Let’s talk paper for watercolor paper.
As writers whose watercolor painting days were limited to kindergarten, we realized we needed help from experts (students and artists) to get the skinny on the best watercolor paper. So we asked a few folks who are watercolor paint enthusiasts for their favorites.
We learned there are three types of watercolor paper: hot press, cold press and rough press. The basic difference is the texture and how the papers absorb water. Most folks prefer cold press since rough press can be too, well, rough while hot press is too smooth. So this article focuses on cold press watercolor paper.
As you might expect with any art supply, there are two basic grades for paper: student and artist. The former is less expensive, while artist paper is higher quality (example: 100% cotton) . . . which is also more pricey, as you’d expect.
Finally, watercolor paper comes in various forms: blocks, pads, rolls and sheets.
We found a good explanation of watercolor paper block from the web site Draw And Paint For Fun:
A watercolor block is a pad of watercolor paper that’s bound on all sides with a coating of a rubber like material. You paint on the top sheet of paper and then remove it after it dries flat. To separate the painting from the block, insert a dull palette knife into the gap in the binding and run it around all four edges.
Why would you get watercolor paper in block form versus pads (bound at the top) or loose sheets?
Watercolor paper has a tendency to buckle when it gets wet. One way to get watercolor paper to dry flat is to stretch it. This is somewhat of a tedious task, and a watercolor block will allow you to skip this process.
For the best watercolor paper block, we’d recommend Arches. This well-known paper made in France is our pick for best for framing—that’s because it can absorb a good amount of water without warping or bleeding.
What We Liked
• Works well for several techniques, including wet on wet.
• 100% cotton.
• Great for intermediate students.
• Light grain and texture.
• Sized with gelatin to prevent tearing.
What Needs Work
• Pricey. Yes, this paper is a splurge . . . but great if you want to take watercolor painting to the next level.