How Much Water Can Paper Take

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  • Anonymous

    I asked Charlie to create this forum because I have already learned a lot from other members. I’m relatively new to watercolor, so I hoping to learn even more from the community here.

    My first question has 2 parts:  (1)When painting wet-on-wet, how do you prevent the paper from rolling, buckling, or otherwise responding in an unattractive way to the water?  (2) Once it buckles, can you get it flat again?

    What I’ve learned is that different papers can take different amounts of water without buckling, heaviest paper buckling the least. You can tape the paper down when it’s dry, some people use a wooden board and staple the paper to it.

    If you like to work wet, there is another method where you use a plexiglass sheet as your board. Wet the paper on the back side, using a lot of water, press the paper down on the plexiglass, then wet the front side. The water will stick the paper to the surface, and it stays wet for much longer. Here’s a video.

    Hi Sharon. Here’s what I have done:

    1)Wetting both sides of the paper before painting and  placing the wet paper onto glass or plexiglass.

    Taping all four sides of the paper to a solid, non-absorptive surface.

    Using heavier 300lb paper

    Using a block

    These may not always prevent buckling, curling etc., but they do help.

    2) Yes. You can dampen the back side of the watercolor paper, lay it painting side down onto a towel on an ironing board, top with a layer of parchment paper, and iron your painting until flat.

    I have read that one can also dampen the back of the w/c paper, sandwich it between 2 layers of parchment paper, then add weight on top of the paper. It should lie flat once it dries. I haven’t tried this method.

    Hope this helps.


    Thanks for posting video.


    Thanks for these tips, Susan.

    When I was first taught in school, oh, say a hundred years ago…we had to size our paper. We taped it down all the way around, thoroughly wet it and let it dry. It can be helped along with a blow dryer.

    Nowadays many papers come already sized. Has anyone mentioned the difference between working with sized paper or not? They don’t need to be wet all over like the old days. Generally I work with 130 lbs, 300 is too expensive to use everyday as a hobby for me, and 90 lbs is too light and buckles too easily.

    Weight affects how much water the paper can take as well as if it is 100% cotton or if they are using other fibers. So the answer is paper can take as much or as little water as what it is made for. Arches Cotton Rag 300 lb sized block of paper can take A LOT of water. A 90 lb mixed or recycled cotton cannot take much.


    Thanks for the information, Rebecca.

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