How I seal my watercolors on paper

Many people – collectors and artists alike – have asked me how I seal my watercolor on paper paintings that I then mount on stretched canvas.

An artist friend of mine, Janet Fons (oil pastels), and I both began experimenting with methods for sealing our artwork about a year ago.  Neither of us liked the glass we had to use since it created a such a barrier between the art and the viewer.  We were also just plain tired of dealing with glass (and for me, I was tired of the whole framing idea – it was making me a bit clausterphobic to have my watercolors so entombed).

After much experimenting, here’s how I seal my watercolors:

1.  After I complete a watercolor painting on paper, I seal it with 3-4 coats of Krylon GLOSS UV-Resistant Acrylic Coating.  I don’t like the finish of the MATTE coating (plus, it dulls metallics).  I use light coats and let each dry at least 30 minutes before applying the next coat.


2.  I let the painting dry over night after the last coat of Krylon spray.

3.  Meanwhile, I embellish my stretched canvas with acrylic paint.  I use 1.5″ deep “gallery wrapped” canvas so that I can paint the edges and finish my piece without a frame.  Usually I apply 2-4 light, watery washes to the canvas, often using metallic acrylic paints.  I then add deeper highlights to the canvas edges or corners.

4.  Once my canvas is completely dry, I use Liquitex Fluid Matte Medium to glue the watercolor on paper to the canvas.  I apply the matte medium to both the canvas and paper to help bond them together.  I then (carefully!) turn my canvas over and press on the back of the canvas to remove air bubbles.  I use cut plexiglass and weights to compress the back of the canvas for 1-2 hours.


5.  After removing the weights, I clean up any matte medium that has oozed out around the edges of the paper.  The whole thing then dries overnight.

6.  Finally, I apply 2-3 coats of Liquitex Gloss Varnish Flexible Surface to the entire piece using a soft brush (I use hake brushes), allowing each coat to dry 2-4 hours.  I’ve found my own “formula” achieves the finish I like best – a mixture of about 3/4 Gloss Varnish + 1/4 Matte Medium + a bit of water.  On large pieces, I sometimes spritz the surface with water to help relax the brush strokes.

Some folks have asked me about the archival quality of the process I’ve developed.  I’ve actually corresponded with Krylon and Liquitex about this.  While no one can really say how long acrylic coatings/varnishes will ultimately last, the best information I have is that there should not be any color or surface finish deterioration for 75-100 years.  I can’t imagine that, with proper care, my watercolors mounted on canvas won’t last 2-3 times that long.  I sure want people to enjoy my art at least until we have flying cars and are living on Mars!

114 thoughts on “How I seal my watercolors on paper

  1. Beth Robinson March 7, 2007 / 6:25 am

    Thank you for sharing your process. That information was very helpful to me. I’ve been wanting to use watercolor elements in collage that will also have other elements glued on top of them with medium and just kept smearing the watercolors. I’ll have to try this.

  2. Patty Altier March 8, 2007 / 12:49 pm

    Love the color of your work. How do you keep a clean edge at
    the edge of your painting? I am a quiltmaker but have dabbled
    in watercolor and acrylics. I have used low tack masking tape
    to create a mat/boarder on watercolor paper but it pulled up
    some of the paper and runined the piece. Keep up the wonderful

  3. davidcastleart March 9, 2007 / 11:48 am

    Beth – I think a spray varnish, such as the Krylon I use, would work fine for your collage. Good luck!

    Patty – My big “secret” for my clean, sharp edges is really just using HOTPRESS watercolor paper and sharp-edges flat brushes. I’ve also not had good luck with using a variety of tapes… give the hotpress paper a try!

  4. Chris Bolmeier November 15, 2007 / 3:10 pm

    Hello David,
    Thanks for your very informative and easy to follow blog post about sealing and mounting watercolors. Framing is costly and sure as shooting when I have a piece framed the buyer wants to buy it unframed!!
    Chris Bolmeier

  5. Darlene July 1, 2008 / 3:47 pm

    Hi David:

    Thanks so much for generously sharing your technique for sealing watercolor paintings.

    For the past couple of weeks, I had been researching this very topic on the Web. I really like your technique best. I’m going to try it.


  6. frances jones August 31, 2008 / 3:43 pm

    Thank you so much for the clear tutorial. I have also experienced a frustration with glass. I’ll use your ideas for my next Artwalk. Gracias!

  7. Janelle September 11, 2008 / 4:50 pm

    Thank you for your information!
    Q- Do you spray the back side of the watercolor paper before mounting to the canvas?

  8. davidcastleart September 23, 2008 / 10:11 pm

    Janelle: Actually, no, I don’t spray seal the back side, but do brush it with acrylic as the “glue” when adhering it to the canvas.

  9. Michele Trepanier October 20, 2008 / 4:09 am

    Hi, Wonderful & Superb!!
    Q.- If I did’nt save the whitw of watercolor paper, what should I do?
    Q.- As in “Magenta & purple” painting, if I want to cut watercolor paper & frame near the edges, what should I do?

  10. Angelique Price November 18, 2008 / 11:30 am


    I am an artist and I do a lot of work with sharpie, prismacolor and bic permanent markers on bristol paper and watercolor paper. I’ve been mounting my pieces to “ampersand” archival hardboard with “YES!” archival glue and varnishing them with Krylon “Preserve it!” Have you tried any of these products? I’m trying to find the perfect way to mount my pieces as well and while I like this method because I don’t have to use glass, I still wonder if it is the best way.

