A watercolor block is simply a pad of watercolor paper that is bound on all four sides. A watercolor block lets you paint directly in watercolor onto the pad without having to bother with pre-wetting and pre-stretching and taping your paper and all that hassle. If you didn't do those things, the wet paper would warp and deform as it dried, making it very difficult to work with. The watercolor block holds the paper in place while the paint dries, minimizing warpage.

You can easily spend $20 to $50 on a watercolor block. Not being a particularly picky soul, I decided to make one out of some plain old bond paper and some padding compound.

Step 1: Supplies

The main ingredient is something called padding compound. It has a consistency about like Elmer's glue, but then dries into the rubbery elastic adhesive that you find on typical pads of paper. It binds the pages together in a way that they can be torn off the pad one page at a time.

I picked up a quart of this stuff about 20 years ago. It turned out to be pretty much a lifetime supply.

padding compound ($10 or so for a quart) (lifetime supply)

sheets of paper of your choice. I like plain old copier paper, but something heavier, on the order of letterhead quality paper might be better suited to watercolors. I'm not that particular.

ream of bond paper ($4) (makes about 10 watercolor blocks depending on how thick you make them)


cheap paintbrush.

wood or cardboard cut to precisely the dimensions of your paper.

I like the idea of up-converting pads to blocks. Seems like an easy middle between cost savings and full DIY. I was thinking something like the bulk packs of loose 300gsm watercolor paper from Blick. Larger 1-time investment but cheap per sheet for what it is.
Great instructable, nice and clearly written. If you're the finicky type (like me), you can do the same thing with watercolor paper. Watercolor pads are considerably cheaper than blocks, they already have one edge glued, and come with a backer board ready to use. All you need is the top board. For myself, I've made something similar, on a much smaller scale. I like to make art trading cards, and something that small can be -very- awkward to use. I've made blocks using both watercolor paper and bristol for my acrylic work. I cut down all the parts of a pad to made my little blocks. They work great! I used tacky glue, but I like the idea of the padding compound. I'll have to find some for myself!
That's a great idea. You're right that it'd work better with heavier paper; it'd still want to wrinkle, but I don't think it'd 'move' as much. The padding compound itself is an awesome find; I've been paying Kinko's to make things into 'pads' for me. NO MORE! :D
Hee hee, thanks! I picked up some 64 lb cover stock I'm going to make some pads out of. Should work nicely I think.

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