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

In my experience, the best glue for watercolor paper is the same stuff you would use for making collage art. This would be a heavy acrylic gel medium. These are usually acid free.

Heavy Acrylic Gel Medium: this 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.

Other Options To Glue Watercolor On To Paper

If you can’t find heavy gel medium then look for something that is acid-free so that it won’t yellow the paper and will not ruin the watercolor paint. I have some additional options listed below.

PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) Glue:

This is a popular choice for artists because it is strong, dries clear, and remains flexible when dry.

It’s archival quality, meaning it won’t yellow over time, making it suitable for projects that require longevity.

Acid-Free Glue:

For preserving the quality of watercolor paper, especially for archival purposes, acid-free glues are the best.

They prevent the paper from yellowing or deteriorating over time.

Spray Adhesive:

If you need to mount watercolor paper onto a board or another surface, a spray adhesive can be a good choice.

It provides an even coat and doesn’t cause the paper to warp or bubble.

Look for repositionable spray adhesives if you need some wiggle room to adjust the paper after applying the glue. Do not use hairspray.

Double-Sided Tape or Adhesive Sheets:

These can be useful for mounting watercolor paintings without the mess of liquid glue. They provide a flat, even adherence and are less likely to cause warping.

Glue Stick:

For less demanding applications, such as crafting or creating collage art with watercolor paper, a simple glue stick can work.

They’re easy to use and generally non-toxic, but may not offer the strongest bond for heavy or textured papers.

Rice or Wheat Starch Paste:

For those who prefer a more traditional approach, rice or wheat starch paste is a historical adhesive used in paper conservation.

It’s especially good for delicate papers and is reversible, which is a benefit for archival and restoration work.

I have made this so many times over the years. My dad, who was a bookbinder showed me how to make it. A quick recipe is here:

Rice or wheat starch paste is a traditional adhesive often used in paper conservation and bookbinding due to its gentle and reversible nature.

Here’s a basic recipe to make your own starch paste:

Ingredients:

  • Rice or wheat starch (even plain flour is ok)
  • Distilled water (you could use tap water but it may contain acids in it that can affect the paper)

Instructions:

  1. Measure the Starch: Begin with a small amount of starch, about 2 tablespoons. This will make enough paste for a small project. You can adjust the quantity based on your needs.
  2. Mix with Cold Water: In a small bowl, mix the starch with an equal amount of cold distilled water. Stir until it forms a smooth, lump-free mixture. This pre-mixing step is crucial to prevent lumps.
  3. Add Boiling Water: Slowly add boiling distilled water to the mixture while continuously stirring. The ratio should be approximately 1 part starch to 4 parts water.
  4. Cook the Mixture: Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat it over a low flame. Stir continuously. The paste will start to thicken and become translucent. If it’s too thick, you can add a bit more boiling water.
  5. Cool the Paste: Once the paste has reached the desired consistency, remove it from heat. Let it cool before using. It should be smooth and have a consistency similar to gelatin.
  6. Strain (Optional): For an even smoother consistency, you can strain the paste through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
  7. Storage: Store the paste in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be kept for a few days, but it’s best used fresh.
  8. Application: Apply the paste with a brush. It’s ideal for delicate paperwork as it provides a strong yet gentle bond.
  9. Removal: If you need to remove the paste, you can usually do so by gently re-wetting the area and carefully peeling or scraping off the paste.

Types of Papers Can Impact What To Use

When using glue with watercolor paper, it’s important to consider the weight and texture of the paper, as well as the final use of the artwork.

Heavy papers will need a stronger adhesive than lighter papers. Also, be mindful of the drying time and potential for the glue to warp or change the texture of the paper.

Test the adhesive on a scrap piece first to ensure it meets your needs without damaging the paper.

If you are going to use a lot of heavy acrylic gel medium for mounting and painting then I recommend Golden’s gel medium. I do not get any commission on this so it’s based on my honest opinion.

Golden's gel medium
Golden’s gel medium

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.

Sources

Painted Hill Studio: Mounting Watercolors to Board

Painting Demos: How to Mount Watercolor Paper on Board

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