    Also, on my larger pieces, I can’t use the “ampersand” hardboard because it doesn’t come in large sizes. What do you know about mounting to wood?

  11. Louise Elliott December 1, 2008 / 3:53 pm

    Mr. Castle

    When varnishing, you mention that you sometimes spritz the surface with water to help relax the brush strokes.

    Is this done on the painting before you apply the varnish or when you have completed the varnishing process ?

  12. Louise Elliott December 1, 2008 / 3:59 pm

    What type of Hake brush do you use to apply the Gloss Varnish ? You mention that it is a soft brush, what type of hair is it made of ?

  13. davidcastleart December 16, 2008 / 5:09 pm

    Thanks for more comments!

    Angelique: I’ve not tried the products you mentioned, but think that, as long as they are archival, they should be fine. I’ve mounted a few paintings on paper to hardboard with acrylic medium – for larger sizes, you might have to try building them by hand. Good luck!

    Louise: I spritz the surface right after I’ve applied the varnish (not before). I normally use Blick Hake brushes (made of goat hair). Hope that helps!


  14. marylin martin March 9, 2009 / 8:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your way of mounting watercolor paper on canvas. What a great break through as oppossed to using glass over my watercolor paintings.
    Since am a water color painter – I don’t know much about canvas. Can I order canvas the exact size of my watercolor painting? I want to frame my painting — Therefore I don’t want to paint the border with acylic. Marylin Martin

  15. davidcastleart March 26, 2009 / 7:34 am

    Hi Marylin – You are welcome! I love sharing info like this with other artists.

    On your question, with some planning, you can order canvas to be the exact size of your painting. Many online sites such as or have a large range of standard-sized pre-stretched canvases that you can buy. I cut my watercolor paper to an exact size that will match the canvas size I plan to use.

    I think it should work to have the watercolor paper go right to the edge of the canvas so you can frame it (just be sure to adhere the paper to canvas completely without any gaps or air bubbles!). You might experiment with some small sizes to get the results you like.

  16. Laila April 18, 2009 / 6:00 am

    Congratulations! your artwork is superb! I love the colors you use in all your work and I will definitely use your method to seal some of my work. I just have a question, how do you get rid of the dust after a while?

  17. sallytrace June 17, 2009 / 10:37 am

    Thanks for the info David! I’ve been mounting my paper giclees on wooden panels and would like to try mounting them on canvas. This will be very helpful!

    Angelique, I been using liquitex matte medium and then ironing the print flat (with a sheet of silicone release paper on top of the art). It shifts around at first so it has to set up for a minute before you start ironing. And of course, the iron has to be on a low setting. I think “acrylic” was too high on mine.

    Without the iron, I would get buckling at the edges.


  18. sadnra milller August 14, 2009 / 12:20 am

    hi, you sound so knowledgeable on the subject of paints, i wonder if you could help me, i’m would like to paint watercolour onto to new wood furniture and then seal it, any recomendations on products to use before and after i have painted my designs.
    thanks sandra

  19. davidcastleart August 18, 2009 / 7:35 am

    Hi Sandra – Thanks for reading my blog and leaving me your comment! I actually don’t think that watercolor paints will work well for what you describe… the color of wood and its absorbency would likely produce colors that are very muted and transparent. Have you thought about using acrylic paints? Typically, acrylic paints can be “watered-down” to behave much like watercolors, and I think acrylic’s adhesion to wood and brighter, more opaque-like colors would give you better results. You might consider trying the inexpensive-type acrylic craft paints that you can buy at a craft store like Michael’s. Acrylic would also be more durable since it can’t be lifted with water after it is dry like watercolor would. I think you’d also find several options for sealing it in durable acrylic spray varnishes (also at a craft store). You could also find these kinds of paints online at sites such as

    Hope that helps! Take care – David.

  20. Michael Meister November 9, 2009 / 8:09 am


    I have used the Krylon sealer on various projects. I am currently looking for a safer and healthier alternative due to concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of the product.


  21. ravenfeather April 4, 2010 / 11:17 am

    Thank you for the advice, but I am having problems locating the exact products in the UK where I live, and I am wondering if you know the equivalent names and/or brand available here, especially of the Liquitex Fluid Matte Medium. Advice much appreciated.

  22. Lisa Iagulli Geren June 11, 2010 / 3:50 am

    Hi David,
    I love this method! I now want to add collage that crosses over from watercolor paper to acrylic canvas. Do I need the Krylon spray before mounting the paper? Can I juat use my medium (I use this for adding collage to watercolors) over everything before varnish? Or can I add medium over the Krylon? Will it stick?
    Sorry for all of the questions…just wondering if you have tried any of this.

    Thank you for the wonderful inspiration!
    Lisa Iagulli Geren

  23. davidcastleart June 15, 2010 / 9:37 am

    Hi Lisa – Thanks for your comments!

    If I understand your question properly, I think you’d still need to seal your watercolor paper (if you’ve painted on it) before mounting with your medium onto the canvas. Otherwise, your colors will “pick up” and bleed if you brush medium or varnish over unsealed watercolor. Brushing acrylic medium or varnish over the Krylon will definitely work! Hope that helps!


