How I Store My Watercolor Paintings

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A lot of you have been asking me how I store my paintings, so here it goes.

Before — when I didn’t know any better — I would store my watercolor artworks by wrapping them in book plastic covers and securing with scotch tape or masking tape. Then, done. But after a few years of research and suggestions from friends, I learned there are more appropriate ways on how to store your artworks to help them last longer especially in this tropical, humid climate.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming this is the only way you can store unframed paper works. This is only based from personal practice and experiences of myself and fellow artist friends. Feel free to suggest if you have better options. 😉

Acid-free and Archival-safe

Acid plays a great role in speeding up the decay of paper, making it yellow and brittle over time. Since most of my artworks are paper works (and watercolor too), I make sure that the materials I use in storing are acid-free and archival-safe. These are mandatory qualities for me and I can be very particular when it comes to this one. Look for the acid-free label in the material you’ll be using — it’s usually included in the description.

Archival-safe materials means materials/supplies that are specially treated to protect and preserve works from damage caused by acid, dirt, pests, and sunlight (among other things) over time. These are supposed to help preserve your artworks so they can last longer. Archival-safe materials usually are already acid-free. Make sure to look for the archival label in the description of the material, or better yet ask your supplier.

Don’t be scared to do a little research on the pH-level and other qualities of the materials you’ll be using. You’ll thank yourself in the future. 😉

Okay, so here are the materials I use:

Glassine Sheets

I learned about this from a friend. Glassine paper sheets are translucent, unbuffered, grease and acid-free papers usually used in protecting photos, artworks, documents, etc. I wrap my artworks with glassine papers individually and fully, making sure all sides are covered.

Glassine sheets are actually really cheap, too! Got my roll of 24 sheets for only PHP 60 (USD 1.14). You can buy glassine sheets here at Tutubing Karayom PH.

Artist Tape

Next, I secure the glassine sheets with an equally acid-free artist tape. Since you’ve started with an acid-free wrapper, might as well go acid-free all the way! I learned from a fellow artist that it would be pointless if you use a non-acid-free material on an acid-free material.

You can buy artist tapes in specialized art stores. Price range is PHP 390 to PHP 680 per roll, depending on the width of the tape. I got mine at Art Nebula PH. I bought the 1″ wide one so I can also use it in (dry) stretching my papers.

Archival Polypropylene Envelope

After wrapping and securing my paintings, I place them all in an acid-free envelope.  I use the Itoya Polyzip Art & Photo Envelope. It’s made of polypropylene, and is transparent. It’s also acid and lignin-free and archival safe. It has a zip closure which tightly seals it, protecting the works from moisture and dust. I bought the 19″ x 15″ one for only less than PHP 300 (USD 5.70) at Fullybooked Greenbelt 5 branch. It’s also being sold at Amazon. I’m not sure if prices have already changed, though.

Adding it all up, I spent more or less PHP 1,000 (USD 20) for my storage materials. I haven’t even used up all of my glassine sheets and tape. I know archival materials are expensive (i.e. the tapes), but it’s better to invest in acid-free, high quality archival materials if you want to preserve your works, especially if you’re thinking of selling them too.

Store in a cool, dry place.

It doesn’t end in the materials, of course. You need to store it in a cool, dry place — away from direct sunlight (preferably indoors). Make sure to store them in climate-controlled places.

I’m very much interested in how you store your artworks. They may be better than mine. Let me know through the comments box below! 🙂

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