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Mounting watercolor paper on board

Princess Park, mixed media on board

Princess Park, mixed media on board


Click here to purchase print or original

Click here to purchase print or original


You might like painting with watercolor but become frustrated with the framing and matting process. I also personally like a simpler look and want to avoid the glare of glass. Then you might be interested in learning how to mount your watercolors on board.

Here is how to mount your watercolors on board

You will need:

  • A board
  • Extra heavy gel medium, I used Golden extra heavy gel medium
  • Watercolor paper
  • A stiff brush
  • A spatula to help with the spreading of heavy gel (optional)
  • A clean brayer
  • an X-acto knife

You have to ways of mounting watercolor paper on board:

  • You can do it with your white paper,let it dry and then paint afterwards.This technique has the advantage of stretching your paper at the same time you are mounting it
  • You can mount your painting after it has been painted. The advantage here is that you are sure you like the painting before you start mounting it, but you also have to be very careful not to put any of the medium on the painting.


I did apply gesso and left it to dry on the board before starting the process of mounting the watercolor paper

I did apply gesso and left it to dry on the board before starting the process of mounting the watercolor paper, I later learned that it was not a necessary step as the gel medium will act a a barrier between the wood and the paper as you want to avoid the acidity of the wood to come in contact with the acid free paper.


I am then applying the heavy gel on the board being careful to spread it evenly and along all the borders.


Apply the heavy gel on the board being careful to spread it evenly and along all the borders and corners.

I then place the watercolor on the board and use a speedball roller to make sure I don't leave any bubble under the paper.


Then place the watercolor on the board and use a speedball brayer to make sure you don’t leave any bubble under the paper.

I leave the gel to dry overnight with a heavy pexiglass sheet on top, you could use glass or a lighter sheet and put some weight on it.


Leave the gel to dry overnight, if possible with a heavy pexiglass sheet on top, you could use glass or a lighter sheet of pexiglass and put some weight on it. If you don’t have any glass or pexiglass you can put some weight on the corners so they don’t curl up while drying, or place the board face down on a clean surface.

I leave everything to dry overnight.


Let everything to dry overnight.

I then trim the extra paper on the sides with an x-acto knife


Then trim the sides with an x-acto knife. The sides can also be sanded if needed.


I did also experiment with lighter papers, like a drawing paper ( 90 lb), the same method is working well although I did get a few wrinkles, especially in the corners.

Do you prefer the look of paper mounted on board or framed?

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{ 44 comments… add one }

  • Karen October 7, 2015, 2:14 pm

    Thanks, I found this very interesting, would I be able to mount the paper on a wrapped canvas instead of the wooden.

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 7, 2015, 2:18 pm

      You could try, I know some artists do it but I have not tried it yet. If you try it, let me know how it went :)

  • Steve May 17, 2015, 7:01 pm

    Your info. on mounting watercolour paper on board is very interesting and clear. I will try it, anything to get away from glass.

    I am a bit confused about the process of applying varnish to the painting.
    As I understand it an acrylic coat must be applied before the varnish is applied, is that correct.

    I am also unfamiliar with the waxing process people discuss.

    Your comments would be appreciated. Thank you for the board mounting info. maybe no more mats and glass

    Sincerely Steve

  • Bix August 29, 2014, 9:33 pm

    How would you finish this process off as the painting won’t be under glass. Would you varnish it?

  • Shelly August 11, 2014, 3:43 am

    Hello….Love your tips….I haven’t painted for a couple of years now but think it is time I try bringing out my watercolors….I like the idea of mounting the watercolor paper onto the boards. What type of watercolor do you recommend? Arches 140LB Cold Press? And what size Brayer? I usually work with small pieces. Thanks

    • Sandrine Pelissier August 11, 2014, 10:15 am

      Thanks Shelly ,
      I personally like to work on hot press paper but cold press will work as well. 140 lb or 300 lb are better. 90lb works but you might get a few wrinkles.
      For the brayer, the bigger the better, I think mine are about 3 inches wide.

