Comparing 10 Different Watercolor Papers

A lot of us give up on using watercolor, not because we don’t enjoy it, but it is the experience that puts us off. It takes a lot of trial and error before we get the “feeling” that suits us – the experience can come from the paint itself, the brush, the paper or the object that you are painting. Today we are tackling the paper.

In this comparison, we have selected 10 different papers that are produced with the various processes, different weight, and also different surface.

To put the paper to test, we will be doing a dry-on-dry (means painting the watercolor directly onto the paper without mixing any water), wet-on-wet (means to wet the paper before applying the paint), and sketching with a pencil to see the surface roughness.

  • Regular use: Usually there isn’t an issue with regular usage – wet your brush, dip into the paint and paint on the paper. However, on some severely rough paper, the paint might not cover the depth of the deep pores if your paint is too dry.
  • Wet-on-wet: The true test of the watercolor paper is the wet-on-wet technique. You’ll be able to see if the paper absorbs too much water or vice versa. You can also determine whether your paint will be mixed together cohesively to form a natural gradient and will there be debris granulating out of the paper when applying too much water.
  • Pencil sketch: The pencil sketch is a demonstration of how your pencil sketch will perform on the paper. Commonly, the more coarse the surface is, the harder for you to draw a pristine line on the paper.

Albireo 100% Cellulose Special Watercolor 218gsm Smooth Surface

The wet area completely bulging up. Water absorption is average. The paint seems to have the mind of its own when I tried to blend the two colors. It works better on wet-on-wet technique, but you have to endure with the paper being uneven after being in contact with water.

Clairefontaine Aquarelle Etival Watercolor Cold Pressed 300gsm

The paint disburses freely within the wet area but did not run out of it. The color mixed evenly. The water absorption is average so you have the time to manage the paint. One thing to note, the paint looks washed off although applied generously.

Canson Moulin du Roy 100% Cotton Watercolor Paper 300gsm

The first impression I had when painting on this paper is – water absorbs too fast. It takes a lot of water to create the wet-on-wet technique. Grains starts to appear as I kept adding water which makes the noise effect on the paint. The surface is very smooth.

Arto 25% Cotton Cold Pressed 200gsm

The paper curves up when in contact with water. It creates a lump and pool on the surface. When the pool collects water, it creates darker shades. It absorbs water too quickly that’s why the paint didn’t blend well. There’s no time to work with the mixing.

Arto 100% Cellulose Cold Pressed 300gsm Medium Surface

This is by far the paper that I least prefer. The quality is general and it doesn’t blend well even with lots of water adding into the paint. The paper surface has a weaving texture.

Arto Hot Pressed 300gsm Royal Series

It takes a lot of effort to blend the colors. Grains immediately appears as I first applied color on the paper. It doesn’t lift up to its name. But the surface is very smooth for pencil sketching.

Arto 100% Cotton Cold Pressed 300gsm Medium Surface

The paper quality is average. It has a few lumps when the paper is saturated but generally, the paper behaves really well.

Bao Hong 100% Cotton 300gsm Medium Surface

The paint spreads in vein-like motion, which means it isn’t good for semi-wet painting. It blends perfectly but it takes a little effort to maneuver the paint so not to spread too fast. Drying time is extremely fast.

Arches Watercolor 100% Cotton Cold Pressed 300gsm

This is by far my most favorite paper. The texture is noticeably smooth. It blends perfectly and withstands lots of water. The paper doesn’t absorb the water too fast, leaving time for you to work out the paint.

Bao Hong 100% Cotton 300gsm Rough Surface

Again like the other Bao Hong paper, this paper spreads in vein-like motion. I think it is the production process that makes the paper behave this way. It is easy to control your paint, however, the paint overlaps each other instead of blending in – this shows that the absorption rate is high.

This comparison merely showing you the quality of the paper. It takes the actual experience of using it to know whether the paper suits your liking. The good news is, you are able to purchase all of these paper (one each) from Stickerrific. This bundle allows you to try the different types of paper before settling on the one you prefer.

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