  24. D. Randolph Dudley August 3, 2010 / 7:59 pm

    I just wanted to say thanks for the great advice and product info. I work on pieces from large to small, oil and watercolor, and I think your finishing and preservation technique is superb. It brings out the colors wonderfully, and offers the ability to attest with confidence to potential buyers that each piece will last their lifetime an beyond.

  25. Mary December 5, 2010 / 2:06 pm

    This information is awesome – exactly what I have been looking for!

  26. carol February 24, 2011 / 10:21 pm

    just found this blog i love it I work with water colours. I sure do have lots to learn looks like i have found the perfect place thank you so much for this blog


  27. Hope Jenning March 6, 2011 / 5:17 pm

    I’m just getting into watercolors and would
    like to find out if there is anything to spray or brush on watercolor paintings to make them more glossy, without getting too complicated. Thanks for your help.

  28. Tony M. Baker March 25, 2011 / 5:12 am

    This helps me with a problem I was working on. I’m making some ATC’s and used water soluable block printing ink. Now I need to seal them. I think your’s is the best method I’ve seen. here’s a link if you want to see them

  29. Kamala September 18, 2011 / 7:44 am

    My husband did some watercolor paintings while at a recreational therapy session while he was suffering from cancer. He died last year. I wish to use some of his painting for decopauge. But it runs the risk of bleeding out the color while using glue. how do i seal the color. or is it just not possible to use/

  30. LeLe October 14, 2011 / 9:54 am

    Thank you for sharing your awesome sealing technique.

    I have run into a problem when attempting this. I was sealing 3 fairly large paintings and while I was using the matte medium you listed to “glue” my watercolour paper onto my canvas I seemed to have developed an air bubble at some point. It has warped the watercolour paper in a small area. Since I didn’t notice until it was dry it would be impossible to remove the painting from the canvas without ruining it. Do you have any suggestions on relaxing a warp to make it more flat/smooth without damaging the painting?

  31. davidcastleart October 19, 2011 / 2:30 pm

    Hi LeLe –

    Wow, that’s a tough one…. but I’ve had this happen to me on occasion. What I’ve found is that I can “relax” the bubble after it has dried, especially if the watercolor paper I’ve “glued” down is 140 lb. (and not heavier). What I’ve done is to slice a small slit through the back of the canvas where the bubble is, use a needle-nose squirt bottle to insert some matte medium through the slit and effectively into the bubble. I then sandwiched the bubble from the front and back with two pieces of plexi and clamped with a wood clamp to dry. I think I’ve only done this twice and it worked to relax the bubble enough that I wasn’t noticeable from the front. I should also mention that you need to remove the clamp before the back/canvas side is completely dry so the plexi doesn’t become a permanent part of your work.

    Hope this helps – good luck!

  32. artbyheart1 February 12, 2012 / 11:10 am

    Hallelulah!!! Finally a solution for my most aggravating problem!! Thanks for the great advice!

  33. Chris Jean Ciolli February 23, 2012 / 3:29 am

    Thanks so much for the useful info! I’ve been thinking about experimenting with an acrylic topcoat for some time, good to someone confirm it works!

  34. Tracy April 16, 2012 / 1:20 pm

    Thanks, David. Your technique worked on my porcelain tiles that I paint with alcohol inks! Even the reds did not bleed! Very excited!

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  36. Nicole McCord August 2, 2012 / 12:31 am

    i tried your approach with this canson archival drawing paper, and both the matte AND the gloss medium caused HUGE buckling and warping of the paper, and I ruined two pieces before a show I have on friday… do you have any advise?

  37. jangee September 5, 2012 / 8:57 am

    l have recently started painting furniture with watercolours on top of flat emulsion the effect is wonderful but l am struggling with the varnish as the surfaces need protecting. Which would not bleed ?? jan gee

  38. May January 30, 2013 / 3:45 pm

    What can someone predisposed to asthma use to seal artwork? Thanks if yo can help.

    • Laura January 30, 2013 / 3:53 pm

      I don’t know if this would help in your particular case, but I use a mix of acrylic glazing medium, mixed with a bit of water in a fine mist spray bottle, and lightly mist several layers of the mixture over my water soluble art mediums, letting each layer dry before putting on the next. I have COPD and asthma, and this works great for me…I also sometimes mist lightly with a Krylon clear varnish on some of my items. Building up light layers of the varnish or glaze seems to be the key. Hope that helps…

      • May January 30, 2013 / 4:17 pm

        Thanks Laura, I will pass on the info 🙂

  39. Click to See More April 9, 2013 / 8:14 pm

    Remarkable! Its in fact awesome article, I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this article.

  40. Sharon Wrigley July 12, 2013 / 5:29 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge David – have been searching high and low for ideas on not framing my ink paintings. I feel exactly how you did and am over framing, the cost, suffocating my paintings and having frames broken in transit! I actually have done something very similar (NZ products) to your process!! Great to know your process though and I am going to give it a go. Thanks Sharon

  41. Jodie North July 21, 2013 / 9:25 pm

    Hello David,
    Was wondering would this work with water colours that have been painted on a wall in my home ? i am painting a tree at the moment using water colours and need to seal it ..thanks Jodie

  42. Tina August 11, 2013 / 5:44 pm

    Finally!!!! A process explained simply, with products I have. I can do this! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!! Again…thank you 🙂

  43. K Pruschen October 8, 2013 / 3:09 pm

    Hello, David,
    Anxious to try out your technique. Have you ever tried using this with Alcohol Inks mounted on canvas, if so, does it work? Thanks.