  • Dawn June 25, 2014, 6:57 am

    Hello…thank you for the great information. I have these huge portraits; 60 x 40 1100lb watercolor paper; I used watercolor and acrylic on them and coated them with gloss medium and varnish. I wanted to create a board (much like yours) and mount them onto it. My thoughts are will the golden gel hold my thick paper onto the board?
    Best to you and thanks again for sharing.
    Dawn Mader

    • Sandrine Pelissier June 25, 2014, 8:57 am

      Hello Dawn,
      Thank you for your comment, that is an interesting question. I would think it will work but to be safe I would try on plain paper first with extra heavy body gel medium and see how it goes. If it works you can still paint on that plain paper after it has been mounted.
      Can I ask you where you buy such heavy paper, I would be interested in trying on some.

  • Leslie June 17, 2014, 4:26 am

    Great tutorial! Very helpful tips. I am very glad to have an alternative to framing. Gorgeous work also. I love the light.

  • stanley sum wai lee June 9, 2014, 10:44 pm

    i am new in water color

  • Linde January 20, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Love all the info! I am a printmaker and make etchings, lythographs and monotypes combinations. Am also fed up with frames after all these years. Have found some artists with their prints mounted on board and finished with epoxy resin but this is very toxic and troublesome.
    Not sure if the golden varnish would work on my heavy printing paper for protection and no yellowing. If anyone has any advice it woyld be great..
    Thank you!

    • Sandrine Pelissier January 20, 2014, 12:43 pm

      Thanks, Linde :)
      I never had trouble with yellowing but you could make a test to try it. I guess it also depends if your paper is acid free or not, but I don’t think acid free paper with varnish would become yellow.

  • dsaquarelles November 19, 2013, 1:37 pm

    do you use a brush or a spray for the varnish?
    I like your watercolor, very beautiful colors.

    • Sandrine Pelissier November 19, 2013, 1:39 pm

      What I am doing now is I spray a first layer of fixative or varnish and then I brush on the subsequent layers.

  • dsaquarelles November 19, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing, I do’nt like the framing. Very interesting.

  • Juan Pablo September 3, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Sorry Sandrine Idont Know why my iPad is translating in this Awfull way
    Im asking for the gel glue

  • Juan Pablo September 3, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Hi Sandrine
    im from Chile ,fantástic. Could you plegase Téllez my what. Kindergarten of glue are you using Im not familiar with the stuffit you are calling Gel. Give me even a brand ñame to Finder it or something simmilar

  • Angela Fehr July 5, 2013, 8:22 am

    Thank you for this tutorial, Sandrine. I took a workshop with Sharon Lynn Williams and she was mounting her paintings on board, but they were liquid acrylic, so I hadn’t thought of using this method for watercolour. I’m going to have to try this – I get frustrated with the high cost of framing for watercolour, too!

  • JIll May 28, 2013, 10:23 pm

    G’day Sandrine

    I really love your work, truly inspirational. After looking at “Stick Figures” I immediately went and started painting some trees!
    I find the technique of mounting on board very interesting, also varnishing afterwards.
    I was hoping you could help me – what exactly is Gator board?
    What kind of varnish do you use on your watercolours?
    kind regards

    • Sandrine Pelissier May 29, 2013, 7:53 am

      Hello Jill,
      Thanks for commenting, I am glad to hear that you got inspired to paint :)
      I am not using gator board to paint but regular wood panel. I am not too familiar with the gator board but it sounds interesting.
      I bought my wood panels from Opus: https://store.opusartsupplies.com/sagro/storefront/store.php?mode=browsecategory&category=3343
      For varnishing I am using a regular varnish from Liquitex, the same one you would use for acrylic.
      Hope this helps:)

      • JIll May 29, 2013, 6:08 pm

        G’day Sandrine

        Thanks for your swift response – I think I must have read about Gator board somewhere else online and got mixed up when I returned to your site.
        Thanks for the link – I am in Australia, but I will check out the link and then see where I can find something similar here.
        I am still very much a beginner, and it is so helpful to see different techniques. Bit by bit I am looking at your demo’s – it is very generous of you to share your expertise and creative process, thank you
        kind regards

  • Michelle December 18, 2012, 8:44 pm

    Where do you get the boards Sandrine?
    I’d like to try this. Thanks for the detailed instructions!

