Mount watercolour paper correctly on wood

How to draw watercolour paper on a plywood board correctly.

Only on a well prestressed sheet of watercolour paper can you work well and without puddles. Handling wet glue paper when mounting watercolour sheets is not easy - but I personally find such preparatory work very relaxing. Since I usually work on my paintings over a period of 1-3 months, it is very important that they always remain flat on the painting board over the entire period of working.

Note: This is a new version of an article already written in 2011.

Wet glue paper

Just don't get wet.

The not quite cheap wet glue paper rolls have one very stupid characteristic: They attract the water like the devil in the dry rolled up condition. And if there is only a drop on the roll side or even more - the whole roll or a large part of the roll is unusable because all the roll conveyors stick together. Therefore: Store the rolls only for a short time within reach of water. To prepare, tear off strips of the correct length, then put the wet adhesive paper rolls away in a dry place.


  • a sheet of watercolour paper
  • a suitable board that should be approx. 3 cm larger on all sides than the sheet of watercolour paper
  • a flat plate
  • a fresh household sponge
  • at least 4 strips of wet adhesive paper
  • work very large sheets in pairs

Some words on the plywood boards

I painted all my plywood boards once with a clear grounding. They last longer and the wet paper does not attack the wood. On the varnish, however, the wet glue paper sticks badly. That's why I stick a strip of wet glue paper with wood glue on where the wet glue paper will later land. It then holds the paper in place. The large boards (from 1m width or height) all have a reinforcing strip on the back. Otherwise they bend under the pull of the drying paper.

Let's go

First of all I mark the upper side of the watercolour paper in one corner with a pencil cross.

Then I tear off 4 strips of wet glue paper in the required lengths (2 times the height, 2 times the width) and put it ready.

If I want to draw up a large sheet of watercolour laid cardboard - at the moment I'm working with Rives Arches Grain Torchon 135cm rolls - then I first water the watercolour paper for a while, depending on the size of the paper in the bathtub, but it also works a waterproof flower box. It must not water for too long - then it can even tear during drying - as long as it is well glued. But also not too short - otherwise it will curl if you apply a lot of paint or use a lot of water when painting.

I leave the sheet rolled up in the tub for 10 - 15 minutes, then let it drip off until only one drop drips off every minute.

I lay the sheet on my board wet and flat with the front face down. Now I dry the back of the sheet thoroughly with a fresh tea towel (just dab). I lift the sheet, dry the board once and place the sheet with the back on the board in its final position.

Now I dip the sponge in water and wring it out a bit. The rest of the water collects at the bottom of the sponge.

I put the sponge with the soft side down in the middle on the plate, push a piece of the wet glue paper strip under it and pull the whole wet glue paper strip underneath the sponge on the plate. It waves immediately and wants to be held firmly. I now glue this strip halfway to the edge of the watercolour sheet and the board underlay and repeat this on all sides. I have gotten used to glue another strip half overlapping on the previous strip and the underlay all around. So the watercolour sheet is 100% fixed and can now dry in peace.

Time to make yourself a coffee or to clean the watercolour box - or to chew on the end of a brush.

Basically I do not blow-dry the paper and I leave the paper sheet time to relax and dry.

What can go wrong?

  • the paper is creased when unrolled in the tray
  • you get entangled when wetting the strip
  • one takes too little water
  • the watercolour paper is too wet
  • press the adhesive out when pressing on
  • the base is not horizontal and the water runs down the back of the watercolour sheet and wets the paper from behind
  • in the worst case, the wet adhesive paper dissolves again

Solution for the removal:

If you have a semi-moist watercolour sheet and detached wet glue paper, you can help yourself with glue. I use it to coat the detached areas and glue the wet glue paper to the sheet.

As soon as I have finished painting the picture, I cut it out in the middle between the strips of wet glue paper. I know that many people may find this an outrage, because the watercolour paper has a natural scoop edge - this is not the case with block sheets, but only with handmade single sheets. And also with my roll watercolour papers I don't tear off the sheets but cut them.

Theoretically one could also remove the wet adhesive paper again. To do this you would have to moisten the stripes - but in my opinion this leads to waves in the watercolour sheet - a terrible idea for me.

All in all, drawing up watercolour sheets is one of the most relaxing preparatory works for me and there is nothing more beautiful than a clean, natural white watercolour paper ready for painting.

tl, dr;

Always flat watercolour paper is something wonderful when painting. With a little patience it is easy to mount watercolour sheets on wooden boards.

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