Mounting Watercolour paper on board with staples (no masking tape)

A popular method for fixing watercolour paper to a board or work surface is by using masking tape or gummed brown paper tape. The paper may or not may not be stretched prior to mounting to a board/surface. Washi tape also seems to be an option suggested by various artists on Youtube. I tried both methods and I was really not impressed by the Washi tape. The paper keeps peeling off the surface, I tried both wooden (laminated and unlaminated) and formica desktop surface, and it was a nightmare working with the tape. I returned to using masking tape which is ok but I really hate throwing the masking tape away after a few uses. I purchased gummed Brown tape (Loxely brand, vegan-friendly, not tested on animals) and I had much better results. However, its difficult to take the brown tape off the board or work surface as well as the paper.

A few months ago, I watched a Drawing course video (Russian Academic Drawing Approach by Iliya Mirochnik on the New Masters Academy). The instructor demonstrated a traditional method for mounting drawing paper on board before drawing or painting on it. I found it really useful for mounting paper on board for coffee sumi ink work and I thought why not apply it for my watercolour paper preparation.

I will go through a detailed discussion on my vegan-friendly watercolour painting supplies in a separate post. I found some reasonably priced Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper rolls (1.4 m x 10 m, 100% cotton, 300 gsm, Vegan-friendly) online for Austrian and German customers on sale. I have Fabriano Artistico soft, Fabriano Artistico fine NOT and Fabriano Artistico Hot Press. I am learning to paint on Fabriano Artistico NOT surface, Hahnemühle Bamboo Mixed Media paper (1.25 x 10 m roll for 78 euros, 95% cellulose from bamboo, 265 gsm, vegan certified) and Canson Montval (A3 jumbo pad, 100 pages, 300 gsm, Cellulose).


Materials for Stapling the paper

Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper (cold press, 300 gsm), Art cradle (diy or wooden photo frame 30 cm x 30 cm), staple gun, staples, a pair of scissors, water in a reservoir for wetting the paper, a clean surface which is suitable for water spills, kitchen towels, jar for collecting used staples (after removing the paper from the frame), flat head screw driver or a blunt cutlery knife, a pair of pliers

Materials for watercolour wash

Winsor Newton Cotman tube paints (Ultramarine, Cadmium Red Hue Deep imit.), da Vinci Spin 5080 synthetic flat brush 40, filtered water


  1. I cut watercolour paper from the roll and cut a rectangular piece which was roughly 1 inch larger than the wooden frame (on all four sides).
  2. I submerged the watercolour paper gently in the water and allowed about 2 minutes of contact. The paper seemed nice and flexible.
  3. I placed the rectangular watercolour paper piece on the work surface. Then I placed the wooden frame (or art cradle) on the paper as shown in Figure 1.

    Figure 1: wooden frame on watercolour paper (wetted)
  4. The paper was folded and fixed to the frame using a staple gun as shown in images below in Figure 2a-b.
    Figure 2a: Stapled paper on long sides

    Figure 2b: Stapled paper on all sides
  5. I also stapled the sides of the frame to ensure that the paper was stretched and secured to the board (Figure 3).

    staple_fig 3
    Figure 3: Stapling the sides of the paper.
  6. I allowed the mounted paper on the board to dry before applying the graduated washes.
  7. Staple were removed from the board after painting using a blunt flat cutlery knife and a pair of pliers.

Observations and thoughts

The watercolour paper remained taut and fixed when applying the graduated washes. I set the board at an angle of about 25° for working on the surface. It was a satisfying experience. Here is my first result, shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Graduated washes with W&N Cotman French Ultramarine and W&N Cotman Cadmium Red Hue Deep Imit on Fabriano Artistico Cold press paper stretched and stapled on a wooden frame.

These are the advantages of stapling watercolour paper to a wooden frame instead of using some adhesive tape :

  1. FEWER BACKRUNS:   I was able to control the paint washes and directed the overflow of paint on the edges of the frame, to avoid any backruns. I noticed that when the paper was mounted on the board with brown gummed paper or masking tape excess paint pools on the edges and result in backruns if not removed rapidly. So it seems easier to avoid backruns with the paper stapled to the wooden frame.
  2. LESS PAPER WASTED: After removing the staples, the paper used around the edges on the frame can be reused as testing pieces or for collage work in the future (Figure 5).

    Figure 5: Remnants of watercolour paper retrieved after removing the staples.
  3. NEATER WORK AREA: The lack of a visible border around the paper (no masking tape, washi tape, or brown gummed tape) was more inviting to work on. (Figure 6). Sometimes a frame can be useful but visualising a full piece of paper is a different experience. Of course a frame maybe needed if you are framing the finished painting or drawing.

    Figure 6: Neat work surface (no frame, no bezels)
  4. Neat edges on the finished pieces (Figure 7). The paper is simply taken off the board by removing the staples and cutting the edges neatly (well-defined creases on the paper make it easy to get a neat result.)

    Figure 7: Final piece after removing the staples and cutting the edges neatly with a pair of scissors.
  5. Used staples are collected in a jar (Figure 8) and then disposed along other with metal recycling waste, or these can be collected over the years and melt them down and make an armour.
    Figure 8: Used staples collected in a jar.

