How to Flatten a Watercolor Painting

Things You\’ll Need

  • Large flat surface, such as a wood or glass table-top

  • Painting fixative

  • Large sponge or brush

  • Water

  • Spray bottle

  • Thin cloth

... Preserve the beauty of your watercolor by displaying it in its best light.

Watercolor paintings have been loved over the years for their luminosity and quick productions. Watercolors were used by painters to create beautiful works of art as well as by people who wanted an effective medium to create maps, illustrations, sketches and plans for military purposes. This is a medium that is water soluble and can be applied to a variety of art papers. If the paper is too thin, however, the paper can warp or curl due to the moisture. There are a few simple methods that can flatten a watercolor painting to allow it to be framed neatly.

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Before You Paint

Step 1

Stretch the paper on a board after immersing it in water for a few minutes. This will help to keep the paper from curling after the application of watercolor paints.

Step 2

Pull the edges taut while the paper is still wet and tape or glue the edges to a board.

Step 3

Allow the sheet to dry before painting on it. Snip off the glued edges once the painting is complete.

Invest in a Good Quality Paper

Step 1

Purchase paper from a reputable manufacturer.

Step 2

Use paper that has been made specifically for artists using watercolors as a medium. These kinds of paper should not curl or warp after being painted on.

Step 3

Paint on a few different sheets to judge which one stays flat best to decide on which brand to invest in.

Ironing the Finished Product

Step 1

Spray the back of the painting with a mist of water and place a thin cloth over it before ironing the painting.

Step 2

Ensure that the temperature of the iron is on low.

Step 3

Test the heat over another sheet of paper before attempting to iron out the watercolor painting.

Stretching the Finished Product

Step 1

Spray the painting with a fixative that will prevent moisture from damaging the colors. This can be purchased at any art supplies store.

Step 2

Place the painting on a flat surface like plywood, glass table top or any large flat surface.

Step 3

Moisten the back of the painting with a wet brush or sponge.

Step 4

Place a large flat piece of wood or glass on top of the wet surface and weigh the entire painting down with heavy objects.

Step 5

Leave it overnight or longer; that should flatten out the watercolor painting enough to allow it to be framed.


Handmade or low quality papers absorb moisture and warp unevenly while machine made papers often curl only on one end.

The Ironing method should be attempted cautiously since the paper can easily burn from the heat of the iron.