Best Glue For Watercolor Paper – Mount Paper Like A Pro (Tested)

best glue for watercolor paper

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If you’re new to watercolor painting, you might be confused about how to mount your watercolor paper, and wondering what’s the best glue for watercolor paper. You may be surprised to learn that it is not actually a glue!

In my experience, heavy acrylic gel medium gives me the best results when mounting my finished watercolor paper on an art board or wood panels.

Heavy acrylic gel medium is great as a glue for watercolor paper as it is:

  • an archival medium that binds well and doesn’t stain my finished artwork.
  • you can use gloss or matte but matte gel medium is better as it does not risk altering the paint
  • heavy acrylic gel medium can be easily washed with water
  • when it is dry it becomes water resistant
  • it is acid free so it will not yellow your paper over time.

Read more about mounting watercolor paper on various materials, mounting and stretching watercolor paper, and various types of glue you can use to keep your watercolor paper secure and vibrant for years to come.

If you are going to use a lot of heavy acrylic gel medium for mounting and painting then I recommend Golden’s gel medium.

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But if you only need a small amount only for mounting watercolor paper, then save yourself some money and go for a lower quality but still very good tube of US Art Supply medium.

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What’s the Best Glue for Watercolor Paper When Mounting on an Artboard?

Mounting a finished watercolor painting on an artboard, Masonite, wood panel, gesso board, or cradle art board, allows you to display it without using glass. This gives the painting a contemporary look, similar to mounted acrylic and oil paintings that don’t require framing.

Keep in mind that most juried shows require matted, framed artwork under glass, so this mounting method wouldn’t be suitable.

Here are the steps for mounting watercolor paper using glue:

Apply the protective topcoat to your finished painting

Before I begin mounting, I always prepare my finished artwork first. I do this by spraying the finished, dry watercolor painting with archival acrylic spray varnish with UV protection. I prefer a matte finish, but the spray is also available in satin or glossy.

Make sure your watercolor painting is completely dry before applying the spray. I wait about one week before spraying the topcoat. Three light coats protect the painting and fix the color pigments for long-lasting vibrancy.

The top coat also protects your painting from any gel medium that soaks through the back of the painting.

You might be tempted to mount your watercolor as soon as the topcoat feels dry, but it’s a good idea to wait a few days. This ensures you won’t have any warping from moisture in the paper’s fibers.

Prepare and coat your artboard with gel medium

The best glue for mounting your finished painting is a heavy gel medium. Before applying the gel medium that glues your watercolor painting to the artboard, check your board for dust or rough spots. You can sand it lightly to smooth the board if needed. 

Use a flat brush to spread a thick coat of gel medium onto the artboard. Make sure you reach all the way to the edges, and that you cover the entire surface. 

I roll an ink brayer over the board’s surface after applying the gel. This makes raised grooves in the gel that help the watercolor paper adhere. Don’t worry if you don’t have a brayer, I have had great results with just a flat brush, as well.

Lay your watercolor paper on the glued art board’s surface

Carefully lay your painting on top of the wet gel medium, centering it on the art board. Once it’s straight and centered, I use a clean, dry ink brayer to lightly roll across the painting’s surface from the center of the painting to the edges.

This ensures that the entire watercolor paper makes contact with the mounting board. The roller also removes any air bubbles that prevent the painting from binding to the gel medium. Wipe any excess glue from the sides of the artboard.

You can also use a dry, soft cloth or rolling pin to press the air pockets to the edges of the painting. 

Next, turn your artboard over and lay it on a flat surface to dry overnight. I place a few books on top of the board, just to make sure the paper binds completely with the gel as it dries. 

Once it’s dry, use an x-acto knife to trim off any paper overlap from the edges. This gives a nice, flush edge.

Mounting Watercolor Paper on Panel Board Using Glue

As an alternative to stretching and drying your watercolor paper, you can glue it to a panel board or wood before painting your artwork. 

This is a permanent mounting, so it’s important to decide what type of artboard you want to use beforehand for display purposes. 

When I use wood panels for mounting watercolor paper, I apply a coat of gesso to prime the wood. This prevents any staining of my paper from the wood. I allow the prime coat to dry and then follow the same method of mounting finished watercolor paintings.

The only difference is that you won’t use varnish to spray the watercolor paper, since you haven’t painted on it yet. If you’re not framing your painting under glass, then use the spray varnish once you complete and dry your painting.

After mounting the paper and pressing out the air bubbles, allow it to dry overnight. Your mounted watercolor paper is ready for you to paint without having to stretch the paper.

That’s it, when it comes to the best glue for watercolor paper, it does not get as easy or accessible as this as long as you follow the correct mounting techniques as I have just described.

Feel free to read some of my other art related posts linked in Latest Posts below.


Painted Hill Studio: Mounting Watercolors to Board

Painting Demos: How to Mount Watercolor Paper on Board

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About the author
Joe Colella - Chief Wasted Talent
Joe Colella – Chief Wasted Talent

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