How to prevent watercolor paper from warping

Watercolor is one of the most popular traditional painting mediums used by artists around the world. Once you learn the techniques, this painting is one of the most sophisticated and beautiful mediums and can create realistic to abstract content that is falsely superior to anything else. here we will discuss in details the reasons for paper warping and how to prevent watercolor paper from warping to keep your watercolor painting in good condition after your hard work is completed.

However, even though watercolors are one of the easiest painting mediums, there are still unfortunate experiences that we may have with a medium as versatile as watercolors.

One such very unfortunate and frustrating thing that often happens to artists is warping. This phenomenon occurs when the watercolor paper dries in an unsuitable manner.

watercolor painting of a bird

Why should you use watercolor?

Mostly, as we embark upon our artistic journey, we slowly fall in love with one or a few incredible painting mediums. Because of the certain style and artistic results, any medium produces compels us to choose them. What is the beauty of watercolor that continues to be so popular even in modern times?

Watercolor is easy to use

Watercolor is easy to use. This continues to be a primary factor behind the popularity of watercolors. Despite giving such unique results, everything about watercolors is so easy.

They require water as a medium, and their application is hassle-free. Watercolor works very well on any kind of paper as long as the drying process is properly conducted.

besides watercolor usage on normal paper which is quite popular, some people also like to use watercolor on canvas to make different kind of painting on canvas cloth for hanging on their walls and putting in exhibitions for selling across the world.

Watercolor relies on whites

For watercolor, leaving space is a major concept. Instead of feeling up the areas of light and shine with artificial coloring, during watercolor, the artist simply leaves those spaces colorless or paints them over with light shades.

Going from light to dark is the nature of watercolor. This kind of painting makes it a great medium for many artists and their ideas to be realized.

It bridges the gap between realistic and abstract art

The nature of texture and structure in watercolor medium makes it easy to blend abstract ideas with hyper-realistic ones and create a mystical and magical piece. This draws many beginner artists towards this medium with which they eventually fall in love.

Bridging the gap between realistic and abstract art is very important in today’s date. Knowledge of watercolor also comes in handy when the student goes on to learn digital art.

Watercolor is easy to correct

In connection to the last point, it is good to note how the watercolor is correct. Watercolor never fully cures. Applying water can always change and modify your painting to a certain extent.

On the other hand, because watercolor is such a light-medium, it takes the development of a lot of scales to be able to hide stains. In watercolor, stains act in favor of the painting and not against it.

It is easy to blend and create multiple shades with watercolors

Watercolors are easy to blend. You can easily use primary and secondary watercolor shades to create as many hues as you want. There can be multiple tones, and you can easily mix and match them on your palette.

Because of all these reasons, watercolor also happens to be the most budgeted of all mediums for beginners. Even student watercolors can give remarkably decent results.

Checkout difference between acrylics and watercolors in this post

Why does watercolor paper warp while drying?

Our important question is, why does watercolor warp in the first place? Understanding the reasons behind this will make it possible for us to come up with solutions whenever this happens again.


Whenever watercolor paper warps, it causes the surface to become rippled and bruised. This makes the paper unusual and results unprofessional or tacky. Therefore, artists need to take green care in the storage and usage of watercolor paper.

warped watercolor paper

It is mostly never the fault of the paint or the tools; the problem mostly lies in how the paper is stored and the techniques chosen for the painting. However, in some cases, certain watercolor pigments like quinacridone magenta contribute to the warping of watercolor paper. It also relies on the brand as well.

if your water color paper has warped and you don’t want correct it then you can make use of it to make paper Mache art and craft with your warped paper which is painted with watercolors.

Improper storage of the paper

The watercolor paper should never be rolled. If you need to roll your water paper to store it better, you must use an archival tube or frames.

If you roll up the watercolor paper before using it, it has already gone through a warping stage. Therefore, it will continue to buckle while your painting as soon as moisture is applied to them.

Unrealistic drying techniques

The watercolor paper needs adequate support during drying. It can easily buckle if not provided support on all four sides. You can work on a flat l-shaped surface with weights on the longest edge to prevent this anomaly while your painting is drying.

Forcing your paint to dry too quickly and adding too much water to it in the middle of the drying process for any correction or creation can speed up the buckling.


Immersion refers to submerging a watercolor paper into watercolors to create a painting.

But if you immerse watercolor paper without a mat board support, you just let the highly absorbent paper soak up too much moisture, distorting and losing its flat surface.

High humidity

Has anyone ever told you not to paint when it is raining?

High humidity in the atmosphere means water finds it hard to evaporate. Therefore, high humidity can influence your water paper to warp. It can also, to a certain extent, reduce your ability to correct your painting using standard techniques and expose your pigments to becoming thick and unfavorable.

The weight of the paper

Surprisingly heavyweight watercolor paper warps less in comparison to lighter counterparts. This means when it comes to watercolor paper, the less expensive brands can actually help you with the buckling issue.

The trick is to decrease your budget here instead of increasing it. Jokes aside, many brands have taken special measures with their paper to ensure the quality of the paper is retained while its thickness is increased.

