Frame Free Glue Mounted Watercolour Painting




About: I'm a designer and illustrator creating art and accessories featuring my original surface pattern designs, in the form of lino cut prints, wood block prints, screen prints, laser cut objects plus watercolour...

A fresh, modern way to mount and protect watercolour paintings

It's quite a simple process: glue a painting to a wooden board or panel and give it a protective coating.

I have used a cradled wooden panel as my mount and protected the painting at various stages of the process with varnish and wax, to create the look of a box frame picture.

Products available here in Australia often differ from the ones frequently used in the various YouTube videos I have drawn my inspiration from, so I have documented my process and the products that I used.

Step 1: This Is Not a Reversable Process!

A word of warning, once you stick your painting onto the wooden panel,
its virtually impossible to get off and there is a chance the adhesive may seep through and spoil your watercolour. I started by practising on a couple of paintings I liked but wouldn't have a major drama over if I lost them. I began by just pasting a watercolour sketch onto a piece of scrap plywood, moved onto a small square wooden box lid, and then finally onto a commercial wood panel from my local art store, (pink flower).

Step 2: Materials You Will Need

A deep edge wooden panel
Heavy gel medium (acts as a thick glue)
Your watercolour painting on heavy paper
Clear varnish spray (optional)
A wide flat paintbrush for applying gel medium
Some water
Sharp craft knife
Fine sand paper
Rags for cleaning up and soft rags for use with wax
Pile of heavy books

I used a 12" x 12" a 1.5" deep edge wooden panel by Artitude, I bought a pack of 3 from a branch of Eckersleys, the Australian art supply store chain, I have also seen them online and in other independent art stores.

My watercolour paper is 300gsm (140lb) I recommend the heavier the paper the better, I suspect the gel may seep through thinner paper.

I used Liquitex Matte Heavy Gel Medium, widely available here in Australia, I applied the medium with a flat wide bristle brush - a Gesso Brush from Mont Marte, again widely available here in Australia.

The wax varnish I used is by Langridge, an Australian company, bought from a local art store.

When I use spray varnish it has been White Knight, Crystal Clear Acrylic (from Bunnings!), there are many online sites that recommend Krylon Clear, but I haven't used it yet.

Step 3: Prepare Your Artwork

Trim your artwork to a size slightly larger (approx 1cm on all sides)
than your wooden panel, my panel was 30cm (12"), so I cut my work to 32 x 32cm. This allows for easy placement on top of the panel and gives enough excess paper to trim off after the paper is glued to the panel. without things getting cumbersome. At this stage you can apply a thin coat of spray varnish, leave to dry 24hrs, this is not a process to be rushed, I think its best to give mediums used at every stage a good time to cure.

Step 4: Apply Gel Medium (glue) to Your Painting

Place your painting face down on some clean paper (not scrap - you
don't want to mark your painting). Apply a thick coat of the gel medium to the back of the painting with a flat stiff brush, go right up to the edges (this is really important).

Use a brayer to even out your gel layer, as the gel is so thick this process should create some thick ripples, this helps the adhesion process. (Rinse your brayer immediately - the gel is sticky stuff).

Step 5: Glue Your Painting to the Wooden Panel

On another clean sheet of paper place your wooden panel face up,
carefully place your painting on top and position so it overlaps on all sides. Smooth the paper down onto the panel, you can use a clean brayer at this point to help. Once you are happy with the position and adherence, fold the edges over slightly by running your finger along the edge. Wipe away any excess gel medium with a cloth. Make sure there is no glue on the surface of the painting as this will stick to your paper sheet.

Place the frame with your painting face down on a clean sheet of paper, and weigh down with heavy books or wooden boards, make sure the first book/ board covers the entire wood panel - this will make sure you get an even distribution of weight. Leave to dry for another 24 hours.

Step 6: Trim Your Artwork

Place wood panel painting side face down on a cutting mat, again
protect the surface of your painting with a sheet of clean paper. Using a sharp craft knife carefully trim the excess paper from the frame, using the edge of the frame as a guide.

The edge of your paper should be flush with the wooden panel edge. Smooth the paper edge with some very fine grit sandpaper, this creates a really professional looking smooth edge.

Step 7: Apply Wax Coating to Picture

Finally apply some wax as a final finishing layer. Using a soft
cotton cloth pick up some wax from the jar (about 1/4 teaspoon to begin with) rub wax gently across surface of painting, in a circular motion, Keep applying as much wax as needed, but in small quantities to create an even coating. Wax the edges of the paper and also the sides - it doesn't harm to wax the wooden sides of the panel as well if you want to.

Don't press too hard, and leave overnight to dry.

Using another clean soft cloth buff the surface, you will get a slight sheen. Repeat the waxing process and dry again overnight. Buff with a soft cloth one last time, the more you buff the higher the sheen, so best to stop and check your painting as you go by holding up to the light at an angle to make sure you get the level of shininess you want. Its never going to be a gloss varnish like finish - but I only like to achieve a slight sheen on my works, so I stop early.

Your watercolour mounted on a deep edged wooden panel with glue is now ready to
display. I normally just hang these panels off wall hooks using the depth of the wooden frame, but picture wire can also be fixed to the inside of the frame.

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    8 Discussions


    7 months ago on Step 7

    Such an interesting concept. I am impressed, and thanks for sharing. One question: do you think that the glue seepage could be countered by glueing a piece of paper between the artwork and the wood? I am thinking a different glue could be better for the art. Maybe, I'm not understanding the problem as well as I should, but the whole concept of inspiring.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 months ago

    Hi thanks for your comment

    Yes that's an interesting point, I guess you are thinking a non water based glue from back of painting to middle paper and then gel medium from that to the wood panel board?

    To be honest I personally haven't had a problem with seepage in the few paintings I have mounted, and find the heavy gel medium is just that - really gloopy and not very watery like regular PVA, so it sits on the surface of my paper (reverse side of painitng) rather than being absorbed.

    Its all very dependent on weight of paper, how much sizing is in the paper, type of glue, so as I said in my posting - always best to create a test piece first!

    Many thanks, Karen


    Question 7 months ago

    Couldn't doing the painting on a canvas panel be better so you wouldn't have the fear of the glue ruiningyour actual painting?

    1 answer

    Answer 7 months ago

    Hi, thanks for the question.

    Yes,if you can find a canvas panel that is for watercolour, sounds good!

    I personally really enjoy the flexibility of working with paints on watercolour paper, so this method (with its risks!) is the one I prefer.

    Regards, Karen


    7 months ago

    Nice instructable and good, clear instructions. Thanks for sharing!

    1 reply