The ultimate aim in stretching watercolour paper is to achieve a surface, which after it has been painted on, is as flat as before the artwork was performed. That is, perfectly flat.

Artists do this because presentation is important, and perfectly flat paper improves presentation.

By stretching paper artists seek to combat the unsightly effects of what is referred to as ‘cockling’.


Cockling is the term used to describe the distinctive ‘crinkled’ or ‘warped’ appearance paper takes on after being exposed to moisture.

This effect occurs when the cellulose fibres contained within paper expand after absorbing moisture and are then left to dry uncontrolled. The result of an uncontrolled drying process is paper that becomes distorted and takes on an unsightly ‘wavy’ effect, which is to the detriment of the artwork performed.

In order to eliminate the problems caused by cockling watercolour artists have usually sought to stretch their paper using various traditional paper stretching techniques. The problem? Traditional techniques aren’t always the best.

Traditional Paper Stretching.

Traditionally, watercolour artists have used techniques involving the use of gummed tape, pins, or staples.

These were usually placed along the outer margins of the paper in order to adhere it to a flat surface (usually a wooden board) after it was wetted.

These aforementioned techniques were used with the goal of creating a tension across the surface of the paper, a tension which occurs when the paper dries after being made wet. This surface tension, when painted upon, takes up the natural expansion produced by the paper cockling (due to the paint and water added by the artist) so that the paper remains perfectly flat.

The problem is, traditional solutions aren’t always the best solutions.

Many of these so called ‘traditional’ techniques are still used by artists to this day because they have become too accustomed with having always used them or because the alternatives are poorly made underperforming solutions, which solve one problem whilst creating another.

However, the main headaches in using many of these methods of paper stretching come from how overly time consuming they are, the excessive amount of effort involved, and how unreliable they can be.

Any watercolorist will tell you the laborious nature of the gummed tape method along with the effort involved in simply preparing watercolour paper to paint on, but the same can be said of methods involving pins, staples, and wheat paste. They take too much time, too much effort, they’re impractical, can be unreliable, and generally provide haphazard solutions to an age-old problem.

Added to that, the problems artists have with the gummed tape method for example, where after the preparation and painting has taken place they are faced with yet another challenge - removing the gummed tape - a challenge that usually involves delicately removing the tape off of the paper without tearing or marking it.

An Alternative to Traditional Paper Stretching. 

In response to the shortcomings with using traditional paper stretching methods artists have increasingly turned toward using specialised devices designed to stretch paper. However, in doing so, many artists have been met with poorly designed and manufactured products, which are complicated, time consuming, and cause problems such as paper damage at the margins.

A solution shouldn’t be a work-around or come with undesirable side effects.

That’s why we designed the award-winning Artists’ Paper Stretcher - the only device on the international market, which achieves flawlessly flat paper WITHOUT paper damage.

Sold to 27 countries across five continents and winner of the 2014 Big Idea Challenge, the Artists’ Paper Stretcher delivers flawlessly flat paper with unrivalled simplicity.

Simplify and streamline your watercolour art. Find out more here.