  44. laura December 17, 2013 / 10:57 pm

    wonder if i’m too late to this post to get a reply? (i noticed it’s from 2007!) i’m working with a watercolour on canvas and wanting to age it with a cracking varnish and i wonder if i should use a clear varnish before i use the crackle? i’m lost at this point, i’d appreciate any feedback i can get!

  45. Jackie Sinclair September 25, 2014 / 2:04 am

    I want to put paper i.e. music sheets on a small bed side table, and seal/protect it. I’m guessing clear paint or varnish won’t work, but I’m hoping this technique will. Any thoughts any one?

  46. taryn November 15, 2014 / 3:13 pm

    Thanks for being so specific and helpful! This is just what I needed. I am illustrating kids books and would like to mount and preserve some of the illustrations

  47. wallywallace50 March 2, 2015 / 11:41 am

    Hi David, thanks for the detailed information. I am painting to scale watercolors from a roll and need to build my own frames and this will help.
    The decision now is to use canvas or coated wood. I have a Blue Marilin 12 feet long so there are several challenges. Any thoughts?

    • davidcastleart March 27, 2015 / 12:23 pm

      Hi Wally – Well, I’ve been thinking about your project (for too long now!) and have to think that canvas would be my choice, but maybe if your piece isn’t very tall? Also, I’ve actually painted several very large original watercolors that I’ve literally cut up into 2-3 pieces and mounted on separate canvas panels to be hung as a diptych or triptych. Mine are abstracts though, so not sure if you’d want to cut up your Marlin!

  48. Essie Enslin March 27, 2015 / 3:34 am

    Hello, David. Excellent technique! When you say “I embellish my canvas with acrylics”, do you mean embellishing just the sides of the canvas before adhering the watercolor paper to canvas? Thank you for sharing!

    • davidcastleart March 27, 2015 / 12:18 pm

      Hi Essie – Thanks for your comment. I actually (typically) paint the entire canvas for smaller paintings with acrylic. So, anything under 24×24″; larger than that, yes, I just paint the edges of the front canvas surface and the sides (since I always use gallery-wrapped canvas that is 1.5 or more deep).
      Thanks! David.

  49. Christiane April 26, 2015 / 7:12 pm

    Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial. It has answered most of my questions already. I am wondering about something though and hope you can enlighten me here: I have used the Krylon UVR gloss spray (the archival version) to seal an oil pastel. I am going to glue it onto a wooden board using Matte Medium. For the finish I was planning to use the Liquitex Gloss Varnish; however, I am a little hesitant about it because I am wondering if the water-based Varnish will actually go with the oil-based Krylon spray. What would be the worst case scenario? Thanks in advance for taking your time to explain this.

    • davidcastleart May 12, 2015 / 4:18 am

      Hi Christiane – Thanks for your comment! I use exactly what you described in my process and have great results – the Krylon gloss spray varnish and then finished with the Liquitex Varnish. Hope that helps!

      • Christiane May 19, 2015 / 6:14 pm

        Alright! I did it, and it worked fabulously. I am very excited about the result. Thank you so much, David! What a great technique.

  50. ishy June 9, 2015 / 4:26 pm

    Hi David
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. I am going to usr Oil Pastels on Watercolor paper (140 lb; 200 lb; 300 lb). But I am thinking I need to seal the paper before painting. What do you recommend?

  51. Kay Driver July 6, 2015 / 6:50 pm

    Dear David: This may be the greatest blog for artists of all time! So many great minds contributing with so many different scenarios. thank you for your contribution to our ongoing framing dilemma. I am going to try your technique with acrylic/oil pastel embellished paintings on watercolor paper . Wish me luck. I have been researching framing for an upcoming show and almost gave up on the show due to cost and pain in the neck involved with framing. The framing cost more than my paintings!

    • Kay Driver July 7, 2015 / 3:12 pm

      I am so disappointed! There is not a single premade gallery wrapped canvas that fits a full sheet watercolor! I must have missed this in the blog. 😩

      • davidcastleart July 7, 2015 / 4:28 pm

        Kay – I’m so glad you liked the mounting-on-canvas idea… and you’re right, I’ve never found a pre-made gallery wrapped canvas for a standard full watercolor sheet size. BUT, I’d love to help you out if I can! I just moved to Portland (not sure where in OR you are) and could help you out with stretching a canvas to fit a full sheet (or, more than one depending upon how many you have to do). Send me an email if you’d like to figure something out together!

      • Kay Driver July 7, 2015 / 9:33 pm

        So kind! Welcome to Oregon! Portlandia was an excellent choice! We are there at least once a month due to lots of family and we just sold our house in Sellwood to one of our daughters! We are Medford…a bit South! Visit Sellwood if you haven’t already! Keep in touch! I am going to tackle the canvas stretching! Thanks! K

  52. Barb July 7, 2015 / 11:25 am

    Hi David; Thanks for the idea of Krylon gloss spray, I have just started to paint again and didn’t want to have to frame my stuff. I am still a bit confused about how to get the painting to stick to canvas. Do you have a video of the process?

