How to Flatten Watercolor Paper After Painting

There’s nothing worse than spending hours painting the perfect piece only to have it warped by an improper drying process. However, there are some quick and easy methods for drying your painted watercolor paper quickly. Read on for a few ways to ensure that your work is not ruined!  Watercolor paper is notoriously tricky when it comes to drying. Still, with the following steps mentioned on how to flatten watercolor paper after painting, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your art will look just as good; after washing as before, if not better! 

How to Flatten Watercolor Paper After Painting

5 Reasons Why Flatten Watercolor Paper After Painting

Painting on wet paper is a pain in the neck. So yes, it’s great to work with watercolor paint when it’s wet because more intense colors can be achieved, and you can control the absorption of the paint better than when painting on dry paper.

1. You spent so much time and effort to create that painting; don’t let it roll up on you.

2. You can continue painting the same piece of paper at another time when it’s dry, instead of buying a new one and waiting until it dries before you can paint on it again.

3. Stacking the paintings with something heavy in between becomes more convenient as storage goes. When they dry, stack them up and store the papers away.

4. It becomes more convenient to transport your paintings if you’re entering a contest or planning to have them framed.

5. Since the paintings are protected by something, they become more durable and preserve well in your storage area.

5 Ways to Flatten Watercolor Paper After Painting

1. Put Paper Between Two Layers of Heavy Cardboard and Place Under Heavy Objects

After your watercolor paper is dry, put two layers of cardboard between the front and backsides of each sheet. Make sure the cardboard covers all sections of both sides. Then place heavy objects such as books or weights on top so that all paint will be flattened out into a smooth layer.

Mixing the paint was a little time-consuming, and I had to be careful not to over-mix. I decided to make all of my little people look like me, and for some reason, I really wanted them to have blue eyes. My husband was a little shocked when he saw the finished product.

2. Hang and Weight to Dry

As the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested, you can hang your paper with clips and weigh it down with something heavy. This method is recommended for large surfaces that cannot be laid flat or stored between cardboards. You can also use clamps to attach the paper to a tabletop if you have many paintings or a family member willing to help out.

For small, flat paintings, try using a spray bottle with water. You can also use a clean cloth to wipe the surface once your painting is dry. However, be careful not to damage the paper surface or paint when you do this.

3. Place Paper Between Blotter Paper and a Stack of Heavy Books

Book restorers use blotter paper to soak up the excess moisture from old, brittle books that are being restored. You can also use it to flatten watercolor paintings. To do this, place heavy books on top of the blotter paper and leave it overnight.

4. Iron Your Paper with a Heavy Towel or Cloth Over It

There are several ways to iron your watercolor paper after painting. You can cover the paper with a heavy towel or cloth, attach it to the board using clothespins, or cut slits around the paper to create a hinge. Then run an iron over the towel or cloth. If you are not using a heated surface, the paper can be pressed by placing a damp cloth over it and pressing it down with a book.

5. Dry Paper Under Heavy Objects

You can also try putting your watercolor painting under stacked heavy objects overnight since weight is necessary for this method. This works best for smaller paintings such as postcards and standard-sized sheets of paper that can stand upright. If you are painting on a canvas, you will have to use the plastic wrap method for the time being.

Steps To Follow: How to Flatten Watercolor Paper After Painting

Step 1: Use Your Iron

Use your iron to heat a towel or any piece of cloth that is cotton. The bigger the cloth, the better. Make sure it is hot before touching the paper with it by ironing an outside surface (like a piece of clothing) first, and then test if it’s intense enough for the paper on an inside corner.

Place the hot towel/cloth on top of the paper (not directly on it, but close to it) for about 5 seconds. Then lift the cloth up, and pull the paper off with your hand. The paper will easily come off!

Step 2: Lay Down the Hot Cloth

Lay dlay down the hot cloth over a flat surface and lay your watercolor paper on top of it. Use your hand to hold them both down, especially the corners. Carefully move your hand off the paper and wait a couple of seconds for it to cool. Add water to the paints; use a dropper or a brush.

I used a small artist’s brush here because it’s easier to control the amount of paint. You’ll probably need to dip into the water bowl more than once to cover the entire paper surface. Using a brush is also faster, and you can get a smooth layer on the paper, but be careful not to overdo it.

Step 3: Peel Off the Cloth

Wait 30 seconds to 1 minute, then slowly peel off the cloth from underneath. The steam will have smoothed out any bumps or unevenness on the paper. Using cotton cloth and plain water, lightly rub the back of the panel to remove any remaining pencil marks. Allow the paper to dry completely. If you cannot obtain Japanese paper, any paper of good quality and weight should work.

Step 4: Let it Cool

Let it cool for a few minutes. Then, you can either place the paper on top of another flat surface or stack heavy books on it to let the watercolor paper sit perfectly flat while it’s cooling down.

If you stack heavy books on top of it, make sure to use a layer of cardboard or something between the watercolor paper and the books so that the paper’s surface doesn’t get scratched.

Step 5: Lay Down Your Iron

If any part still seems curled, lay your iron on top of it for a few seconds, then carefully lift the cloth or paper and check if the area is flat. If not, place back your iron and repeat until done!

Step 6: Use the Watercolor Paper Again

Let it sit until cool before you use the watercolor paper again, and this ensures that your paper won’t bend or warp while you are painting. Remember to be careful when you press down on the hot cloth and use a low setting to not damage the watercolor paper underneath.

use the watercolor paper again

Why Can’t I Leave The Painting As It Is?

Don’t fret you can leave it as it is since the watercolor paper has a weight that’s low enough not to cause any lasting damage. However, the watercolor paper will be slightly wrinkled and puckered. Luckily, this can be easily fixed by ironing it with a hot iron. The downside of leaving the painting as it is is that you won’t be able to display your artwork nicely or store it in a place where no one will see it.


If you would like to flatten watercolor paper after painting, a few steps should help. First, spray the wet paint with a fixative until it is completely dry and then put your page under heavy books for two days.

Finally, remove it from the book and place it on top of another piece of flat board or cardboard so that it can go through its natural drying process without being damaged by curling up at the edges again. We hope this blog post has helped teach you how to flatten watercolor paper after painting!

Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth is a creative writer and digital editor based in the United States. She has a passion for the arts and crafts, which she developed from a young age. Elizabeth has always loved experimenting with new mediums and sharing her work with others. When she started blogging, she knew that DIYquickly would be the perfect platform to share her tutorials and tips. She's been writing for the blog from the beginning, and her readers love her helpful advice and easy-to-follow instructions. When she's not writing or editing, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

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