Thursday, July 31, 2014

Watercolor Paper Comparison - Watercolor Paints

In case you're just joining me I am comparing 15 different types/brands of watercolor paper using a variety of inks, paints and other mediums.

You can find the previous installments at the links below:

Intro into wc papers + links & prices.

Shows 6 different types of perm. stamping ink on each paper.

And today I wanted to show you how watercolor paints look & preform on each sheet of watercolor paper. I am using a couple different brands of watercolors available in cute travel sets.  I choose to use these two because they seem to be readily available and you can choose from a basic set to one that offers a wider range of colors without breaking the bank.

The first is the Daler-Rowney I found at Wal-Mart.  I think it was around $7-8.00 and comes with 12 different colors.

The second kit is Sakura's Koi Watercolor Pocket Field Sketch Box. It offers 24 colors as well as a travel size waterbrush which is what I used for all of the test examples.  It was priced at $35.00 at Hobby Lobby but with a handy dandy 40% off coupon it was a fraction of that price :)

 Originally I had intended on coloring one of each of the stamped pear images I stamped in Part 2.  This was my first...lots of small details and several layers of color on the pears - letting each dry in between...  Well, it was taking a LONG time...over 20 minutes (including dry times).  Figure 20-25 minutes for 15 different types of paper - over 5 hours of painting!  Scratch that...


So I went the easy route and decided that a couple swishes of paint would do the trick nicely.  Red is the Koi and Blue is from the D-R set.  I've added a few observations below each type...

Arches Hot Press 140lb - WONDERFUL paper - colors apply smooth, even and blend down beautifully.  No paper buckling or warping at all.

Arches Cold Press 140lb -Love this paper - preforms just as well as the Hot Press.  Soaks in more quickly than the HP so you don't get the puddle-y watercolor look as the HP.  No warping at all - love the thick feel and texture as well.

Bienfng 90lb Student WC paper - Blends nicely, does buckle and warp a bit with more water added.  Didn't soak through but it felt like it could if you really added several layers of water/paint.  Interesting texture shows up in the paint strokes (especially the blue).

Canson Mixed Media Paper - Says it's good for WC but not so sure about that.  Takes paint great but with very many layers it does buckle quite a bit.  

Canson 140lb Cold Press - Lovely paper - takes paint well, soaks in relatively quick.  This paper has a front and back side - the front side which is shown above has a slight texture but the back has the smooth feel of a hot press paper.  Great option and both sides work super.

Crayola WC Paper - O.k...I didn't mean to raise anyone's hopes when I mentioned I was going to add this to the comparison.  I bought it because it was cheap and said it was for WC.  Well, to be honest it felt like regular copy paper and it preformed just about as well.  It has no texture and is VERY thin...the paint looks nice on the paper but it warped, buckled, curled, etc.  Not something you'd want to use for cards, scrapbooks, etc.

Dick Blick Mixed Media Paper - Takes the paint amazingly well.  Blends easily and with one or two layers doesn't buckle.  It does however begin to buckle after a few layers of water/paint.  No real texture to speak of which you may or may not want for your particular project. 

Dick Blick Student Watercolor Paper 90lb - I was surprised, for the price this is great paper.  The first couple layers of paint/water go on smooth and don't buckle or warp at all.  It did soak in quickly so you're gonna need quite a bit more paint and water. After several layers it did buckle and warp a bit but not as much as you'd think.  Love the texture.

Dick Blick Cold Press 140lb - Another surprise.  I didn't think for the price it would preform nearly as well as it did.  Takes colors well, doesn't soak in too quick so you can blend and you also get the fun puddle-y look. It has a medium amount of texture so it's not overly pitted nor completely smooth like a hot press. Took several layers of water/paint with a minimal amount of warping.  Nothing that a good book wouldn't flatten out in a short amount of time.

Fabrino Artistico Cold Press 90lb - Surprising for a 90lb watercolor paper.  Took paints very well, blended easily and even after several coats of paint held up well with a minimal amount of warping.  Not a deep texture but still slightly visible.

Fabrino Studio Cold Press 95 lb - Color blends very nice on this paper but soaks in very quickly.  It took two applications to get this much blue applied to the paper which isn't much compared to some of the others. Minimal warping with several layers.

Hero Hues Felt Finish 100 lb - Paints blend nicely but with just a couple layers it begins to warp and buckle.  The "Felt Finish" offers a low profile texture - much finer than other WC papers.  Would work well with highly detailed stamped images.

Ranger WC paper - Really nice thick paper takes the colors beautifully.  Blends super easy and doesn't warp or buckle until about the 4th layer of paint/water. This paper is nice as it offers a texture on the front and a smooth Hot Press like surface on the back.  I do have two things I want to let you know about...the first is the stark bright white of the paper which may or may not be what you're looking for.  The second is that the texture runs vertically instead of random or horizontally as it does with most WC papers.  You could of course turn it on it's side but sometimes that might not be possible especially if you buy the smaller Distress panels. 

Simon Says Stamp Watercolor Paper - Lovely paper - takes colors nicely and blends wonderfully.  The texture is very slight but it takes paint very well.  Would be great for lots of detail.  It does tend to buckle just a bit after several layers of paint/water.

Strathmore Cold Press 140lb - Lovely paper - takes paint wonderfully, blends easily, takes several coats with virtually no buckling or warping.  Has a nice low profile texture that shows up well but wouldn't detract from detailed images.   

So, there you go...
I know which papers I would prefer but I want to hear what you think...
Thoughts, questions, comments...
love to hear 'em!


  1. This is so helpful! I find the price differential fascinating in light of the performance. If paper DOES NOT buckle after four layers, I wonder if we should inform the Department of Defense!! Thanks so much for this, Roni.

  2. I've always used a heavy cold press WC paper, but I've never compared and tested different brands myself. This is very helpful. Would love to know which papers you liked best. :)

  3. So many people do not take the time to leave a message and I think that if you took the time to do all this research, we should at least comment. I was somewhat surprised. Guess I won't be purchasing Crayola paper!! I am just beginning to use different mediums for coloring so I do not have an opinion. I do like the texture in WC paper:) thanks for all your effort.

  4. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this info. There are so many grades of WC paper, I often wondered how some compared to each other...thanks to you, the guess work I'd done!

  5. I'm just starting to watercolor (the Koi Field set is great!) and taking's watercolor class so your research is very timely for me. Thanks so much for doing all of this work. I'll be be very interested in reading your final summary/recommendations!

  6. Another great comparison!!! I sure was hoping Crayola would work as well as it did with the ink but alas, I think I will stick with Dick Blick!!! Can't wait to see what you do next. Thanks again for this wonderfully helpful series!!!

  7. I just love the look of the watercolor on the hot pressed paper. Thanks again for the comparison

  8. Thanks for all your comparisons. I haven't done a lot of watercoloring, but what I have done, I used the strathmore cold press 140lb. I think I will stay with that.


Thanks for your thoughts and comments!