    • davidcastleart July 7, 2015 / 4:31 pm

      Hi Barb – I don’t have a video of my actual mounting process, but would be happy to help you out if I can. Feel free to send me an email with any specific questions or even give me a call if you want me to spend a few minutes walking you through how I do it (all my contact info is on my website)!

  53. wallywallace50 July 31, 2015 / 5:14 am

    Hi David, I have not mounted my 12 foot Blue Marlin watercolor yet but did use the process to mount a white heron, 20 by 22, on painted canvas and I used the process to mount a Brown Pelican, 12 by 36, on a painted burlap frame. The natural material really compliments the pelican. Exciting discovery for me! My next piece is 21 by 48 so I am working my way up to the twelve foot challenge. The matte medium worked well here in lower Alabama even in 90% humidity with a dew point of 79. I am looking forward to the challenge of building a twelve foot frame.Thanks again for this blog of sharing. Wally

  54. Kathleen September 9, 2015 / 5:09 pm

    Hi I have painted on water color paper with water color paint. I want to seal the paint on the paper before I lacker it with varithine that come in a tube. If I just put the varithine on the paper the colors run. Please help.

  55. Jean Warren September 18, 2015 / 8:37 pm

    Hi David. Great Blog. Just found you! I usually paint in the half-sheet size and have been mounting my pieces on the “cradles” that are made completely from wood – face as well as sides. I size these with white gesso to eliminate any chance of tannin leakage or staining and then pretty well use the method you explain. I glue and cut the paper 1/32″ OUTSIDE the edge of the cradle and when it is cured I sand the edges with a fine grit WHITE sandpaper. This gives a flawless and smooth edge to the piece. Where I differ from your process a bit is in the sealing. Eleanor Pigeon-Lowden has an excellent video out that demonstrates sealing watercolor with archival art wax. (It looks the same as turtle wax). Let your piece cure well for about a week and then just apply the wax in a circular motion over every bit of the piece with a soft cloth – even the sides. Work it in gently and allow to cure. It does NOT disturb the watercolor whatsoever and polishes up
    to a glowing semi-gloss appearance; eliminates the expense of framing and suits the current style as well. No glass required and a SLIGHTLY damp soft cloth may be used to dust and clean it. I use Gamblin wax, but I think there will be many good brands available.

    • davidcastleart September 25, 2015 / 9:50 am

      Wow, Jean – thanks for explaining your process… I love it and will have to give this a try! Thanks again!

  56. Ashley October 5, 2015 / 10:20 am

    Hi there! I am not an artist, just a mom working on a class art project for our school auction. Each student has done a small watercolor painting that I’m mounting onto wood. My plan was to glue them down with a spray adhesive and then seal them with the product you deal with. Do I have my steps backwards? I was hoping to complete it tonight so it could be displayed tomorrow. Nothing like last minute! After reading this I’m worried I’m doing this out of order and will ruin the art.

    • davidcastleart October 5, 2015 / 7:34 pm

      I think for student projects like you’ve described, what you have planned would work fine, especially on a short deadline. By glueing first, you can ensure the artwork has adhered properly and then use the spray varnish last and allow to dry overnight. Just take care not to get any adhesive on the front of the artwork before you varnish them! Hope that helps!

  57. Jean Warren October 5, 2015 / 5:51 pm

    Hi Ashley:
    I’m not sure who’s process you are querying, but I could add a bit of info to my last post that might help you.
    I glue my w/c piece down with Yes! Paste for a number of reasons. It is archival, you are able to thin it to a consistency that works for you to achieve a smooth laminating layer and MOST IMPORTANTLY it does not resist watercolor pigment…..meaning that if you accidentally get a spot somewhere that it “doesn’t belong” you may touch it up right over the yes! paste and it will absorb into the piece right through the paste.

    Other than that, I have to admit I am a little bit anal about the time frame for the glue to cure and rarely take the pressure (e.g. weight) off my drying pieces for less than a week. THEN I sand the edges of the piece and apply the (Gamblin) wax. I also let the wax cure for a number of days before polishing it to a final sheen.

    I’m not sure that acid-free spray adhesive is available so I would check carefully to see that what you are using is designated as archival.

  58. Sharyn Wilson October 10, 2015 / 3:40 am

    Hi David,

    Help, help, help !!!!…..

