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What Choices Do You Need to Make Before Buying Watercolor Paper?

Never underestimate the impact of the paper you choose to use to paint a watercolor painting.
Fine artists generally select fine watercolor papers by finish and by weight.
But, there's a whole lot more to consider.
Watercolor papers come in three basic finishes, each with different textures ...
  • Hot pressed (HP) which has a smooth surface
  • Cold press (CP) known as "Not" (not hot pressed) in the UK, which usually has a medium texture
  • Rough (R) which, naturally, has a rougher texture
Paper absorbency...
Watercolor papers are traditionally sized, a treatment which reduces the tendency of the paper to absorb water.
  • HP papers have a high degree of sizing giving maximum absorbency resistance
  • CP papers are treated to less sizing which allows water to soak into the paper fibers.
    This gives you a wider scope for color density and tone that lends itself better towards traditional watercolor applications
Hot pressed paper is generally used by illustrators and designers for crispness and detail.
Cold pressed papers, including Rough papers, are best suited for traditional watercolor techniques.
Paper sizes...
Best quality watercolor paper can come in a range of sizes.
You can get the best value by dividing a Full sheet (22" x 30") into smaller sheets...
  • Half sheets (15" x 22")
  • Quarter sheets (15" x 11")
Divide them again and you get 8 sheets at 7.
5" x 5.
5" Paper weights...
You can also choose different weights, which traditionally represent the weight in pounds of one ream or 500 sheets of the paper...
The most popular weights are 140lb (approximately 300 gsm.
) and 300lb.
When you choose your paper remember that the lighter weight paper will need to be stretched to prevent cockling.
Choose heavier weight paper for larger size paintings or if you don't want the hassle of stretching.
Also, heavier paper weight will be best if you use heavy wet washes Paper colors...
Typically watercolor papers are almost pure white.
However, if you shop around you can find that many tinted or colored papers are also available.
Hand-made or machine-made paper...
You can usually tell the difference between handmade paper and machine (mould-made) paper by the rough (deckle) edges.
For handmade paper you will find each of the 4 edges have natural coarse edges.
Machine made paper, which is made into large rolls, will have cut edges.
Although many artists will not notice, hand-made paper is stronger.
Because the fibers lay haphazardly they have the same strength in all directions.
Machine-made paper generally has fibers that lie in the direction of the rollers.
This gives the main strength in one direction only.
The other effect that you might discover when you are painting is that machine-made paper cockles more in one direction.
Don't worry...
it is unlikely that this will cause you any problems.
Ultimately, the choice of watercolor paper is your own...
  • Hot pressed (HP) papers are best when you want bright color because the surface is relatively nonabsorbent.
    Because water isn't absorbed the color remains on the surface, precisely where you put it
  • Alternatively, Cold pressed (CP) papers are more versatile.
    With the dimpled, semi-absorbent wove finish you will find an endless variety of watercolor can be tried and tested

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