Stretching paper can be a bit of a faff and frustrating, but there's nothing quite like using ink and washes on a taut, flat, white piece of good cartridge paper. Quite apart from anything else, if you're going to be doing wet work on anything thinner than a piece of hardboard then it's going to warp (or 'cockle'), and that leads to all sorts of problems, both aesthetic and practical. So, how do you stretch a piece of paper?
Things you will need:
- Paper (in this case two A4 sheets 220gsm Daler Rowney cartridge paper)
- Brown gum tape.
- A clean sponge.
- A drawing board.
Things you will also need that aren't in the photo but I used anyway:
- Pair of scissors.
- A clean towel.
The Yes, Yes, Just Get On With It Version:
- Cut the gum tape to fit the edges of the paper with about a 1" - 2" overlap at each end.
- Soak the paper flat in a clean sink.
- Hold it up by the corner to drain.
- 'Roll out' onto the drawing board.
- Damp the gum tape and stick down the edges of the paper.
- Sponge out excess water and air bubbles.
- Lay board flat to dry.
Pull up a chair for the longer version:
1. Actually, a word on the drawing board first. Mine is simply MDF, which I got from Homebase in a large sheet and had cut in half. It comfortably takes A3 paper. It's important though that if you're using an MDF board you seal it first. I used satin finish varnish.
2. Cut the gum tape to size.
Do this before you get near the sink! If you've got even faintly damp fingers then the roll will gum itself together and that will give you no end of hassle trying to get clean lengths of tape out when you next come to use it. And don't keep it in the bathroom, either...
3. Place in the water.
3a. The sink. If you're stretching A4 then there's enough room in a standard sink to lay it flat in the water. Flat is important. Equally important is that you wash out the sink first. Traces of any sort of detergent (including soap) can transfer themselves to the paper, spoil the surface, and be intrusively obvious when you come to work as they take the pigment differently. For the same reasons, try not to touch the paper anywhere other than round the edges as fingerprints can have the same effect.
3b. The water itself. You'll find different opinions about the temperature of the water. Hottish water can spoil the surface of the paper, stripping off any sizing. Cold water takes a long time to penetrate the paper. I follow the Derek Smallsian route between the poles of fire and ice, and use lukewarm water.
3c. Time: the time the paper is in the water is crucial. You don't want something with the consistency of a newspaper fished out of a pond, nor do you want just a wet sheet of paper. The internet says:
9. Lay it somewhere flat and out of the way to dry.
In a normally heated room it should dry quite quickly - certainly overnight, ready to work on the next day. You can accelerate the process by using a hair dryer, as I remember from last minute student panics, but if it pulls free from the tape and you have to start again don't say you weren't warned.
I've arranged these two sheets in opposite corners so that I can work on one and then turn the board around to work on the other 'upside down', without getting too much elbow and forearm all over the other piece.
There will be other advice for stretching paper. This is just how I do it.
It usually works.