  • Anna November 1, 2012, 9:57 am

    Your work is amazing!!!!!! I work with water colors on tradional paper and yupo . After mounting your work on board do still frame with glass as is standard for watercolours. ? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciate.

    • Sandrine Pelissier November 1, 2012, 11:45 am

      Thanks Anna :-)
      After mounting my work on board I am varnishing it. I might experiment in the future with adding wax as a finish but haven’t tried it yet.

      • Anna November 1, 2012, 12:20 pm

        Thank-you for you response ……. Dou you frame it after varnishing it without putting under glass? Again I appreciate your time. Your water colors are outstanding.

      • Sandrine Pelissier November 1, 2012, 7:22 pm

        Hello Anna, after varnishing it looks like a painting on board so I leave it like this.

  • Ginny Zanger October 25, 2012, 6:18 pm

    I too have been experimenting with this technique. I find it helpful to put wax paper over the paper I am mounting when use the roller. Also, starting from the center and rolling out helps eliminate bubbles. I have been coating the pieces with a very thin layer of cold wax – especially when I use yupo with watercolor (which is very fragile if water is spilled on it, as you know).
    Thanks for your helpful blog!
    Ginny Zange

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 25, 2012, 9:56 pm

      Very interesting Ginny, thanks for commenting !
      I really like the idea of wax paper to protect the paper when using the roller.
      Coating with cold wax is very interesting as well, what kind of wax would you use? I would really like to try that.

  • Robert I. October 22, 2012, 7:28 am

    That is both creative and modern (also with the varnish).
    I really enjoy your techniques and look forward to your works which, I find, are always atmospheric.

  • Pauline October 16, 2012, 8:22 pm

    Hello, Thank you for your very cretive and wonderful sharingof information and techniques, I always enjoy them and get lots of ideas and insights! Thanks again

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 17, 2012, 6:32 am

      Hello Pauline,
      Thanks for your comment!, I am so glad this gives you ideas, this is what I look for when writing this blog.

  • Yevgenia October 16, 2012, 10:27 am

    This is cool. I’ve mounted yupo like this before but not watercolor paper. Do you have any mounted works that are older? I’m curious how they hold up. I totally understand your frustration with matting and framing… I hate doing it. I guess it’s watercolor’s trade for being so easy to clean up compared to oils and acrylics.

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 16, 2012, 5:02 pm

      My watercolor mounted on board are not very old but i have friends who have been doing this for a long time with no issue. Are you concerned about an interaction of the gel medium with the paint or paper or by UV and color fading? I do varnish the watercolor after so it is not damageable by water.

      The only drawback I see for now is that for most traditional watercolor societies competitions they are not allowing any varnished watercolor.

      • Yevgenia Watts November 4, 2012, 8:00 pm

        Mostly, I am concerned with stuff like corners peeling off or buckling if there is too much water. I guess I’m just gonna have to try it and see for myself :)

        Oh, I also meant to ask you, do you seal the board before you put acrylic medium on it? I see that you apply gesso..Does that take care of any potential acid leaking from the board into the paper?

      • Sandrine Pelissier November 4, 2012, 10:09 pm

        When applying a thick layer of heavy body gel medium for mounting the paper I am careful to have it all over the surface and also in corners so I didn’t have any trouble with the corners.
        I had a bit of buckling on the paper for my first trials but it disappeared when the paper dried. For my last trial I did wet the paper before mounting it so I could stretch it at the same time I was mounting it and it worked well ( paper was Arches 140 lb)
        It is better to seal the board before applying gesso to protect from the wood acidity, I found an interesting link on this here: http://ampersandart.com/tips/priming-for-acylic-gesso.html

        Let me know how it works for you when you try it :-)

  • Katherine October 16, 2012, 9:29 am

    I’m so intrigued by the idea of mounting artwork on cradled board. One of these days I will get up the courage to try it! Thanks for the tutorial!

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