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Paper, panels and priming


This sheet will tell you how to stretch paper and prime panels ready for working on

1. Stretching paper
2. Priming paper
3. Different painting surfaces
4. Making a panel
5. Priming panels


Preparing a paper surface step 1

You will need:
Thick paper, gummed paper tape, basin for soaking paper, sponge

• Soak your paper in a clean basin for 10-15 minutes, making sure all of the paper surface is covered with water. Be careful not to fold or crease the paper.
• When the paper has softened, it is ready for stretching. Take it out of the basin, making sure that the excess water runs off the paper and back into the basin.
• Place the paper on a drawing board or surface you will be working on.
• Carefully run the sponge over the paper to mop up the excess water and to smooth the paper out. Make sure there are no air bubbles trapped underneath the paper.
• When you are happy that your paper is smooth and where you want it, tear strips of the gummed tape, a bit longer than each of the edges of the paper. Dampen the tape with water to wet the gum, then run the tape between your fingers to remove the excess water. Be careful not to over-soak the tape as you will wash off the gum and it won’t stick.
• Place each piece along each edge of your paper making sure you are sticking at least 1-2cms of the paper under the tape and that the tape totally surrounds the paper so that no paper edges are exposed. Smooth it down, taking care to make sure the paper is properly stuck underneath the tape.
• As the paper dries it becomes taut and leaves a flat surface for working on and won’t buckle when wet paint is used on it.
• To remove the paper from the board when you have finished working on it either cut round the edge carefully with a craft knife or carefully wet the gummed paper again to activate the glue.



Preparing a paper surface step 2

You will need:
Acrylic gesso primer, water, mixing pot and brushes

• When your paper is dry it is ready for priming. This is useful if you are going to work on it with tempera, gouache, oil paint or acrylic.
• Apply a small amount of acrylic gesso primer paint onto the paper methodically, covering every area, working in all directions. Finish with horizontal brush strokes then when that layer is dry apply another layer using vertical brush strokes. This will create a smooth, even surface for working on.
• Clean your brush and mixing pot with warm soapy water, then rinse, making sure you clean the primer out of the brush bristles thoroughly.
• Priming paper is not necessary on some techniques such as watercolour.


Examples of surfaces you can paint on

• You can use different supports to paint on to achieve different effects.
• Paper is good for light work, collage, sketching and drawing, using inks and watercolours, gouache, acrylic etc.
• Cardboard is slightly stronger and creates a certain effect, a ‘throw-away’ aesthetic
• Boards, panels and rigid supports are a simple and useful way of creating a quick, simple rigid support. They can be used for traditional gessos, or when a fine, detailed finish is required. They are more rigid than canvas so are useful in circumstances where a strong support is needed. Canvas can be stretched over a panel if required.
• Canvas and linen need to be stretched on a frame, sized to protect the fabric and then a flexible primer needs to be applied that won’t crack. Canvas is normally used for oil or acrylic paintings.


Preparing and cutting your wood,
Assembling and gluing your panel

You will need:
Hardboard or plywood cut to required size, 4 lengths of 2x1, Ruler and Pencil, Marking Gauge, Wood glue, Hammer, Panel pins, Setsquare

• Measure and cut your wood to the required length. You should have 2 lengths that are the height and 2 lengths that are the width of your hardboard/plywood panel. You can cut your wood using the band saw in the workshop.
• Now you need to measure and cut the lap-joints that will be used to join the wood and create a solid, square (ie parallel) stretcher. Mark with a pencil the width of the wood all the way round each end of each length of wood. (The width you use to do this is the larger of the 2 faces, approx 4.3 cms wide). You can do this by placing one of the lengths across the ends of the remaining lengths, making sure you line everything up accurately and keep the ends flush.
• Now you have marked the larger width of the wood, you need to mark half of the smaller width (the face that is approx 2cms) at each end of the lengths, using the marking gauge to score the wood along the centre. This will give an accurate measurement for you to cut the lap-joint.
• Now you are ready to cut your joints. Using the band saw, cut along the scored line on the smaller width of the wood, up to the pencil line marking the wider width of the wood. Now cut along the edge of the pencil line to meet the other cut at the centre. Do this ON THE SAME SIDE of each piece of wood.
• Take one of the longer lengths and one of the shorter lengths of wood, apply glue to the joint, including the small faces of each piece, then stick the lengths together. Using the setsquare to make sure you keep the joint at a right angle, hammer four or five nails into the joint to keep it in place while the glue dries. Continue with the other three joints, gluing and nailing, checking the joints are straight with the setsquare as you go.
• When you have made your frame you will need to attach your panel. Do this by applying glue to the frame, place the panel on top. Be sure to make the edges line up with the edges of the frame. When you are happy, use the panel pins to nail the board to the frame, starting with the corners, then the edges, leaving an approximate hand-width gap between the pins
• Leave to dry for a couple of hours before sizing and priming.


Priming a rigid support ready for painting on

You will need:
PVA glue, acrylic gesso primer, water, mixing pot and brushes, fine grit sand-paper

• Make sure you have attached a support frame to your board to prevent it from warping.
• Cover the board with size to protect and seal it. If you are stretching canvas over your board do this before applying size and primer. Mix together 1 part PVA glue with 5 parts water, then applying the mixture in a thin coat across the board. Allow to dry.
• Clean the PVA residue out of the brush and mixing pot with warm water.
• When the size has dried fully, mix acrylic primer or household emulsion to a smooth consistency and then apply to the panel. Work the brush in every direction to make sure the panel is covered well with the primer.
• Allow this layer to dry thoroughly then sand lightly with fine-grit sand paper (120 grit +)
• Repeat the process of applying primer, leaving to dry and sanding, building up between 2 and 4 layers.
• This process will give a smooth, bright, slightly absorbent layer to work on.

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This Work, Paper, panels and priming, by hsimson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.