Should I attach the paper before or after painting? If I paint first, I can toss anything I’m not fond of and not waste the panel. But if I adhere the paper first, it stays flat — no buckling while painting, even loaded with water. So I tried it both ways and found, as often is the case, there’s not one right answer.
The good news is: either way works.
Adhering first there’s no need to stretch, the paper stays perfectly flat as I paint. I can leave the edges as an overhang to protect the wood, cover the wood with painter’s tape, or both.
Of course, that perfect balance between advance planning and spontaneity can be elusive. Painting before adhering to the panel does allow one to make decisions about the cradle later. I found using a larger cradle with exposed wood on the front face was a better look, overall. And stretching paper on a board for painting keeps the paper completely flat while working this way.
This painting was started on a stretched piece of watercolor paper and transferred to the cradle after painting.
Here’s a similar painting of a magnolia blossom in progress, attached to panel first. You can see how it stays perfectly flat. Notice the paper extends beyond the cradle for easy trimming later.