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.

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

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