Before I frame my watercolor paintings, I need to flatten them. I paint on unstretched paper, so my paintings usually dry with large buckles. Fortunately there’s an easy solution: I iron my watercolors! This is a technique I’ve used for years that I was introduced to by artist Ann Breckon.

My steam iron
My steam iron

First I prepare my tools, an iron and spray bottle. I make sure both are clean and filled with distilled water. I plug in the iron and set it to the “cotton” setting. Next I lay out one large acid free mat board on my floor. I place my first painting face down on the board, lightly spritz the back with water, and carefully iron it. If some wrinkles persist, I may use a burst of steam to work it flat. When I have multiple paintings of similar size, I iron them individually, one on top of the next, with clean sheets of paper in between. Finally, I place another sheet of mat board on top of the paintings and weigh everything down with books overnight.

Paintings weighted down by heavy studio materials and books

Typically everything comes out flat as a pancake! If any wrinkles persist, I repeat the process. Before you try this on any important paintings, test out the technique with scraps as different paper and paints may vary in their results. My paper is usually Arches cold press 140lb with Daniel Smith watercolors and I’ve never damaged a painting.