    No sticky mess with adhesives and wondering if the adhesive on the tape is vegan-friendly or not. Stapling is a good alternative to using adhesive tapes.

Graphite Study 001: Graphite pencils and force applied on paper (Faber Castell 9000 series on printer paper 80 gsm)

Generally, drawing instruction books and tutors recommend soft pencils (2B, 3B or 4B or even 6B) for sketching and drawing. Hard pencils which include 2H to HB are thought to “damage” the surface of the paper as a result of excessive force (or pressure) and or the hardness of the graphite pencil lead.

1.0    Objective

The aim of this experiment was to study the approximate force applied (which approximately correlates to pressure = force/area) on the surface of the paper when shading circles with Faber Castell 9000 graphite pencils. This study would allow me to explore the general statements on pressure application on paper during the drawing process. Please note due to the limitation of equipment, this experiment and the findings should be read as approximate or general findings rather than absolute statements.

2.0 .   Materials & Methods

2.1     Materials

Printer Paper (Papyur Rainbow 80 gsm, Fawn colour), Faber Castell 9000 series set (2H-8B), a mechanical pencil sharpener, a pair scissors, digital weighing scales (2 decimal place), purchased from Ebay for 2 euros, calibrated with reference weights), Masking tape, Lab stand (to hold camera/phone during the experiment, IPhone 5 SE (for capturing video footage), Blu Tack (for fixing the digital scales, lab stand), lab gloves, Infrared Thermometer (Broadcare GM320, purchased from Amazon)

2.2    Experimental Setup

I wore gloves to prevent any grease marks or contamination transferring onto the test paper pieces during the experiment.
I cut some rectangular pieces (4 cm x 4.5 cm) of drawing paper (Papyrus Rainbow 80 gsm paper Fawn colour) using a pair of scissors. Then I placed a lid from my Vöslauer mineral water bottle and drew a circle in the middle of the rectangular piece. The resulting circle has a diameter of 3.1 cm, then I fixed the test paper pieced on a small kitchen/jewellers digital weighing scale (2 decimal places) using very narrow strips of masking tape.
The digital scales were also fixed with some Blu Tack to the table top so that it didn’t move during the experiment. The IPhone was held in place with a clamp/lab stand and it was aligned to capture both the test piece fixed on the weighing scale and the display screen.
The Faber Castell 9000 series were brand new, and I sharpened them using my mechanical pencil prior to the experiment.

2.3   Running the experiment

I checked the surface temperature of the paper piece using my infrared thermometer, before and after shading.
I began capturing the video footage prior to shading the circle on the test piece. During the experiment, I was trying not to look at the digital display and I tried using my personal judgement to apply even pressure while shading the circle.
All test pieces were shaded in one sitting, to avoid changes in humidity or room temperature.

2.4  Data collection

The video captured from these experiments were played back at a slower speed and I transferred the data time vs weight in a spread sheet (Numbers on my Imac). I took an average of 3 readings.

3.0   Observations and Results:

The humidity and room temperature did not vary during the experiment. I plotted weight (gram) against time (second) for each experiment undertaken, and this is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 01: Weight (g) applied with a range of Faber Castell 9000 series while shading a circle on printer paper (80 gsm) as a function of time (second). (FC is an abbreviation for Faber Castell 9000 series)

During the experiment, I was fairly convinced that I was applying similar pressure while shading. But it is clear from the graph, that may be misleading. For all grades of pencils, weight increases as a function of time, this is perhaps due to the fact that the pencil is gradually moving towards me so this results in more force applied to the paper.
I will conduct another experiment in which I will shade the circle in the reverse direction to prove or disprove my hypothesis.

Interestingly, I applied less pressure onto the paper when I was shading with harder pencils. What was interesting however, was with the softer pencils 2B onwards where I was really struggling to apply less force on the paper with my pencils. With very soft pencils the pencil felt like it was floating on the paper but the graph shows that the force (ie, the weight) applied was about the same if not more.

4.0    Conclusions
Assuming that using my personal judgement (or perception) I applied the same weight (or force or pressure) while shading the circles with pencils with varying hardness. My findings so far are as follows:
Hard pencils may damage the paper because of the hardness of the pencil lead rather than the perception/feeling of applying higher force or pressure.
I perceived that I applied less force or pressure while shading with softer pencils, but the graph shows that I may have applied more force on to the paper. This perception is perhaps due to the fact that the graphite easily transfers onto the paper surface, the feeling is like melting butter on a piece of toast. This encouraged me to easily drag my pencil across the paper.
Drawing with softer pencils actually may indicate that higher pressure is applied on the paper surface compared to shading with harder pencils.

5.0   Future Work
I will repeat the experiment with different drawing papers, primarily Fabriano Artistico Hot Press.
I will also report my observations of these test pieces when I study them under my usb microscope and I will measure the intensities of the graphite laid on the test pieces using my IR spectrometer soon.

6.0   Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Faber Castell for their permission (E-mail correspondence with Herr. Holger Unfried, Product Manager, A. W. Faber Castell Vertrieb GmbH) to share my experimental work freely.