View Full Version : Paper tape saga, or, how to make a short story long ...

06-29-2001, 08:14 AM
Since Iíve started painting (itís only been a few months) Iíve been trying to find paper tape so I could stretch the paper. When I first gathered the materials I thought I needed to start watercolors I bought a piece of hardboard at Home Depot and cut it into several pieces to use as supports. I was using masking tape to attach the paper so it didnít slide around, but the paper was constantly buckling. So I looked everywhere for paper tape; department stores, hardware stores, office supply stores, mailing boxes stores, art stores. No one carried the stuff. I think only one guy, at an art store in Boston, MA, even knew what I was talking about! I couldnít staple because the support board I was using was too thin (and didnít really want to). So I was putting up with the buckling and the paint running into the valleys. I actually stopped attaching the paper to the support at all, because I could control the buckling a little better.

But then I thought, what about the web? Jiminey Cricket, why not try the web?? So I did, and found the tape! But everyone wanted to sell me a case. But finally, success!! I found a web company that would sell me one roll.

So now, filled with anticipation, I carefully soaked two 11Ēx14Ē pieces of 140lb paper, placed them on my two boards and taped them down. The next morning came Ö despair and anguish!! The paper had buckled anyway, ripping the tape away from the boards. Half of the paper, edged in brown tape, thrust into the air, defying my feeble efforts at stretching.

Okay, I can figure this out Ö I know, Iíve got it!! I had prepared the boards by giving them two coats of polyurethane to prevent them from soaking up water. I was convinced the tape was refusing to adhere to the hard finish. Muuhahaha!! Iíve got you figured out! I lightly sanded the finish on the boards and tried again. Confident (ahh, the arrogance born of confidence) I again prepared two sheets of paper and carefully taped them down. The next morning, heading out for work, I checked my handiwork. Arrrrgggghhh!! How can this be?!? The tape was firmly affixed to the boards, but the paper had buckled anyway and pulled away from the tape!! Oh, the pain, the pain Ö :crying: :crying:

Okay, take a deep breath, got to catch the train Ö All day at work I pondered it, my co-workers looking at me askance, my hair in disarry, my eyes wildly darting about Ö Maybe the combination of wet paper and wet tape didnít allow for proper adhesion? Could this be it?. That evening, hands trembling, I tried again. Throwing caution to the winds, I again used two sheets of paper (hmm, went through that pad of paper quickly), soaked them thoroughly, blotted the edges with a paper towel and taped them down.

I went to bed Ö

I didnít sleep Ö

Morning came Ö the alarm went off Ö

SUCCESS !! :D The birds began to sing !! I danced on the grass like Samwise, ďOh, great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!Ē :clap: :clap:

Okay, for those who have had the stamina to read this whole thing, I have a question Ö I read the thread about using cardboard backing in a frame and the dangers of acid leaching through and damaging the painting. Is the same caution true about the paper tape? I now have a couple of paintings that have a 1/2" border of brown paper tape. Are there acids in the tape that will eventually leach out and damage the painting? Should I trim the tape off?


06-29-2001, 09:43 AM
Bob, first let me tell you I had a lot of fun reading your post!
Now, I personally ALWAYS staple my watercolor sheet to my 1/4 inches thick boards. Prior to stapling, I had tried with only masking tape, but since I use a lot of water, that was no good. Then I did like a professional artist I knew and used brown tape. Without success. It either unglued from the board or from the paper itself... I think (not sure) it is Nita Engle that tapes with brown tape then staples into the brown tape. This is especially true for wide sheets of paper because of the tension. When using brown tape you must always cut the taped edges before framing.
Also, the quality of the paper is really important. A good paper will stand a lot more handling and rubbing and such. It will be easier to lift color without raising the fibers. It will not mark as easily when erasing during drawing; it will stay stapled without the staples tearing the edges of the paper.

Hope this helps! And good luck! Gisele

06-29-2001, 11:21 AM
Thanks, Gisele

I'll have to remember this the next time I paint. I now have a painting I'm considering hanging, but if I trim the tape and then mat I'll lose some of the detail along the edges of the painting. I was planning on leaving the tape and matting right to the inside edge of the tape.

Darn, I guess I'll have to try the painting again! ;)


06-29-2001, 12:49 PM
Bob: You wouldn't need to lose more than a quarter inch at each edge if you cut the tape off.

