How to Choose the Right Watercolor Paper to Get Started

In watercolor painting, choosing watercolor paper is crucial. Not all paper is applicable for watercolor painting so one must know the different types of watercolor paper. There are specific kinds of watercolor paper that will suit a person’s skills in watercolor painting.

Watercolor painting is known to be as one of the hardest medium to master. It takes skills and passion to be able to perfect this form of art. In watercolor painting, choosing watercolor paper is crucial. Not all paper is applicable for watercolor painting so one must know the different types of watercolor paper. There are specific kinds of watercolor paper that will suit a person’s skills in watercolor painting.

Watercolor paper may differ in forms and sizes and these differences have an effect on the painting’s outcome. For a watercolorist, you must choose the right watercolor paper. Watercolor papers are sorted into three kinds. These are the hot press paper, cold press paper and the rough paper or also known as coarse paper. These three varies on the surface texture of the papers, the surface texture is referred to as “tooth”.

Hot press watercolor paper has the smoothest tooth among the three that’s why it is simply labeled as smooth. Watercolorist who wants a little bit of challenge in their work uses this type of paper because it takes good skills to work on hot press paper. Fine controlled lines and radiant colors best suit in this paper and also the combination of watercolor and pen-and-ink works well with this paper. The paint dries quicker in this paper. Cold press watercolor paper has a medium tooth and paints do not dry rapidly. This type of watercolor paper is advisable to use for watercolor beginners because it has versatile surface that is easy to work on and can work on most watercolor techniques. The last category is the rough/coarse watercolor paper. The texture of the paper is rough, really rough. If you’re a beginner, this type of paper is a challenge for you because it is hard to control the paint and it dries up very slowly yet old hand in watercolor painting takes this as a benefit. And if you’re more into large scale painting and bold brushwork, watercolor paper is the best choice.

Aside from the type of papers, the price and quality of the watercolor papers also varies. Watercolor papers can be made of wood or rag. Normally, watercolor paper made from wood has low quality and cheaper. While watercolor paper made from rag has higher quality and expensive. If you want a beautiful painting it is better to choose rag paper over wood paper. The weight of the paper also matter. The weight of the watercolor paper is measured by pounds, the heavier the paper the best it is to work with. Most watercolorists use 140lb because it works well for every purpose. Large scale paintings and heavy washes must use heavier paper and 300lb is very common for this. The format of the watercolor paper also varies from pads, blocks, sheets and rolls. Pads are like sketchbook and easy to tear. Blocks have four edges of the paper bound together. Sheets are best if you want to use a single paper to avoid compromising the entire pads. And rolls are usually long and economical.  

Other factor that needs to be considered before purchasing watercolor paper is the acidity of the paper. It is best to choose acid-free paper. Acidic paper will eventually slowly wipe out your painting. The whiteness of the paper also varies for every watercolorist, some would choose very white paper while some likes off-white. It is also important to buy papers that are still sealed especially if you don’t want your fingerprints all over the paper.

There are things to consider when choosing watercolor paper. It is best if you must know it first so that you will know what paper suits for you and to avoid spoiling you painting.




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Sheila B  - Thanks   |:
Very helpful..BUT
You did not mention canvas board.
Is there a reason for this
omission?
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