Monday, July 28, 2014

Watercolor Paper Comparison - Part 1

I am happy to finally bring you my watercolor paper comparison.  I have narrowed it down to 15 different papers to share with you.  I will be testing inks, paints, and other mediums showing you the results on each type of paper as well as sharing links and prices for each.

There are three main types of watercolor paper:

Rough paper is chosen for its definite texture. It is the natural result when a sheet is allowed to air dry without smoothing or pressing. Rough surface paper is a good choice for transparent watercolors used in a bold and immediate style, as it allows the pigment of color washes to settle into the hollows of the paper. Pastel artists also generally prefer a paper with "tooth" or texture to grab onto the pastel pigment.

Cold Press paper, which is the most popular, common and versatile watercolor paper has a slight texture. Handmade papers achieve this texture by re-pressing a new, wet sheet, which will smooth the surface to some degree. Machine-made papers achieve a similar effect by placing the wet sheets between cold metal rollers.  Cold press paper is available with a variety of texture designs pressed into the paper – these designs vary from manufacture to manufacture.

Not/Cold Press: A "Not" sheet means it is "not hot press," and the term is sometimes used instead of cold press. 

Hot Press paper is very smooth. It is made by running a freshly formed sheet through heated metal rollers or plates. Much like a clothes iron, these heated plates smooth out any texture left by the earlier stages in the manufacturing process and creates a flat, hard, featureless surface. This type of paper is a good choice for highly detailed illustrations, it is also used for printmaking, etching, drafting, sketching and drawing.

The photos below shows the difference between a hot and cold press watercolor paper... (you can click on each photo to enlarge for a close up view.)

You can visibly see the texture difference.  The weight feels approx. the same but the surface of the papers is totally different.  The cold press feels toothy, just like it looks.  The hot press paper has a totally different feel - so very flat and smooth.

Here is the list of papers I will be comparing.... The first photo is natural light, the second is with the flash.  Links and price list follow.  I was amazed at the color differences once you get them side by side.  

I will also be testing Crayola's watercolor pad of paper....
10x8" - 50 sheets - $1.69

Just a note...I will only be showing Ranger's Watercolor Paper - The Distress Watercolor Cardstock looks and feels exactly the same but only cut into smaller pieces.  

Tomorrow I will share the results of stamping on the various types of WC paper with 6 different brands of black ink - Archival; Hero Arts; Memento; My Favorite Things Hybrid Ink; StazOn & VersaFine.  I was surprised at what I saw...I think you will be too!

In the coming days I will show you the following mediums on each of these papers - Solid Water Color Paints (Koi & Daler-Rowney); Watercolor Pencils; Watercolor Crayons; Distress Markers; Distress Stains, Distress Paints, Gelatos and Spray Inks. 

I won't be testing gouache paints since they are very similar to WC paints (just opaque) but if you have any other suggestions for mediums you'd like to see on the papers and I have them I'll be more than happy to test them.   PLMK soon...  Some papers are very small so I need to plan my sample areas carefully so I have enough room for each medium.  


  1. I didn't realize that Crayola made a WC paper!!
    My DD loves when I stamp stuff off and let her color/paint...however my WC paper I hoard! it's not cheap and it's hard for me to get a hold of....however I DO have a toys R Us close by and so I think I can easily get this for her!! TFS Roni!!

  2. Hi Roni,

    I'm amazed at all the paper choices that are out there. Thanks for explaining "cold press" paper. There definitely is a difference between the cold and hot press. Can't wait to see how working with the different mediums comes out.


  3. Timing of this is perfect for me. I have several different types of WC papers, but really don't know what I'm doing, other than just practicing or playing around with things. So thanks! Can't wait to see the stamping and mediums of them too.

  4. I am very interested in seeing the results of the various papers when using all those different products! Wow! This is going to be the best test run ever!!!!

  5. Roni, many thanks for this fabulous study on the watercolor papers! Another point about hot press paper is that it often comes in a block, glued on all 4-sides as opposed to a pad. This is designed to help prevent buckling. The artist works on top of the block and doesn't remove it until finished and dry.


Thanks for your thoughts and comments!