Notebook, 1993-


Paper - Drawing - Painting

Paper - For Watercolor

The most common support for watercolor is paper. However, watercolor has been used on silk and other thin fabrics, gessoed surfaces, parchments, and ivory. Usually no ground is required for paper, ivory, or parchment. The surface should be free of grease or oily material; it may be wiped down with a dilute solution of ammonia water in order to remove any oily deposit that might prevent the watercolor from penetrating.

Papers should be made of linen rag or cotton fiber. Cheaper substitutes made of wood pulp do not behave as well. Naturally since watercolor is a glazing technique, any darkening of the paper will lower the tone of the painting. The paper must be well sized by the maker, or it will be too absorbent to work upon with ease. Papers are sold by the sheet, priced according to the weight of a ream. Weights commonly range from 70 pounds to 300 pounds. Most papers are produced in three surfaces: hot pressed (smooth), cold pressed (medium), or rough. Some of the best-known brands are Fabriano papers from Italy, Arches papers made in France, Whatman and Royal Water Color Society (R.W.S.) papers from England. A watermark, showing the manufacturerÍs name, is visible when the paper is held to the light.

Papers that are not of extremely heavy weight will wrinkle and pucker when they are painted upon with watercolors. Most painters prefer to stretch the paper to prevent this. First, the paper is moistened liberally with clear water, either by soaking it a few minutes in a tub or by wetting both sides with a sponge. It stretches after it has been wet, and when it has had a few minutes to expand, it is spread out on a drawing board. Its edges are then taped down by means of gummed brown-paper tape of the sort that is used on packages. As the paper dries, it becomes smooth and tight as a drum. If the paper is wet too long so that it stretches too much, it may tear when it contracts as it dries. The correct amount of moisture varies with the weight of the different papers. With experience the artist learns how much time a particular paper needs for soaking and expanding before it is finally fastened down to dry. Some artists use special stretching frames, which are made for this purpose. They consist of two frames, one of which fits snugly inside the other. The wet paper is clamped between them while it dries tight, no glue or tape being required. For rapid work which does not require precise handling, blocks of watercolor paper may be satisfactory. These usually consist of two dozen sheets of paper, held together at the edges by glue and light fiber. Such paper requires no stretching or backing board, but it will buckle more than stretched paper will if the painter works over it a long time.

[Kay, Reed. Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]



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