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Flat File Storage For Watercolor Paper

Watercolorists need flat file storage for paper so that it doesn't buckle, or worse yet, get bent!  Many times, when I didn't put mine away properly, edges would get bent and that tears the fibers, causing paint to gather in the wounded area.

Flat File Storage is the answer, and they come large enough to store full sheets of paper that are 22" x 30", and larger. I had mine made by Amish carpenters, since I live near an Amish community in Northeast Ohio, and they do beautiful woodworking. Watercolor paper needs to be flat when you begin to work on it, and a vertical storage just will not work. Mine looks like this:

Flat File Storage 1

It is made of Oak, but equally good ones can be made of Birch.  You don't need to have one custom made, but since paper needs to lie flat, you will need something like this.

I have researched some different flat file storage options to recommend to my students and their different needs. Here are some good options for you:



Open Flat Files

Safco Giant Stacking TrayThere are “open" flat files that offer the ability to add stackable trays up to 5 feet high. So you only have purchase the number of trays that you really need. These are made by Safco, and called the Safco Giant Stacking Tray

Giant Stacking Trays provide economical flat file storage for the studio, home, office, or classroom. Create a durable and efficient flat filing system at a fraction of the cost of other products. Trays can be stacked up to 5 feet high and have a hefty, 40 lb (18 kg) per tray load capacity. Inside dimensions are 2" H x 42-1/2" W 32-1/2" D, big enough to accommodate most prints, drawings, papers, etc. Materials are always visible and accessible.

A top with an attractive, light oak finish is also available. Trays are made of heavy-duty, steel-reinforced polyethylene, so they will last for years to come. Use them alone or with existing filing systems for extra storage space. Trays are sold by the carton — each carton contains 2 trays. A smaller version of the Giant Stacking Trays, Small Stacking Trays measure 39" wide x 26" deep x 3" high. Inside dimensions are 36-3/8" wide x 24-1/4" deep x 2" high. Sold in cartons of 2 trays.

Closed Flat Files

SMI Oak Flat Storage FilesYou can also use flat files that have closed drawers made of oak or birch. They need to be made of hard wood to prevent sagging under the weight of the paper you place in them. Oak and Birch are extremely dense and hard woods and offer excellent choices.

SMI makes flat files of both of these products.
SMI Oak flat files can be ordered in three sizes.

  • Small, for papers up to 24" x 36"

  • Medium, for papers up to 30" x 42"

  • Large, for papers up to 36" x 48"

Combining beauty and function, these gorgeous oak files store your materials with class. Drawer fronts are solid oak, not veneer. Drawer sides are made from the highest quality, solid wood drawer material. Bottoms are smooth hardwood, and all drawers are equipped with a rear hood. All four edges are rounded, and each drawer is fitted with two solid brass drawer pulls. Stackable by size in any combination of 3-drawer , 5-drawer , or bookshelf units for additional storage. Units are available in three standard sizes: Small, for papers up to 24" x 36" Medium, for papers up to 30" x 42" Large, for papers up to 36" x 48" Components and casters are available in Natural Oak and Medium Oak finishes. File units, caps, and bases are sold separately.

The natural birch flat file storage unit can also be ordered with a bookshelf on the top.
Casters may be ordered for easy move-ability. All components come separate, so you would need to pay attention when ordering. The natural birch files come in four sizes.

  • Small, for papers up to 18" x 24"

  • Medium, for papers up to 24" x 36"

  • Large, for papers up to 30" x 42"

  • Extra Large, for papers up to 36" x 48"

Safco 5-Drawer Steel Flat FilesThe metal units do come larger than the wood, if you need larger drawers. The largest drawer size if 50" x 38.75". And units bolt together if you need to stack them.



SMI Unfinished Natural Birch Flat FilesThis is the same design that I had flat file storage unit made from. Casters can be ordered for these. I would recommend casters, as I had my files built by Amish workers and they didn't include casters. The units rest on a base and when trying to move them, they slide off the base. Casters would be welcomed! I wish I had some!

Available in four standard sizes:

  • Small, for papers up to 18" x 24"

  • Medium, for papers up to 24" x 36"

  • Large, for papers up to 30" x 42"

  • Extra Large, for papers up to 36" x 48"

My suggestion for your studio is to order a Medium one for your printing papers, and to store smaller prints. The larger one for your watercolor surfaces (especially papers). Claybord, Rtistx board, and stretched watercolor canvases can be stored in a vertical position.

Good luck in your choices!

Return to Watercolor Paper from Flat File Storage

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