Watercolor Basics: All About Paper

Learning about paper is about as exciting as watching paint dry but it is a necessary evil when learning about watercolors.

First thing to address is Paper Weight.  Paper weight determines the price of the paper and the thickness of the paper.  Think of it this way the thicker the paper the thinner your wallet.

Paper Weight:

  • 400 Pound is the thickest almost like a board
  • 300 Pound a little thinner
  • 140 Pound is standard – most pre-cut tablets are 140#.  It is a good all purpose watercolor paper weight.
  • 75 Pound is thin – this is like a sketchbook paper.  Prone to wrinkling.

The next important thing to consider is surface texture – I admit this part of watercolor paper has always confused me.  This comes typically comes in 3 textures: Hot Pressed, Cold Pressed, and Rag.  Of course country origin (i.e. German, English, French, etc.) and how paper is cast (handmade or poured) can also affect price as well as surface texture.  Standard for surface textures are Hot Pressed, Cold Pressed, and Rag.

  • Hot Pressed is a smooth texture.  I like to think of this almost as an illustration board.  Very smooth no tooth or texture to the paper.  I try to think of it as a hot iron, ironing out the surface to make it smooth.
  • Cold Pressed has a medium to rough texture.  This is the best paper to use for beginners and most watercolor artists use Cold Pressed paper.  Think of this as goose bumps, when you get cold you get goose bumps.  Cold pressed leaves goose bumps.
  • Rag Paper is very rough.  I personally am not a fan of rag paper because I find the fibers can break apart if an area is worked too much in a painting.  I think of this as kitchen sink paper – they put everything and anything in it so it is bumpy and rough.

How can you buy paper?

Well you can buy paper in tablets (blocks), sheets, or rolls.  For example:  22×30” loose or in quire of 25 sheets.  25”x40” Elephant Sheets or a roll which is 43” wide by 10 yards long.  Blocks usually smaller sizes 140# glued at the edges and can be separated with a knife.  I personally hate these because I always rip the paper when separating the paper from the block.  I like to buy tablets because I don’t destroy the paper separating everything.

If you have any questions about paper feel free to contact me or watch The Paint Box TODAY at NOON EST.

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