    I am fairly new to watercolours, just love the Daniel Smith range, & about to purchase some of those amazing colours !!! I can certainly understand your love of them !! My other medium is Pastels, I am over the costly exercise of trying to get my work framed.
    After finding your amazing blog, I have decided that I want to glue my watercolour paper to a thin mdf board. So just wanted to check first if you know what is the best way to go, & if I have this process correct in my head….
    One side has been painted & the other is plain mdf, allowing either side to be used.
    I am thinking that maybe I should use white gesso to “glue” the paper to the board. Is this the best way do you think ? Would it matter which side of the mdf was used too ?? I was going to press the paper to the board with a Brayer Roller…
    After the paper has been glued, any excess that may stretch i will trim off the sides then sand downward.
    My hubby will put a timber frame at the back of the board so that d-rings can be attached & plastic wire for hanging …I will paint the frame with some type of hopefully metallic paint along the sides. I was planning do this prior to gluing the paper to the board…. ????
    Then when the glue has dried completely, for paintings I have already completed, I spray Krylon UV resist clear, several light coats to seal the watercolour. I then need to use the liquitex satin varnish after the Krylon has dried overnight.
    I would also like to try this wax method too, but concerned that rubbing wax onto unsealed watercolour could damage the painting ? What are your thoughts on this ???
    For future paintings I am planning on glueing the paper to the board before I start painting !!! Would this be a safer way?? I worry about the bubbles i sometimes get in my paper being a problem to glue to the board without having creases…..
    I have had trouble with my memory, & retaining things so I thought that to be on the safe side if I just check with you first that I have this process correct before I start….lol I have read & reread your blog so many times, tried writing things down but just end up confusing myself !!
    I want to use this method for my watercolours & I also want to try it for my pastels.
    I know that I can get pastel sealer that sets the pastel, then thought I would still put a light varnish layer over the top as extra uv protection.
    I am so over the cost of framing, & as now medically retired I can no longer afford the crazy cost of framing !!!
    I really dont care about being “unconventional” people will either like it or not …. I know everything has to be archival….. Makes the process that much harder !!
    Thank you so much for your time & all the information you so willing share with people. You have given great tips, & helped so many people that feel the same way about “framing”!!! I also find that framing sort of looses the painting unless you look at the exact right angle …to me its not the same & love the idea of a sheen on the finished piece !
    Thanks again, I appreciate any help,that you can give me

    Sharyn 😊😊

    • davidcastleart October 13, 2015 / 7:42 am

      Sharyn – Thanks for your comment and questions!

      Overall I think you’re on the right track – here’s some feedback:

      1. I’ve recently been mounting my paintings on paper onto board and think that using the acrylic matte medium is the best “glue” to use.
      2. When mounting on board, I work out any “bubbles” by hand, alternating between pressing out bubbles directly on the painting and turning it over on a clean, flat surface. I then typically leave the board upside down (art down) on that surface with a few weights for a short period of time – 5 to 20 minutes, before leaving right-side up to dry completely (overnight).
      3. I think using a brayer, especially for larger works (maybe larger than 24×24″), could help, but be gentle!
      4. I pre-paint my canvas/board edges before mounting my paper, but then apply a final coat of paint on the edges after mounting and before I varnish.
      5. As for gluing down your paper first before painting, I’d recommend trying a small one to see how it works.
      6. I like the process I’ve developed and the how the varnished finish looks, so I’m not planning to try the wax finish any time soon.

      Hope all this helps!

      • Sharyn Wilson October 13, 2015 / 1:20 pm

        Thank you so much David for taking the time out to reply to my rather long question. I am in Australia & everyone I have asked kinda shudders when I say that I dont want to have to frame under glass….I get told that “you only ever look at watercolour under glass, & you will never be able to enter into a competition if you did that” ….mmmmm dont really think my art is of that quality anyway !!
        Every supplier I called sourcing the products said they had never heard of doing that before ….but hey we have always been ten years behind the rest of the world, so no surprise there !!!
        I have ordered all the products to start this so I am excited to see how they turn out ….I will let you know
        Thanks once again !


  59. Ashley October 24, 2015 / 7:09 am

    Thank you for both of your responses. I’ve been scared to do the top coat so I displayed them just glued down. About to work on finishing them for the actual auction. Both of your comments were very helpful.

  60. Lauren October 26, 2015 / 6:09 am

    I just finished gluing my watercolors to canvas as you said w/ the matte medium. I’m now ready to put the top coat over the whole canvas (30×30) and am scared. Should I apply a coat of the UV spray before I put the varnish on or just go for the varnish? I’m afraid the paintings will still bleed even though I’ve coated them w/ the UV spray before gluing. Just go for the varnish w/ a soft brush?


    • davidcastleart October 26, 2015 / 2:53 pm

      Hi Lauren – In cases where I’m concerned (scared), I’ve taken a lightly damp paper towel and tried blotting the painting in a few places to see if I pick up any color… if so, another coat of spray varnish goes on before I brush varnish. Give it a try and see what you think. Also, the first coat of varnish I brush on, I work very “gingerly” with light brush strokes and try to get good coverage with only one or two brush passes. Hope that helps!

  61. bifocalbabe November 6, 2015 / 9:01 am


  62. Sharyn Wilson November 22, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    Hi David,

    You said you are now mounting on board instead of canvas.

    How many coats of the Matte Medium do you put on the board before glueing the watercolour?? & if more than one coat, how long between coats ??

    I have been doing two plus the coat when I am about to glue the painting on….is this too many ??? I was just concerned about tannin coming through from the mdf ….

    Your thoughts on this would be appreciated !

    I have sealed & stuck one watercolour & one pastel but I cant get a pic atm as they are hanging too high for me to get a pic …..

    Thanks so much for your help !! 😊😊


    • davidcastleart December 2, 2015 / 7:46 am

      Hi Sharyn – I actually use cradled boards that come pre-gessoed, or I add one coat of white gesso before mounting my painting.
      I think for what you’re doing, one coat of the matte medium would be fine before you mount your painting. Hope that helps!

  63. Arlen Herb January 3, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    As a calligrapher (using non-waterproof ink, water-resistant but not waterproof ink, acrylic artists’ inks, gouache, and watercolors) I use a dip pen on Bristol, vellum, and watercolor paper.

