Monday, February 3, 2014


It's already February! February can be a long month, even though it is shorter in number of days. It really is a good time to be in the studio producing lots of work so that when spring arrives, you can get outside and enjoy the end of a long winter! 

So, if you are producing lots of watercolor pieces, one of the questions you might have is, "How do I get my paper to lie flat so that I can frame it?" I've had that question many times, so I thought I would show you the process I go through to flatten my paintings and have them ready for my framer. I am sure there are other ways of making a painting flat, but this is just the method I came up with, and I have never seen or read about another which works as well for me. :-) 

When I paint in watercolor, most of the time I do not tape down my paper. I used to - but not much any more. I like to be able to manipulate the pigment and water on the paper, which means picking up the paper and physically moving it so that the paint/water flows. As well, I like to turn my paper as I paint, so it is easier if I have it loose instead of taped to a board. I use 140 lb. cold pressed paper, which is not as thick as the 300 lb. cold pressed paper tht tends to not buckle. Soooo...when I am done, this is often what my painting looks like:

Can you see how turned up it is all around the edges? You can't successfully frame a painting when it is in this state. This is what I do once the painting is completed.

1.    Lay a board that is larger than your painting on a flat surface. Here you see my board, made from masonite, lying on the floor of my studio. You can use drawing boards, mdf, particle board, hardboard, or any that you might have available.
2.    Next, lay one or two old clean towels on top of the board. It is important to use old towels which have been laundered lots of times so that the color will not transfer to your painting. The towels also prevent anything like sap or color transferring from the board to your painting. 
3.    Lay your painting on top of the towel(s) painted side down. Do not try to make it lie flat at this point. Here you see just how far my painting has to come down to be flat!

4.    Next, you need a spray bottle of clean water and a sponge. You are going to spray some water on the back of the painting...enough so that when you spread the water with the sponge, it covers the entire painting. However, you are going to NOT SPRAY so much water on the back of your painting that the water seeps through to the other side and destroys your work!!! It is this water which enables the paper to relax and flatten enough for the next step. Enough water is necessary, but too much water can be disaster. Using a spray bottle helps you to control the amount of water you are can always add more as you go until you are satisfied that the piece has enough water for the next step. As you are spreading the water with the sponge, you are also flattening the paper. Here you see how much water I put on the painting, and how much the paper relaxes after I have spread the water with the sponge. Make sure you are spreading right to the edges of the painting! 

5.    Making sure that your painting does not have any edges which are turned under, cover it with another one or two clean towels. Press the towel onto the painting, making sure that everything is flat under the towel(s).
6.    Place one or two heavy pieces of wood over the towel that is lying on top of your paintng. I have used plywood in the past, but when we moved, I left it behind. So for this painting,  I used a couple of pieces of particle board. What is important is that whatever board you use is heavy enough to create a weight on top of your painting so that it flattens. You can use big heavy books if they are large enough, but I like that the particle board covers the entire area of my painting. Here are two photos - one from the top and one from the side. Now you can see that I have in essence made a "sandwich".

7.    Leave the entire "sandwich" for at least couple of days. This enables the paper to flatten as it dries. When you are sure the painting is dry, you can remove the top layers and gently peal your painting off of the bottom towel.
Now you can see how flat the painting has become as it has dried. It is now ready to go to the framer. 

Sunny Duo
16" x 16" watercolor

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