Priming the surface

Is priming necessary before watercolor? Absolutely why not?

You can easily better the performance of your watercolor paper by priming it with acrylic or oil-type primers. Watercolor paper prepared with primers not only prevents the buckling aspect but also makes the overall result of your painting shine brighter than ever before.

The wetting agent

A wetting agent is a chemical agent which reduces the chance of warping by evenly distributing the moisture of the watercolor paint.

Watercolor paper, by nature, is highly absorbent, so too much water in one place can certainly affect the surface and structure of the paper. The trick is to quickly disperse it on all sides to let the paper remain in its usual shape.

The absence of a fan

Do you still wish to paint when it is pouring outside? Investing in a good fan or dehumidifier can solve this issue. Painting in an area with great air circulation is something you will definitely receive benefits from.

Instead of forcing your painting to dry too quickly, it is best to leave them in an open space with a dry and cool climate and watch them slowly turn into the painting of your dreams.

Storing it in frames

Storing it in frames as quickly as possible can prevent the watercolor paper from buckling. Yes, even after the watercolor painting has completely dried, it can still buckle later on due to improper storage. The cleverest thing to do is to store them in frames.

And if you really like them, traditional framing and hanging them on the walls is never out of the question.

Not switching with a bottle of mist

If you continuously find yourself applying too much water on your watercolor paper every time you paint, it is a much better option to switch your traditional brushes and tools for water application with spray bottle mists.

A spray bottle can spray a little water on your paper whenever it dries out without making it soggy and exposing it to buckling.

How to prevent my watercolor painting from warping?

We can prevent the watercolor painting from warping by using some very simple steps and tricks. There are so many tricks that can make you a better watercolor artist. Now, we will be discussing some of the most important ones.

watercolor paper warping solutions

Paint on a flat and dry surface

When painting, place your watercolor paper on a flat, dry surface. An uneven surface is the best way to warp your painting even before you have laid down the first stroke.

In the middle of each painting session, cover your artwork with a sheet of glass

Most artists take at least 5 to 6 sessions to complete their painting. In the middle of these sessions, artists use various methods to store their paintings. One great thing to do is to cover the painting with a sheet of glass or paper to keep it even.

Dip fingers in cool water and run them along the paper to flatten it

Before starting the painting process, you can dip your fingers in cool water and run them along the edges of the paper to flatten it. Using water to flatten the paper instead of buckling it is a great method to prevent warps.

Stretch the watercolor paper before painting

How does one stretch the watercolor paper? To do this, you first soak the watercolor paper in a tub of water. After taking it out of the term, place it on a plane surface and stretch it out. After placing equal weights on all four corners, you use a cloth to soak the extra water and allow the paper to dry overnight.

Use a dehumidifier

A dehumidifier maintains an airy and cool room environment for your watercolor paper to dry naturally. If you live in a confined place that has problems with humid and moist days, investing in a dehumidifier will be one of the best things you ever did for your painting experience.

Allow each section to dry before you move on to the next one

Watercolor should be painted in small sections. Each section should be allowed to dry out before the artist moves on to the next. When the artist works with too many layers, allowing one layer to dry out before adding another layer of details is a good idea.

Practice curbing using too much water

As a beginner artist, it is common to use too much water during the painting process, making it impossible for the paper to soak in that much water. This is one of the primary reasons why beginner artists face the problem of buckling paper. Focusing consciously on not using too much water every time you dip your brush for another stroke can save you from ruining your paintings.

Buy a decent pack of watercolor paper

A good quality pack of watercolor paper will save you a lifetime of failures. You might want to invest in heavier watercolor paper from around 150 to 300 pounds in weight to reduce the chances of your painting warping drastically. At the same time, the texture and absorption quality of the paper will also influence how quickly it buckles.

Soak your paper in water for 15 minutes

Soak the paper in water for 15 minutes, no less and no more. This golden time frame will save you from applying too little or too much water in the painting process. Remember that the way you used your water during the painting should directly correlate to the style of your painting and the results that you want.

Tape around the edges of the paper

Put brown or blue painter’s tape around the edges of the paper. This will add weight to the paper to keep it smooth and give your painting a natural boundary to work with. A boundary is not just for your painting to look good; a sufficient boundary around the edges of the paper will allow the proper absorption of moisture and prevent the edges from curling up.

paris map on paper with watercolors


Watercolor is one of the most beautiful painting mediums ever encountered, even as an experienced artist. The steps mentioned above are easy, and you will be habituated to them after a few repetitions. Great art is always about the preparation, the procedure, and the attention to detail.


Will my watercolor paper warp if I wet it before painting?

Your watercolor paper will not buckle if you wet it before painting. In fact, wetting your paper before painting is actually the most useful thing you can do for many styles of watercolor painting.

Will an expensive set of watercolors prevent my watercolor painting from buckling?

Even though usually any decent watercolor pigment can cause warp-free painting experiences, good quality paints are formulated better, making their absorption and diffusion throughout the watercolor paper easier.

What weight of watercolor paper is good for the prevention of warping?

A heavyweight paper of 140 pounds or greater is good for a watercolor painting free from buckling.

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