How to Display Watercolor Paintings Without Frames

Things You\’ll Need

  • Watercolor painting

  • Heavy object such as a book

  • Illustration board or heavy-duty foam board

  • Pencil

  • Scissors

  • Hobby knife

  • Acid-free glue

  • Foam brush

  • Watercolor fixative

  • Wax or polymer varnish

  • Large paintbrush

  • Cotton rag

  • Stick-on magnets

  • Tacks

  • Ribbon or string

  • Clothespins or clips

  • Display stand or easel

  • Picture hanging putty

... Protect watercolor paintings from damaging moisture with beeswax varnish.

Many artists begin their foray into painting with watercolors. Although the medium is relatively inexpensive and very portable, the added cost of framing these works of art behind glass or sheet acrylic for display often deters artists and collectors alike. Instead, create a watercolor board and finish it with fixative and wax varnish for an attractive and durable way to display watercolors without frames.

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Making a Watercolor Board

Step 1

Place your finished watercolor face down on a clean surface under a heavy object. Leave for two to three days.

Step 2

Trace around your watercolor on the illustration board with a pencil.

Step 3

Cut your illustration board to the size of your watercolor with scissors or a hobby knife.

Step 4

Spread acid-free glue over the entire illustration board with a foam brush.

Step 5

Put the watercolor painted side down on a flat, clean surface.

Step 6

Place the illustration board directly above the unpainted side of the watercolor. Align the edges of the watercolor exactly with the illustration board.

Step 7

Place a large, heavy object on top of the illustration board and leave for a few hours until the glue is completely dry. If possible, select an object that is not only heavy, but large enough to cover the entire illustration board.

Finishing the Watercolor

Step 1

Spray your watercolor with a non-yellowing fixative. Coat the painting thoroughly and wait 15 to 20 minutes. Lightly touch a corner of the painting to test the dryness of the fixative. If it is sticky to the touch, leave it to dry 5 to10 minutes longer.

Step 2

Spray the painting a second time with fixative when it's dry.

Step 3

Set the painting aside in a place where it is protected from dust and moisture. Leave the second coat of fixative to dry 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 4

Brush on a wax varnish when the fixative is dry. For best results use a large paintbrush or a wax product that comes in roll-on form.

Step 5

Wait for the varnish to dry, then lightly rub the surface of the varnished watercolor with a cotton rag.

Step 6

Brush or roll on a second coat of varnish. Let it dry and lightly rub the entire surface again with a cotton rag.

Displaying the Watercolor

Step 1

Attach a magnet to each corner of the back of your painting to display it on a refrigerator or a metal file cabinet.

Step 2

Tack ribbon or string along a wall to display a series of watercolors without frames. Clip your watercolors to the ribbon at equal intervals with clothespins or bulldog clips.

Step 3

Lean your watercolor along a wall, in a corner or on a shelf for display. Use heavy objects like books to anchor it in place.

Step 4

Place your watercolor on a free-standing display stand or a painter's easel to show it in the middle of a room or on a table.

Step 5

Put picture hanging putty on the corners of the back of your watercolor. Gently press the putty into the wall where you want to display your painting.


While finishing your watercolor with a wax varnish will make it water-resistant, try to keep it away from potentially damaging moisture.