How To Flatten Watercolor Paper Understanding how to flatten a watercolor painting is a crucial skill to master before embarking on a watercolor masterpiece. There are two effective methods to flatten watercolor paintings, each addressing different degrees of buckling. Both methods involve utilizing moisture and applying pressure to achieve a smooth surface.
Watercolor paint’s moisture content on one side of the paper causes that side to expand, leading to buckling while the other side remains dry. To rectify this, I’ll share two methods for flattening watercolor paintings that have already dried.
Method 1: Moisture and Weights for Mild Buckling
This method is simple and relatively safe for your painting. However, its success depends on the severity of buckling.
- Spray bottle
- Larger sketch or copy paper
- Towel (optional)
- Flat board
- Flat weights (books work well)
Step 1: Misting the Underside of the Painting Spray the underside of the painting (opposite the image) with a fine mist using a spray bottle. Even moisture distribution is essential to prevent uneven drying times.
Step 2: Place Painting on Sketch/Copy Paper Lay the painting image-down on a larger sketch or copy paper on a flat surface. Ensure the paper is larger than the painting to cover it fully.
Step 3: Cover the Opposite Side Place another sketch/copy paper or a clean towel over the side opposite the painting. This creates a “sandwich” with the painting in the middle.
Step 4: Position the Flat Board Place a flat board over the towel or paper, covering the painting entirely.
Step 5: Apply Weights Add flat weights or books on top of the board to flatten the painting. Check every two hours to ensure the painting isn’t buckling. Replace damp covering materials as needed until the painting is no longer wrinkled or damp.
Final Touches: Once the painting is flat and dry, cover it with a dry paper or towel. Put the flat board and weights back and let it sit for 24-72 hours for thorough drying.
Method 2: Moisture and Heat – a More Drastic Solution
This method involves using heat through an iron, making it riskier but worth considering for severe buckling.
- Flat iron
- Spray bottle
- Sketch/copy paper
- Clean towel
- Flat board
Step 1-3: Preparation Follow the first three steps of Method 1, creating a “sandwich” with the painting and covering materials.
Step 2: Gently Use Iron on Covering Material Set the iron to medium-low and gently move it over the sketch/copy paper or towel on top of the painting. Keep the iron moving to avoid burning the paper.
Step 3: Replace Damp Covering Material Swap the damp sketch/copy paper or towel with a dry one once the painting is mostly dry.
Step 4-5: Completion Place the flat board on top of the new covering material and add weights. Check and replace damp materials as required.
Flattening watercolor paintings demands patience, particularly during the drying process. While these methods are straightforward, waiting for your painting to dry fully is essential. Achieving a perfectly flat watercolor painting is a gratifying result and well worth the effort. If you’re interested in further insights on preserving and storing watercolor paintings, you can find my detailed guide here.