching Watercolor Paper

But I’m not sure; you always have to follow the same procedure.  Even if you can follow any process according to time and convenience. Of course, everything is almost effortless.

However, not every tool will always be available to you; again, you may not need so many options when you are gradually getting into the job of expanding the paper, but it is better to know all of them initially. Let’s go deeper without delay and find out the details.

Alternatives To Stretching Watercolor Paper in Multiple Ways

In particular, it has become mandatory for the artist or any ordinary person to spread watercolor paper before painting. Since it doesn’t make sense for everyone to use the same method, we’ll show you a few ways to stretch watercolor paper.

#1. Paper Stretch Process Using Adhesive Tape

Paper Stretch Process Using Adhesive Tape

One of the most common and widely used methods is the gum method. So in this process, the paper can be stretched with a few tools. If you use any board and good adhesive tape, make sure that the board is thick enough and clean, as well as will not transfer the color of the paper.

Step-1: Cleanliness

Rub your hands in soapy hot water for about 20 seconds before starting the process, as any oil or dirt on your hands can affect the paper.

Step-2: Fill the tap with water

Fill any clean bathtub or plastic tub with water up to 4 to 6 inches high. So far, water is needed so that your watercolor paper can float and slowly submerge in water. However, water should be cold, not temperate or hot, because it interferes with the expansion process.

Step-3: Soak the paper in water

Soak the watercolor paper in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure that your fingerprints are not visible, and avoid touching the areas where the feature will be drawn.

How long you soak in water depends on the thickness of the paper. If the watercolor paper weighs as much as 300 lbs, soak it for 25 to 30 minutes as it takes time to stretch.

Step-4: Drain off excess water and attache to the board

Take out the paper from the water tab and drain the excess water. However, if the paper is heavy, you can absorb the excess water with a sponge or hold the paper vertically.

Next, attach the paper to a stiff board, but at this point, the paper may not be completely flat. Then cut four pieces of gum strip or masking tape to the required length and soak the damp sponge tape slightly so that it feels sticky.

Step-5: Apply tape perfectly

Cover the tape half with the edge of the paper and the other half on the board, just like that on the four edges of the paper. Now your paper is entirely ready for painting. After you finish your work, let the board dry, and cut the tapes with a knife or scissors.

#2. Paper Stretch Process Using Stapler

Paper Stretch Process Using Stapler

The use of staplers is generally popular as an alternative to the use of gum tape. This is because it is the same in all processes, from paper to dipping in water, but only staplers are used instead of tape. Usually, many artists do not feel comfortable using the tape or achieving the desired result.

Step-1: Assemble the necessary tools

Take a heavy watercolor paper or plain paper. In addition, a stapler with staples, a paper towel, a foam board large enough to accommodate paper.

Step-2: Wetted in water

Soak in water for a while as in the previous process, then remove the excess water from the paper. Then place the paper in the middle of a paper towel and spread another layer of the towel over it. Then wait a while and remove the watercolor paper from the middle of the towel.

Step-3: Place the paper on one side of the foam board

When the process is done, remove one corner of the paper to test and stick it evenly with the foam board. Also, make sure that your hands move gently to the front in a parallel position on the paper so that there are no air bubbles in the middle of the paper.

Start stapling about 0.5 inches from the edge. However, the distance between the staples should be about one and a half to two inches. Furthermore, stapling the board all the way from the center of each end to the main.

Step-4: Let it dry

Keep the board flat so that the paper dries quickly, but it can take about a day or more to dry. Next, you can use the staple-tanning tool to open the staplers and cut around to create a smooth edge.

#3. Paper Stretch Process Through A Canvas Frame

Paper Stretch process through a canvas frame

The process of stretching the canvas frame is quite different from other processes because neither stapler nor tape is used. Nevertheless, to get a nice tight paper surface without any hassle, high-level artists use this method. But we can assure you that this method is not for you if you are new to the expansion process.

Step-1: Gather the canvas frame

For this process, you first need a blank canvas frame. However, you can choose the cheapest frame in the market. Also, you can make your own frame by buying a canvas that can be opened or a stretcher-bar. The canvas frame needs to be strong because the whole process depends on its grip ability.

Step-2: Immerse in water

Fill a tray with 1/4 of the water, dip the paper and wait, four to five minutes for light paper and a little longer for heavy paper.

Nevertheless, you can use rolling from paper as needed but no creasing. If you want to keep this project going for a long time, it is better to use acid-free paper.

Step-3: Drain off and place in designated place

Remove the wet paper from the tray and hold one side of the paper, so that excess water is squeezed out. Then gently place the paper on any flat surface of the work. However, make sure that no air bubbles in the paper and it is entirely smooth.

Step-4: Attach to the canvas

Place the canvas frame along with the long paper fish, which means your canvas must be slightly smaller than the paper. Then wrap the extra piece around the back edge of the frame and face the canvas in the opposite direction.

Finally, notice that the corners around the canvas are nicely folded and tightened. This canvas process allows you to create customized frames in any way that are very light so use very finely.

#4. Paper Stretch Process Using a Stretcher

Paper Stretch Process Using a Stretcher

The British initially used stretching boards to stretch water-colored paper. Similarly, a specially designed paper is used in this processor is called a “stretcher for the perfect paper.” If you want to adopt the method, you must be accustomed to working with the size of the stretcher boards covered in the shop.

Step-1: Choose the right paper size

Papers a3, a4 and b5 are more important and ideal for painting, so choose the paper accordingly, depending on the size of your stretcher board.

You can also make a stretcher board by applying glue at equal intervals in the shape of three thin sheets of plywood sandwiches.

Step-2: Create a firm surface

Preparing a solid surface on an old cloth so that wet water-colored paper can absorb excess water to keep it on the surface. Next, place the wet watercolor paper on the surface and place the stretcher board in the center of the paper to be evenly spaced around.

Step-3: Use a rubber strip

Apply a rubber strip to secure the place of the wet paper. You may then need to use a hammer to bring the rubber back to its original position.

In addition, there are grooves around the edges of the stretcher board, so many artists recommend using candles in this work so that the paper can be moved effortlessly, as well as there is no fear of the paper shrinking.

Step-4: Cut off the excess and sponging

Lift one end of the stretcher board upwards and gently straighten the paper in the middle, but you can use an old paintbrush. Also, cut the paper in half to a specific size with a climbing rope or plastic tube.

At the same time, make sure that the air does not bubble and gently press around the stretcher board with a wet sponge. Finally, let the board dry on a flat surface for a long time.


Eventually, the methods of stretching watercolor paper have been completed one by one. Notice, of course, that each watercolor paper differs in the last step of the expansion process, where the expansion process is accomplished using different tools.

When an artist cannot tolerate buckling while painting, one tends to the process of stretching watercolor paper, so find alternatives to stretching watercolor paper.

This way, all the watercolor paper sheets have to be stretched, but it is best to use a stretcher board if you want to stretch in a concise time between all the methods. Thus, start the expansion process only when you are very close to the time of painting; you can resort to any medium accordingly.

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Expertise: Content writer

My goal in life is to always be learning. I've spent 25+ years working with my hands and have found the art of building something new to be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Through my writing I aim to share some of what I've stumbled upon with the world in hopes others can benefit from my own experiences!