I don't think you should have it framed with the tape on because I suspect some of the acid will migrate. But I think you could pull the tape off and not worry about it because it would have been in contact with the paper for just a short period of time.


06-29-2001, 01:19 PM
I have a sticky brown tape question too, so I guess I'll add it to this thread. :confused:

I tried using the watercolour tape, but when I tried to peel it off, it left gummy bits on the edges of the painting or ripped the paper. :mad:
I usually just use masking tape, but I have that buckling problem!

I'd like to use the brown tape, but I'd also like that nice, clean, white edge to frame my paintings! :D
Can I have both? Is it possible? Any suggestions?

I enjoyed your story, Bob! Are you a storyteller by trade? You sure do it well :D

06-29-2001, 02:06 PM
Hi, I use the brown tape quite a bit and have finally found a method that works for me. When applying the tape I only wet half the width - it doesnt need to be very exact - and then lay the dry side on the wet paper and the wet half on the dry board. I press it firmly and leave to dry.

To remove it I wet just the brown tape and leave the water to soak in for a few minutes. It gets quite soft and loose and you can just gently wipe it away. Some spots may need wetting a couple of times.

Hope this helps

06-29-2001, 02:22 PM
Bob, save yourself all that trouble and use 140lb + paper, don't stretch just tape down with masking tape and start painting, Thats all i ever do, I never stretch it, sure if its really wet it'll buckle, but it'll also dry out flat. :)

06-29-2001, 02:42 PM
Great story, I think you should illustrate it. I wet my paper stick it to my board than let it dry for about 10 min. I then tape with watercolor tape (this is a clear tape). Now I cover it with wax paper put all my art instruction books + orchid growing books on top and let dry over night.

Gads we could make a book out of all this.:eek:

06-29-2001, 06:47 PM
I stretch all my paper, soak for about 15 minutes, lay on board and apply gummed paper strip to one edge. Then smooth out paper with a towel and apply gummed strip to remaining sides.
I do cut off gummed edge when finished,

06-30-2001, 03:45 AM
Hi Bob,
I love this stretching thread as Hugh and I can argue the merits etc.
I stretched all my paper even my 140 lb( 300gsm)paper. I cant afford 600gsm paper so no problem.Hehehehe.
A thing that always gets me is that people just talk about "Gummed Brown Paper". What you need to use is Gum Arabic Paper. Not expensive but the best to use.I use 2" ( 5cm).About NZ$19/roll.
I would like ,like Rod to use a Gatorex board but they are pricey and so I use 3/8" (1cm)MDF board of various sizes to take 1/4-1/2 and full Imperial sheets.
I soak my paper in clean water for about 15 mins and then drain until water stops dripping from one corner.Next I lay the paper flat on my board dampen the ready cut strips of Gum Arabic paper taking about 3/8" of strip around papers edge patting down with a dry towel. I also pat dry the paper around its edge for 2" or so as this makes the paper dry from midlle to the edge.Leave the paper to dry naturally and you shouldnt have any problem.
When your painting is finished and you cut it off your board, your matting will cover that thin strip around your work.Your Gum Arabic paper should not be acidic if its any good.
If your doing small stuff and want a white edging then tape it down with Invisible tape as this peels off easily afterwards and leaves a clean band around the work. Small cuts such as 1/4 or 1/8 dont readily buckle.
If you are a splash it on Billy painter like me, then you have to stretch or it ends up looking as though you have only painted in the hollows as that is where all the pigment ends up.
Dont give up, it does work.
Billyg :D:D:D:D

06-30-2001, 05:17 AM
I loved reading your story. I've spent the last two weeks going through a similar saga. I too had my tape pull back from my paper as it dried. I solved that problem by adding a thin bead of wood glue between the wet paper and the tape. However, I'm still not getting the paper tight enough. It is buckling when I work really wet, even after an apparently successful stretching. I've contemplated a staple gun, but I think at least part of my problem is that my board isn't stiff enough (3/8th inch plywood). As the paper dried, the board developed a decided curve, when I cut the finished painting off, the plywood sprang back flat again. Hmmm...Maybe I need 1/2 inch plywood? Maybe clamp the board to the table while the paper dries? Try and stretch a sheet of paper on each side simultaneously? (Though my brother suggested that last idea might be dangerous. The conflicting pressures could open a hole to another dimension...)

