Often artists will create a drawing or sketch on paper, and then want to adhere it to a stretched canvas to create a stronger support, and even to continue adding subsequent layers of paint.

Here are instructions for a way to glue paper smoothly onto canvas, without wrinkles. Read through the instructions first, and make sure to have all your supplies prepared and close at hand when you are ready to begin the process. It is important to do all the steps quickly without any lag time in between, as that can cause issues.

Start with a canvas that is stretched and primed with gesso so it isn’t too absorbent. You can also use these instructions to glue paper onto wood panel and other supports. If using raw canvas or raw wood, it is recommended to seal the support first. If the support is not sealed, and is too absorbent, there is a risk that the glue will sink into the surface too fast, before you get a chance to apply the paper. This is the main reason paper gets wrinkled – due to areas where the glue is no longer wet when the paper is applied.

The paper you want to adhere onto the surface should be a bit larger then the canvas you want to glue it to. Ideally the paper should have at least 1/2″ excess on all sides, so that this can be chopped off later. Apply an acrylic gel or acrylic gesso (both undiluted with water) onto the canvas (or other type of support). I like to apply the gel with a knife, and the gesso with a brush. While the acrylic is still wet, place the paper over it. If the paper you are glueing has a drawing on it, apply a piece of tissue or clean sheet of paper over it, so you can smooth it out without smearing the drawing. Using your hands smooth the paper into the wet acrylic starting from the center and moving outwards towards the edges. The paper will stretch as it gets wet from the acrylic, and will move over the edges, so you end up losing about 1/2″ of the drawing along the borders. When it is all smooth, let it dry. After it’s dry you can easily trim the excess paper by running a single edge blade along the outside edges. This technique gives a very clean edge so you can’t tell the paper has been glued.

More Tips: Place boards, books or something rigid under the canvas to give it support, so when you rub the paper to smooth it out it won’t sink down in the center with the canvas. The most important thing is to make sure the acrylic is still wet everywhere when you put the paper over it. If the acrylic dries in areas you will get wrinkles there. When you are working with a large size, or in a dry hot climate, you can first apply a gloss medium or gel to the primed canvas. Let this dry. Now the surface is less absorbent, so when you apply the acrylic it won’t dry as fast.

Nancy Reyner, professional painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.