    I want to begin to mount my work onto canvas and then seal so the inks won’t smudge, run, etc. I’m not a watercolor artist, but it looks like your materials & process would work much the same for my lettered pieces. I understand there are no guarantees, but would you agree?

    Your process looks fantastic – thanks for any tips, advice, guidance.


    • davidcastleart October 6, 2016 / 8:56 am

      Hi Arlen –

      Yes, I would agree! I’d suggest to be sure to use several coats of the spray varnish (light ones) to completely seal your works before you mount them and use any brushed-on varnish as a final sealing coat.
      Also, I’ve lately been mounting my works on cradled panel and like the results better than stretched canvas, so you might experiment with that!
      Hope that helps – David.

      • Arlen Herb October 6, 2016 / 9:12 am

        Yes, your comments are helpful. Wonderful advice – thanks so much.


  64. Maggie February 27, 2016 / 2:47 pm

    How should I protect watercolor painted on wood?

  65. Dawn August 6, 2016 / 6:48 am

    If you use qor watercolour ground you can paint directly onto your canvas

  66. Joanne C. Gillissie September 17, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    Wow! This was great info, but I am not an artist. I attempt calligraphy and I am trying to letter I HOPE YOU DANCE for my daughter to give to her daughter. Could I use something like this on just paper to protect the ink? I could letter with watercolour paint. My concern is I really don’t want the work to fade off the paper before my granddaughter enjoys her gift.

    • davidcastleart September 20, 2016 / 8:18 am

      Hi Joanne – Thanks for your comments and question! Yes, I think you could use the Krylon spray varnish and for best results would use a high-quality paper stock. Just be sure to choose a Krylon with UV light absorbers/stabilizers to minimize any fading… most recently, I’m using Krylon’s Gallery Series UV Archival Varnish.
      Good luck!

  67. davidcastleart September 20, 2016 / 8:19 am

    Hi Arlen – You might only see responses to the comments that you post. To see responses I’ve left for other people’s comments, you can browse them all from the original blog post! Hope that helps… David.

    • Arlen Herb September 20, 2016 / 8:46 am

      Really appreciate response, yet I still don’t see one to my original dated Jan. 3, 2016. I must be doing something wrong – if it is “out there” somewhere in the cloud? I’m not complaining…just eager to read your comments. THANKS again.


  68. Sally Mills November 23, 2016 / 12:32 am

    Great blog – and so pleased I found you 🙂 Not sure if I’ve missed a relevant comment to my Q but…
    I’ve got some giclee prints which I’m getting printed onto paper. I wanted them on canvas so they could be stretched but I don’t like the canvas the Printer has in stock (gloss or satin) as prefer the matt velvety finish. Anyways so I’ve decided at this late stage to go with giclee prints and was going to glue the giclee print onto canvas and then hand embellish it (it’s a kid’s painting for Christmas) with metallic paints and sparkles.
    Should I follow your same instructions as in use a fluid matt medium and glue both the canvas and the back of the print? I wasn’t going to varnish the top as it should be already finished by the Printer.
    Any thoughts on giclee prints glued onto canvas would be great?
    thanks so much

    • davidcastleart November 23, 2016 / 8:42 am

      Hi Sally – Thanks for reading my blog… I’m glad you found me!
      I think you’ll be fine mounting your giclee prints onto canvas – in fact, I did this last Christmas too! I mounted several of my in-stock giclees onto canvas (and also hand-embellished them with metallics) as a donation for a children’s home here in Portland.
      I can’t recall right now what weight paper my giclees are printed on, but they may be a bit lighter (thinner) than 140lb. I mention this because I remember having to work a bit harder to ensure all of the air bubbles were worked out before I left it to dry.
      Hope this helps and I hope it turns out great!

      • Sally Mills November 23, 2016 / 10:12 am

        Brilliant and thanks so much for responding. I’ve now put in an ordrer for the acrylic matt medium. I wasn’t sure as someone had suggested using gesso as the binder but I’ll go with what you had originally suggested in your blog. Many thanks David – great blog and very much appreciated – take care

      • David August 14, 2017 / 1:42 pm

        David, have you any pics of these you care to share with us?

  69. Sally Mills November 23, 2016 / 10:13 am

    Oh actually – did you put a coating/varnish on the giclee prints once adhered to the canvas? I don’t think you need to as it should have been treated by the Printer but just thought I would ask? 🙂

  70. Kristina Schrader November 28, 2016 / 10:46 am

    Thank you for sharing your technique! I would really like to see more of your work. As for myself, I’ve been expanding in ideas and constantly searching for the new. I’m not much of a painter, but love the look of watercolor. I’ll have to try your technique and see if it works for me. Thank you!

  71. John Killmaster December 10, 2016 / 2:59 pm

    I used Krylon over watercolor in 1953 and those art pieces look as good as ever- also, when applying acrylic varnish, I use a spray gun, just clean it out with water when done spraying!

    • Kim Miles July 18, 2017 / 7:43 pm

      So John, you did a similar process to this in 1953? So you would also recommend this process? It sounds great, & I’m pleased to see your response. Kim

  72. nathan March 4, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    This sounds great

  73. David August 12, 2017 / 1:49 pm

    The idea sounds appealing. However, I wonder if this technique would work on larger pieces than the mini examples you have displayed, for e.g., 12 x 16″ 300 lb cold press. But, then again, when you think about it, that might look quite silly when all was said and done, since one might just as well have painted on the canvas in the first place and be done with it. What say you?

