Art Technical QA&: Stretching watercolor paper

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on 10 Mar 2009 11:08 AM | Locked

Stretching Watercolor Paper

Do you have any pointers for stretching watercolor paper on stretcher bars to create a “gallery-wrap” type painting? Is there any type of spray finish that could be applied to a watercolor that won’t be placed under glass?

To stretch watercolor paper on stretcher bars, use a paper that is 140 pounds or lighter and leave a two- or three-inch overlap of the watercolor paper on all sides. When you stretch the paper it does not have to be pulled perfectly tight because it will shrink when dry and become tight as a drum. Be sure that the frame is squared off and braced to prevent warping. (The chances of warping decrease if the paper is blotted of excess water on the surface and at the edges.) With the paper facing you, staple along the edge at about one-inch intervals stopping about two inches from the corner. Continue in the same manner, moving clockwise, until all four sides are stapled, leaving the corners for last. Fold down each corner edge and tuck and staple flat as if wrapping a package or preparing “hospital corners” on a bed.

Because watercolor is considered a relatively fragile medium, it is almost always matted and placed under glass for protection against environmental elements. Still, some artists do not want to frame with glass and choose to use an acrylic spray varnish or MSA archival varnish, which has an ultraviolet filter. Keep in mind, however, that varnishing changes the surface quality of the watercolor and the natural feel of the paper. It is also true that by applying varnish the pigments adhere to the paper better, and that there is a more direct connection to the artwork when glass is not covering the picture.

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