06-30-2001, 06:37 AM
Victoria - you're right, I would only lose a little bit of the painting when trimmed and framed, but I'm greedy and don't want to lose any!

Kandiman - glad you enjoyed the story, I had fun writing it! No, I'm not a storyteller by trade, as the commercial says, I've clawed my way up to middle management :eek:

NorahT - Great idea, I'll try it!

Hugh - I am using 140lb and it buckles like crazy. 'course it isn't Arches ... I've been using W&N Cotman and just recently bought a pad of Strathmore 400. I have some Arches coming from a catalog but I've been waiting 2 weeks and it isn't here yet :(

MissMouse - I like the image I get, this huge pile of books on top of a piece of paper !

Rod - Thanks. I don't use a towel to smooth it because I didn't want it to try too quickly. I've been using my wet hands.

Billyg - Oh, gawd!! How long will it take me to find gum arabic tape?? I'll probably have to fly to New Zealand, break into your house and steal yours!! ;)

Eliz - Be careful of those interdimensional rifts! I'm glad you liked the story :D I chose the hardboard because I had some 1/2" plywood but it had warped just from hanging around, so I figured it wouldn't survive wet paper.

Thanks all, I think what I'm going to do is use the brown tape to secure the paper and then run a second line of masking tape about 1/4" or so inside of that to give me that nice white border around the painting.


06-30-2001, 06:59 AM
Bob..great story ! Are you a closet writer or comic ?

I USED to buy 140# paper..soak it, lay it down on gatorboard, staple down(about every 2 inches all the way around), let it dry, then tape w/regular masking tape.
This seemed to work most of the time. But sometimes, if I painted to wet, it still buckled.

NOW I just buy 300# paper ! Cut it, tape it down and paint away. I don't have time to do all that tedious stuff....or to look for some exotic tape ! After my work dries, I pull up a corner of the masking tape and carefully pull away.

Simple, but it works for me !

A well known watercolor artist here in Kentucky, Mitchell Tolle, told me that after his work dries, he lightly sprays the BACK of the paper with water, puts it between two pieces of glass and weighs it down with books until it dries.

Lordy...just buy heavier paper !!

Good Luck.


06-30-2001, 11:06 PM
Originally posted by Rosebud
Bob..great story ! Are you a closet writer or comic ?

Yeah, I'm a way in the back of the closet writer!! :D

Lordy...just buy heavier paper !!

I'm trying! None of the stores near me carry anything heavier than 140. I've got a sample pack of Arches ordered that includes some 300lb, but I've been waiting a long time. I'm getting worried the order got lost in the mail, which will be a real bummer 'cause my girls gave me a gift certificate for father's day and if the order is lost, so's the gc ... :crying:


12-13-2002, 04:14 PM
Try surgical tape, if you can find it (not that white guey stuff, this looks almost like skin.

Also, the 300 pound paper works the best.

Alan Cross
12-13-2002, 07:49 PM
Originally posted by taghera
Bob, save yourself all that trouble and use 140lb + paper, don't stretch just tape down with masking tape and start painting, Thats all i ever do, I never stretch it, sure if its really wet it'll buckle, but it'll also dry out flat. :)

THis is all I do and it works no fuss no muss no problem....and you get the nice white edge.....btw great story!!
Alan :)

12-14-2002, 01:08 PM
Bob..too cute!

I am continually amazed at how many times we go over this:D

and there are a zillion threads about it if you search

my opinion:

don't use masking tape!!!! use artist tape:


comes right off

staple to gator (foam ) board:


or use BLOCKS..they come in many sizes....


300 lb paper is a wonderful, but expensive alternative.....

Mike Scott
12-14-2002, 02:13 PM
Bob, for 11x14 sized paper (140#), I just use masking tape (the really cheap stuff) to tape all 4 sides down to a half inch hunk of plywood and paint as wet as I want. The paper may buckle, but it always flattens out when dry. If the tape sticks to the edges too much when you try to remove it, then use a hairdryer to warm the tape so it pulls off easily. I got tired of stretching paper a long time ago. The only time I stretch is when I'm painting on 22x30 sheets; then, I use staples rather than tape. Works great for me. More time for painting and less time preparing to paint. Good luck.