Sunday, May 12, 2013

Artist Tip #15 - Flattening a Finished Watercolor Painting Revisited

This is a tip specifically for watercolor artists, though there may be applications in other mediums - I just don't know.  In Artist Tip #2 we discussed several methods of flattening a completed watercolor painting - getting the ripples out that occur due to uneven wetting and drying of the paper during the painting process.  The method that worked best for me was misting the back of the painting and pressing it flat under a board and weights for a few days.  I've now abandoned this method, and moved on to a higher-tech method which allows me to flatten a painting perfectly in just a few minutes.

I recently read an article in the April 2013 issue of Watercolor Artist Magazine about artist Don Weller's western-themed paintings.  This article mentioned that Don flattened his finished paintings in a dry-mount press.  This sounded good to me, so I contacted Don, and he described his process to me on the phone.  After our discussion, it sounded even better.

I found that a number of sellers on ebay offer dry-mount presses that they procured as surplus government equipment.  After studying the various types available, I settled on a Seal Jumbo 150 press because there were a number of these offered, the price was reasonable for me (in the $150 range including shipping), it was a manageable size, and it was large enough to flatten an eighth- or quarter-sheet painting in one go.  Larger paintings can be flattened in sections.  Here's what this press looks like:

The flattening process is pretty simple.  Turn the press on, set to its lowest temperature - 180 degrees F.  Let it warm up for 5 or 10 minutes.  Then insert the painting, face down, into the press, on one of the fiber boards that came with the press.  Put a sheet of brown paper over the back of the painting (it's the top surface of the press that heats up).  Now, close the press, wait for about 30 seconds, and then open the press and remove the painting.  Voila! - a perfectly flat painting.  If the painting is larger, I just flatten it in sections, and no marks are discernible between the flattened areas when I'm done.

So - if you're a watercolor painter like me who paints lots of paintings, you may want to consider this quick and easy way to produce a perfectly flat painting ready for framing.

Thanks do Don Weller for introducing me to this method.

If you've missed some of my artist tips, you can retrieve all of them by finding the search box in the right-hand column of this blog, and searching for artist tips.

2 comments:

Ferrick Wanderer said...

... I wonder how hot a sandwich press heats? And if you could just rig up a sandwich press to flatten paintings?

Jim Oberst said...

...only if your painting is very small. :)