    • Sharyn Wilson August 12, 2017 / 3:40 pm

      I have used this method to seal a watercolour painting 100cm x 60 cm !!! I seal my watercolours onto timber box frames my husband makes & I varnish in gloss as I prefer that look. My latest painting I have actually stuck the paper to the timber frame before I started painting & it’s not far from finished & so far so good it hasn’t lifted…..when I have finished I will seal as per my usual method. Since I started this method I have been painting bigger rather than have small paintings as the paper is the finished size & prefer larger pieces ….. so yes this method does work on large pieces & is VERY cost effective!!!

      • David August 14, 2017 / 1:33 pm

        Thank you, Sharyn for your reply. I just might give it a go and see how it turns out.

    • davidcastleart August 15, 2017 / 8:05 am

      Hi David – Thanks for your comments. To answer your question, I’d say YES! I’ve mounted watercolor paintings on paper (140lb and 300lb) in large sizes up to 48×60″ and had very good success. And, doesn’t look silly at all since my technique and process can’t be painted directly on canvas, but must go on hot pressed watercolor paper.
      I’m also now mounting my oil and watercolor paintings on paper onto cradled panel because I like to results better than stretched canvas… I use the same process for mounting that I describe in this post for that.
      Hope that helps – good luck!

      • David August 16, 2017 / 4:03 pm

        Thank you kindly, David, for responding. I’m really intrigued with the possibilities of this process and am definitely going to pursue this. All the best.

  74. George Dawson December 23, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing, have just started painting watercolours on canvas and find it very enjoyable, using your system will keep them fresh for a long time.

  75. Debra Weible March 1, 2018 / 7:00 am

    I have watched several videos on “sealing” watercolors on paper and a couple of them tell you to use fixative before varnishing. Why is that and is it necessary? Your method seems much easier.

    • davidcastleart March 8, 2018 / 10:48 am

      Hi Debra – Yes! I use a spray fixative before I mount my painting to canvas/panel and before I apply a final varnish layer with a brush. This is required so that the watercolor paint is re-activated by brushing on the varnish layer(s). Hope this helps!

  76. Anne Aitken Anderson March 20, 2018 / 6:03 pm

    Hi David – I am a Newbie at mounting watercolours on a board and using spray fixative…. so horror of horrors I sprayed 2 paintings that are 10×20 with Krylon Gallery series Archival mat varnish and there appears to be a powdery finish all over my paintings!!!! I did start a new can of varnish between my second and third paintings … so many things I could have done to cause this …. anyway … I am searching for a fix!!!

    Do you have any idea what I could do to recover my paintings? They were supposed to go to the gallery this week!

    • davidcastleart March 21, 2018 / 9:14 am

      Hi Anne – I’m sorry this happened for you… I suspect it might be because your spray varnish was matte instead of gloss/semi-gloss. I’m not sure how to “recover” your artwork from this without experimenting some… sorry!

      • Anne Aitken Anderson March 22, 2018 / 5:11 am

        Well out of desperation I sprayed another coat on and interestingly enough it went clear when I sprayed it … but then back to the powdery white film. I waited 4 hours and did it again and seems 3 was the charm!!!! I am so relieved!!! Weird eh?! I think maybe the problem was the new can I used part way through the spray process did not get enough shaking ? I am planning to buy some Liquitex gloss for the top coat… hopefully things don’t screw up when I mix the mat and the gloss varnish. Is there a reason that you paint the last layer on rather than spray it?

        Thanks for your reply! its lonely out here in the back woods of British Columbia! No one locally does this process and the gallery where I put my artwork acrylic and oil painting way way way outsell H2O. I really want to stick with H2O.

        Cheers & Thanks

      • davidcastleart March 23, 2018 / 10:13 am

        Hi Anne – Well, great to hear you got this solved for now! I personally don’t think you’ll have an issue using a gloss over the matte as the final varnish layer. I use a brush-on varnish because I feel like it provides a bit more of a durable, final varnish layer than a spray varnish. I can also better control the level of gloss by mixing my own version of varnish that ends up being more satin (so in between matte and semi-gloss).
        Good luck with your process – isn’t it great to get out from under glass?!? And, glad you wrote – please write any time as I love hearing from other artists!

  77. Bonnie March 10, 2019 / 5:33 pm

    Loving all this information,,,thank you for sharing. I’m curious if you or anyone you know has tried applying the paper to canvas or other panel before painting? Then go through the process to seal. If not, why not?

    Next what is this cradle panel you’ve mentioned? Can you direct us to your sealed work or is all of it sealed now?

    • davidcastleart April 11, 2019 / 9:51 am

      Hi Bonnie – Thanks for your comments! I’ve never tried to apply my paper to canvas/panel before painting mainly because I use the properties of the paper itself (such as wrinkling) as I paint, and for my style I like the paper flat on my table surface.
      Cradled panel is just wooden panel (typically plywood for me) that is “cradled” with wood framing to give it a finished dimension – for mine, they end up being 1.5″ deep. Views of various cradled works are on my Instagram (DavidCastleArt).
      Thanks, David.

  78. Fineline Applicator March 11, 2019 / 12:50 am

    It is very educational. I completely agree with the author’s view.

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