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How to mount watercolor paper on board

Mounting watercolor paper on board

how to mount watercolor paper on board

Princess Park, mixed media on board

prints for sale by North Vancouver artist Sandrine Pelissier

Click here to purchase print or original


You might like painting with watercolor but become frustrated with the framing and matting process. Learning how to mount watercolor paper on board can be the solution. I also personally like a simpler look and want to avoid the glare of glass.

You might also be interested in: Watercolor and fluid acrylic: similarities and differences

Here is how to mount watercolor paper on board

You will need:

  • A board
  • Extra heavy gel medium, I used Golden extra heavy gel medium
  • Watercolor paper or a finished watercolor painting
  • 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.
  • Alternatively, 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. Click here to see a tutorial on how to mount your painting on board : How to mount a watercolor painting on board


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?

Mounting watercolor paper on board
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  • nancy

    Very helpful. what kind of boards are archival? Thanks.

  • Isabella


    I have been mounting my finished watercolors on panel and sealing with Dorland’s wax and am loving the result !
    I want to ask you this: I like to paint a lot of very wet on wet. I am wondering what will happen if I mount the paper first, let it dry and then paint heavily wet on wet ? Any experience with that ?

    • Thanks Isabella, that is a good question.
      Yes I did that many times and I love it.
      At the same time you are mounting the paper, you are stretching it and it is so attached to the board that it won’t buckle when you are painting wet into wet or with a lot of water.

  • Step #1 – What type of board???? Thank you.

  • Karen Andrick

    Very helpful information, and well described. Thanks.

  • Hello Sandrine,
    I love your work, I’ve been following you for a long while now, and I have really enjoyed your tutorials. They are all so helpful, informative and fun! I have used this method of applying Dorlands wax, after reading your tutorial, and I love that I can hang my work without matting and framing it! My question is this: you mentioned in another response that Dorlands does not provide UV protection, is there something that I can spray on my painting first, before I seal it with wax, that would provide UV protection? And is it safe to use two different treatments together or will it harm the painting?

    • Thanks Brenda, I am glad you like the blog.
      I looked for product that would be just a UV protection without varnish and saw that Krylon has a fixative for fine art like this:http://www.krylon.com/products/fine-art-fixatif/
      If you want to try it, I would do so on a sample to check it it changes the colours or the finish of your watercolor. And then apply the wax after and wait a bit to see if there is any interaction. Feel free to share your results here if you try it.

      My advice would be to use high quality paints that are lightfast and to display your art away from direct sunlight. That is usually enough to make sure the colours won’t fade.

  • Gabriela

    Dear Sandrine, thank you very much.
    I would like to try mounting the paper while it is wet, so as to strech it at the same time… Hopefully it will work. My question is, should i try this on a wooden board as it ia, or should I put some varnish on the wood first (like the kind you would put when building a wooden shelf etc). Also, i don’t think I can find the glue you recommended where I live, I will look for something else instead. Are the 2 important things that I should be looking for : thick consistency and acid-free?
    Again thank you very much! Gabriela

    • Hello Gabriella. I am using heavy medium as a glue. The advantage is that it is acting as a barrier between the wood and the paper, a bit like varnishing would. You don’t want acid from the wood to go on your acid free paper.
      Yes if you substitute medium for glue, I would look for something a bit thick and acid free. Painting a layer of varnish or medium before on the wood is a good idea too.

  • Andrée Lachance

    Thank you for this tutorial. I have to try this method. Free from frame and glass at last? This mounting would look especially nice for abstract and modern look paintings.

  • Karen

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

    • 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

    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

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  • Bix

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

  • Shelly

    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

    • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

      • Do you mean liquitex super heavy body medium as well as Golden soft gel?

        • To mount paper, you want a heavy body medium as something too liquid will get absorbed by the board too fast. I used the one on the picture: Golden heavy body gel medium (technically more a paste than a gel).

  • Leslie

    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

    i am new in water color

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  • Linde

    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!

    • 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.

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

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

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

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  • Juan Pablo

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

  • Juan Pablo

    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

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  • 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

    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

    • 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

        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

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  • Michelle

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

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  • Anna

    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.

    • 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

        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.

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

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  • Sandrine,
    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

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • Thanks Robert for your positive feed back, I really appreciate it 🙂

  • Pauline

    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

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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 🙂

          • nscharding88383700

            You said, “I did wet the paper before mounting it.”
            Did you mean you soaked the paper and mounted it while it was still wet?

          • Yes I did that. The paper has to be wet but not damp though.

  • 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!