Tested brands in alphabetical order:
Arches 300gsm NOT 100% cotton
Canson Fontenay 300gsm NOT 100% cotton
Canson Montval 300gsm NOT 100” acid free cellulose
Centenaire 300gsm NOT and rough 100% cotton
Daler-Rowney Aquafine 300gsm NOT 100% acid free cellulose
Fabriano 300gsm hot press 100% cotton
Lanaquarelle 300gsm hot press 100% cotton
My watercolour paper collection has been steadily growing throughout the years. Some of them are used on a daily basis and others haven’t been touched yet. Therefore I’ve decided it’s time to give them a closer look and to discover more about their properties and whatever special features some of them might surprise us with.
The best kind of watercolour paper is made of 100% cotton rag. To prevent bleeding the paper needs some sizing. This means gelatine is added to the paper pulp and to the surface of the sheet. Studio range papers are usually made from high quality wood cellulose sometimes with the addition of varying percentages of cotton rag. Some papers are manufactured from bamboo, esparto grass or other natural fibres.
Some papers are mould-made and some are produced on a machine. The mould-made papers have irregular edges and are usually more expensive than machine-made papers.
The thickness of watercolor paper is indicated by its weight, measured either in grams per square metre (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb).
Watercolour paper is most commonly offered in following weights:
European papers are usually
The standard paper usually is a 140lb paper. There are thinner and thicker papers, but they usually aren’t in stock at smaller retailers and might have to be purchased by special order.
Thinner paper will need stretching if you don’t want it to buckle.
140lb paper is the most economic choice because it’s thick enough not to buckle too much and still more affordable than thick watercolour board.
Watercolour papers can have three kinds of surfaces: hot press, cold press and rough.
Hot press paper is very smooth to the touch. It is mainly used for wet on dry techniques and allows very fine detail.
Cold press paper (also called NOT) has a fine tooth. Texture may vary from brand to brand. Cold press is a lovely all-purpose paper that allows larger washes and finer details. It’s therefore the most commonly offered paper.
Rough paper comes in two varieties. Some rough papers have a very textured surface, others have a smoother but cloudy texture called “Torchon”. Rough watercolour paper takes water very well and allows for dynamic wet on wet techniques. It’s usually not very suitable for detailed work due to its coarse texture although Torchon may allow some rather charming results with finer brushes.
Most watercolour papers are off-white. Some like Arches and Fabriano satin are more yellowish, some others like Saunders Waterford appear more white. Some companies offer some “extra white” versions.
Watercolour paper is offered in blocks, pads, sheets and rolls. Rolls are the most economic option, glued pads are the most expensive. Sheets are my favourites because I can cut them to the size I want and they're nice and flat. Retailers often have a cutting machine in their shop, so one can cut large sheets there. Some online retailers even offer to cut largers sheets into smaller sizes: www.artsupplies.co.uk/item-sau…
Links that might be useful for more detailed information: