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Oversized Watercolor Paper

  Unglazed and varnished

If you prefer the absorbency of painting on paper, this method of bonding watercolor paper to Aluminium composite panel may suit you better than watercolor gesso on composite panel.


Preparation is similar up to the point where our two initial coats of gesso are applied. In this case we will bond the paper to the lightly sanded, gesso primed sheet of composite panel.


There are a number of products suitable for bonding the paper to the panel. Neutral pH PVA glue, acrylic gel medium or acrylic mat varnish/medium all work well.

Many paper manufactures produce their papers by the roll, so you can work as large as you like. The finished work can be framed in the conventional oil painting manner without the need for glass.

Cutting Oversized Watercolor Paper


The first thing to do is cut your paper slightly larger than your cut, sanded and gesso primed composite panel.

When you cut the paper mark the front surface with a pencil. The front of the paper can be identified by the watermark appearing the right way around. On medium or rough roll paper the most noticeably textured side is the front.

Roll Paper

Buying paper by the roll is not only more economical, it means you can work very large. Arches roll paper is 4 foot high and 10 meters long. A large, clear table and a couple of heavy straight edges are needed to spread and cut the paper.


I like to spread out the length I need, place a steel straight edge against the roll and at the end of the unrolled paper to stop recoiling, then spray with a light mist of water to allow the paper to flatten before cutting with a craft knife. The sprayed paper will stay reasonably flat once it dries out.

Bonding Oversized Watercolor Paper


I am using neutral pH PVA glue here. Apply it liberally to the primed composite panel. Spread it as evenly as possible, paying attention to the edges.

Soaking Oversized Watercolor Paper


Once your panel is evenly and thoroughly coated with your gluing product, liberally spray your paper with water. We want the paper to soften and swell before placing it onto our glued surface.


When the water has been absorbed lay the paper carefully, face up, onto the glued surface making sure the excess paper over- hangs all the way around.

Rolling Oversized Paper


Spread the paper gently by hand from the centre towards the edges. A roller helps remove any lumps or bubbles. Use firm pressure, but not too much – we don’t want to squeeze out all the glue.

Flattening Oversized Watercolor Paper


Once the paper has been flattened out, place a few larger sheets of composite panel on top and apply some weight while the glue dries. I like to leave the weights on for 24 hours.


After the larger sheets of composite panel and weights are removed allow a couple more hours for final drying.

Trimming Oversized Watercolor Paper


When the glue and paper are completely dry, trim off the excess paper with a craft knife. Make the cut from the back as close as possible to the edge of the panel.

We are now ready to work on the bonded paper


If we want to make the paper less absorbent, a coat or two of watercolor gesso makes a great surface to paint on. The paper under the watercolor gesso/absorbent ground makes it more porous and more forgiving than working on the  grounds directly on the composite panel.

Finishing Oversized Paper

Acrylic varnish is the easiest way to seal and protect these paintings. Spraying is the best method of application. If you don’t have a spray gun and compressor, use a fine bristled nylon brush about 3 inches wide to apply the varnish.

If you have used charcoal or pastel, a light spray with fixative will save the surface from being disturbed by the nylon brush.

Framing can be as simple or as complex as you like. The panels are extremely rigid so small museum moulding can be used on large works.


Photographers bond photographs to aluminium composite panel. Gluing a simple wooden frame, set in a couple of inches from the edge, to the back of the work, the image can be floated the thickness of the frame from the wall.


More information on Varnishing can be found on the Paint Big – Aluminium Composite Panel Page.


Examples Using Oversized Paper
“Coolgardie Memories” (600h x 1100w)

Various sized tiles cut from discarded paintings were carefully bonded to aluminum composite panel to form the basis for this painting. Parts of the old paintings are still visible in many areas. The tiles were chosen to relate to and enhance the subject.




“Echoes Through The Fog” (570 x 760)

Arches 300gsm Hot Pressed paper was bonded to aluminum composite panel for this painting. There was no watercolor gesso applied to the paper prior to painting on it. Watercolor, charcoal, gouache and gesso were the main materials used. A protective coating of satin acrylic varnish was built up by spray.

“Tumbling Water” (1200 x 900mm)

300gsm cold pressed paper was bonded to aluminum composite panel then covered with two coats of Golden Absorbent Ground. The painting is principally watercolor with some acrylic, charcoal, white gouache and gesso.
The finished work had several coats of satin acrylic varnish sprayed on to seal and protect it.

“Rain Over Brooklyn” (800 x 500)

Watercolor, ink, charcoal and gouache were used on 300gsm cold pressed Arches paper bonded to aluminum composite panel. The sky was worked over with washes of gesso and watercolor to create the soft wet look of approaching rain.

The finished painting was sprayed with several coats of satin acrylic varnish.




“Evening Silence” (330x230mm)

This technique of working on paper bonded to composite panel can also be used to free up smaller work from the necessity to use glass.
This little painting was done on 300 gsm cold pressed paper bonded to aluminum composite panel. Again the finished painting was protected with several coats of satin acrylic varnish.




Author: John Lovett

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