How to Stretch Watercolour Paper.

Watercolour is often stretched to prevent ‘cockling’, a distortion of the paper due to uneven applications of water during painting. It is not always necessary - if you only use light washes or work on very heavy paper for instance. However, stretching your paper allows you to work wetter without the fear of a distorted surface. It’s a simple process but you need to allow plenty of drying time.


You will need; -

  • A bath or large tray for soaking the paper. Clean and grease free.

  • Clean water!

  • Sturdy flat board (I use sealed MDF). Clean and grease free.

  • Large clean, grease free sponge.

  • Gummed parcel tape – the type you wet and stick.

  • A place to dry the stretched paper flat.



  1. Soak your watercolour sheet in tepid or cool water – you are aiming to soak the paper evenly so the soak time will vary with the thickness of the paper (I use very heavy paper so usually soak for an hour).

  2. Carefully remove the soaked paper, handle as little as possible, and lay centrally on your stretching board. You can remove excess water with a clean sponge.

  3. Use the gummed tape to stick down the edges. Start with the top edge, make sure the gummed tape comes at least 2 centimetres onto the paper, and then tape down the bottom edge in the same way. Then tape the side edges onto the board. If you don’t over lap enough tape onto the paper, the paper with pull away from the tape.

  4. Leave the board somewhere to dry – somewhere the cat won’t sit on it!

  5. When dry your paper is ready to use!

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