Why do you tape watercolor paper?

In painting videos, you’ll often see artists using masking tape on their paper. What is the purpose of this?

The most common way of taping watercolor paper to a flat surface is with masking tape. By doing this, the paper will not buckle as much when painted. Though it is useful, it only decreases the effect a little, especially on thinner paper. Tape can also be used to create sharp edges around your painting, resulting in a more professional appearance.

masking tape

Here’s how tape prevents watercolor paper from buckling

Most of the time you’re gonna be using a lot of water when painting with watercolor, sometimes even a bit too much. The result is that your paper will buckle a bit, especially if it’s thinner and lighter and can’t absorb as much water as thicker paper.

Many artists tape their paper down with masking tape to avoid this problem. Paper can be stretched with this tape because it does not damage the paper when pulled off.

You should have an easier time painting this way, since the paper mostly stays in one place. It is still important to avoid creating puddles of water on the paper since taping it down isn’t a perfect solution.

Check out this article if you’re wondering how long it takes for watercolor to dry.

How can you prevent watercolor paper from buckling?

Most artists would agree that tape is the best solution. I’ve seen rocks used before, but they bring the risk of contaminating or damaging the paper.

If you were to use clamps, you would have to place your painting on a table corner or on an easel, which is not very useful when you are painting with watercolors. Before painting on an easel, you have to check out this article.

In addition, clamps can easily damage paper, so you will need to place some pieces of paper between the clamp and the paper to protect it.

One little trick I’ve learned is to brush a small amount of water to the other side of the paper before painting

What is the best way to flatten a buckled up watercolor painting?

Stretched paper will have a hard time buckling up as much as usual.

However, it won’t totally solve the problem. In most cases, you’ll have to flatten the paper once the paint is dry, regardless of how well you taped it down. You can do this by laying it on a smooth, clean surface and stacking heavy objects on top, such as books.

However, make sure the painting doesn’t get damaged. Avoid sharp objects and wrap your painting in newspaper beforehand.

Now you just have to wait a couple of days for the paper to return to normal – given that the books were heavy enough.

If you’re unsure how many layers your watercolor paper can handle without getting damaged, read this article.

How to create sharp edges by taping watercolor paper

It is not uncommon to see watercolor paintings surrounded by a crisp white border, which creates an unmistakable visual boundary around the painting. As a result, the painting looks much more professional and less “all over the place”.

Taping the edges of the paper and painting only on this taped off area will create this “effect”. Ideally, you should also use masking tape for this, since it doesn’t damage the paper and is very reliable.

watercolor paintings with sharp white edges

Mark the length of the border you would like on every side. Tape a long strip of masking tape along this line. It is important not to let the tape wrinkle as this will allow water to flow beneath the tape, destroying the border.

All you have to do now is repeat this process for every side of the paper. It is also a good idea to use a ruler or something similar to smooth down the tape even more.

Once your painting has dried up, you can rip off all the strips of tape slowly. And there you go: Your professional watercolor painting has a white border.

To perfect your watercolor painting you should also frame it. As there are a lot of things to watch out for, read this detailed tutorial, I’ve put together.

Is it necessary to stretch 300lb watercolor paper?

Since it’s heavy and thick, 300lb watercolor paper can absorb a lot of water without having to be stretched. Taping it down is useful, however, since it may still buckle slightly. Although the buckling is largely determined by how much water you use.

Feel free to experiment with both methods. The amount of water used by artists is as individual as the artist. Tape it down if necessary, but make sure you press it after it is dried up.

Wondering why watercolor paper is so expensive? Read this! Or click here to find out how to do outdoor watercolor sketching the right way.


Taping down your watercolor painting or putting some weight on it will prevent it from buckling. During the drying process, the painting will stay in place and stretch a bit when it’s buckling. It is also possible to use masking tape to create edges around the painting, which will give your work a more professional look.

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