Watercolor painting is a beautiful and captivating art form, but one of the common challenges artists face is paper buckling. In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons behind paper buckling and provide you with effective methods to flatten watercolor paper, ensuring your artwork retains its vibrancy and professionalism.

Understanding Paper Buckling:

Before we delve into the solutions, let's understand why paper buckling occurs. When water is applied to paper, it expands due to the absorption of moisture. As the paper dries, it shrinks, leading to uneven drying and undesirable buckling. Cheaper watercolor paper made from wood pulp fibers exacerbates this issue, resulting in less vibrant and more muted colors.

So here is a tip. BUY 100% COTTON WATERCOLOR PAPER

The first step in preventing paper buckling is investing in high-quality watercolor paper. Opt for 100% cotton paper, as its longer and stronger fibers are more resistant to buckling. While even cotton paper may buckle with excessive water, it provides a superior surface for your artwork.


Watercolor blocks offer a convenient solution for preventing buckling. These blocks consist of paper glued down on all four sides, leaving a small area unglued. While not pre-stretched, the glued edges minimize buckling to some extent. However, for wet-on-wet techniques or more demanding projects, consider using heavier paperweights such as 300 lb paper, which can hold more water without significant buckling.

Stretching watercolor paper involves soaking the sheet in clean water for a few minutes, then taping and stapling it to an artboard. As the wet paper shrinks while drying, the tape and staples keep it taut and prevent buckling. Although this method ensures better results, it can be time-consuming, messy, and may inadvertently damage the paper or remove its sizing, which is crucial for watercolor painting.

A simpler alternative to stretching is taping down dry watercolor paper. By securely taping the edges of the paper to a flat surface, you can minimize buckling during the painting process. While this method is effective to a certain extent, it may not completely eliminate buckling.

But the only foolproof way is to flatten paper after you are done with your masterpiece!


Flattening your curled watercolor painting with an iron is an excellent and convenient solution. Begin by placing a clean, neutral barrier (like a cloth) between your ironing board and artwork. Sandwich your painting between two cotton sheets, set your iron to the cotton setting with steam, and give a few quick puffs of steam while moving the iron over your project for approximately 10 seconds. Be cautious not to keep the iron in one area for too long, as it may scorch the paper. Finally, place heavy books on top of the flattened painting and leave it for a few hours to ensure it remains flat.


In summary, preventing paper buckling in watercolor painting requires a combination of smart choices and effective techniques. Invest in high-quality, 100% cotton watercolor paper, consider using watercolor blocks or heavier paperweights for specific projects, and tape down your paper during painting. After completing your artwork, ironing provides a quick and reliable method to flatten the paper. By following these tips, you'll be able to create stunning watercolor paintings without the frustration of paper buckling.

Simply put-paint, iron and repeat :)