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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Using Gatorfoam board as a rigid support for watercolor paperApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2020-02-18 13:41:28 ... Most recent comment 2020-02-18 15:29:06
    Rigid Supports Watercolor

    ​I have heard watercolor artists and seen utube videos by watercolor artists promoting adhering watercolor paper to gatorfoam board as a permanent, rigid support.  The watercolor painting is varnished when complete.  

    I was looking at using the gatorfoam board in this way for a large (36" x 48") watercolor painting I plan to do.  While the artists mentioned seem to believe the gatorboard is acid free and archival, I'm concerned that it may not be.  It is light weight, strong and very rigid which make it appealing as a support but I'm concerned about the long-term effect on the watercolor paper and painting.  Please give me your opinion.  Thank you!

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I have sent this question along to moderators more closely involved in the paper world.

    Brian Baade
    2020-02-18 13:55:40
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Gator foam board has some unattractive chemistry. Its paper surfaces are stiffened with urea formaldehyde, something not welcome in preservation settings, while its foam is polystyrene, which can emit styrene monomer,  another questionable chemical. If an artist wants to create a rigid support, options are open, which are not open to others, but the adhesive and support must be chosen wisely. 

    Acrylic dispersions are adhesive candidates, but they have low tack. One option would be to apply gloss acrylic medium to the support and the back of the watercolor and allow it to dry for 2 weeks. Then the surfactant which has come out of the acrylic can be washed off with water and when things are dry, the two surfaces can be bonded with heat. This will create a permanent bond. Klucel G, hydroxypropyl cellulose can be mixed (1 part HPC to 3-4 parts alcohol) with isopropyl alcohol to create a gel which can be used as an adhesive. This should be soluble and reversible, but it may not stick to all surfaces, and a layer of acrylic medium (washed after 2 weeks)  may be needed to prime the support surface.

    Dibond and Alucobond are Swiss made aluminum/polyethylene laminates, which can be used as supports. If a water base adhesive is used, there may be problems with the paper warping the support, so the Klucel G/ alcohol has an advantage, here. 

    Other options are aluminum/polypropylene polyflute composite boards, which can be found at  under the  names of D-lite = 3mil, Aluma-lite =4 mil, and Pro-lite = 10 mil. 

    A final possibility is the polypropylene honeycomb board made by Coroplast and sold as Stinger Board, which can be found at: Harbor Sales  - 1000 Harbor Ct, Sudlersville, MD 21668.

    The wisest play would be to laminate the watercolor paper, before creating the art, but if the adhesive is Klucel G. its reactivity to water may cause it to release, so it should be used after the painting is done.

    Hugh Phibbs

    Preservation Specialist

    2020-02-18 15:29:06

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