What Is a Watercolour Paper?

What Is a Watercolour Paper?

How to Choose a Watercolor Paper?

To draw a beautiful picture in watercolor, you need extensive experience and a steady increase in the mastery of the artist. However, it will be more complicated to write a worthwhile work without a high-quality basis no matter what skills and abilities in watercolor painting you possess.

Watercolor, as banal as it may sound, loves water very much. At the same time, the paper does not so. It happens that paper can warp and become wavy. Therefore, you should, whenever possible, choose suitable watercolor paper types, but then, do not forget about personal preferences when painting.

What Kind of Paper for Watercolor to Choose?

It is worth saying right away that there is no “bad” or “good” paper. Furthermore, it all depends on the intentions and style of the artist. For example, it makes no sense to buy absorbent rag paper if the technique involves multiple corrections (scrapings) and paint removal. Otherwise, you just ruin the surface with scratches and villi! Paper is on the stock in specialized stores for artists by retail, and you can also buy a watercolor paper roll. In case you do not know what kind of paper to use for watercolor, try out each one.

There are two main types of paper for watercolor painting:

  • •    factory-made;
  • •    hand-made.

Besides, each paper has its surface quality:

  • •    smooth;
  • •    semi-smooth;
  • •    rough.

Now more about everything!

Watercolor Paper Texture

The texture is divided into three types, each of which applies to a particular technique:

  • •    Smooth texture or hot pressing. Most artists choose it. The paint layer on such a surface dries quickly. Some people consider this type of paper to be too smooth and slippery, which creates a lot of inconveniences when working with ink. However, some people, on the contrary, consider the whole process as manageable enough to work even in a line technique.
  • •    Semi-smooth texture or cold pressing. These watercolor paper types may be marked as "cold paper", being a kind of golden mean. Cold pressing is recommended to artists with little experience since such a texture allows you to write out every detail and make big strokes at the same time. Also, one can experiment with various techniques.
  • •    Rough texture (drying without pressing): the tubercles and dents on such paper will be much more noticeable. In a way, such an embossed surface is not for those who are used to working with precise, even lines and realistic images.

For that matter, the effect of roughness creates due to the dents on the paper. It can tangibly convey the soundness of the buildings or damp weather to the audience. Nevertheless, the rough texture is for those artists who prefer the expressive texture, dry brush, brush strokes, slipping, and scraping.

What Does a Quality Watercolor Paper Look Like?

The high-quality watercolor paper should not roll in balls under the influence of a brush or soak. Also, when choosing paper, it is essential to look at its density - this is perhaps the main quality criterion! Beginners need the ones with a minimum density of 1.8 lb.ft2. There is, of course, more thick watercolor paper. Subsequently, one may notice a rule: paper becomes more expensive and more qualitative with increasing its thickness. However, beginners ought not to buy too expensive ones.

Tip: If your watercolor paper is not thick enough, then wet it, and stretch out, fixing it with buttons. After drying, the paper will be stretched evenly and will not warp during painting. Natural paper without chemical additives does not turn yellow over time. But, on the other hand, these additives reliably protect the paper from various influences.

What Do You Need to Learn?

  • •    Hot-pressed paper is acceptable for a la prima, graphics, and multi-layer painting. The glossy, dense surface makes the layer much more transparent than hot-pressed paper.
  • •    HP does not like any erasure, correction, or washing out. Otherwise, it is likely to flake. Consequently, this type of paper would be better for professionals who make no mistakes.
  • •    Canvas and linen basis are not suitable for watercolor.

Which Side of Watercolor Paper to Use?

Very often, artists do not know which side of watercolor paper to use if a sheet was torn out from a notebook or if you are confused about where the "front" side is. Most likely, you are wondering if there is a significant difference between both sides and how this may affect the result.

Frankly speaking, if you ask such a question, then the surface on different sides is particularly identical. That is a good sign because quality paper looks that way. Furthermore, each side is suitable for painting. However, there is a slight difference in properties between them, which is explained by the characteristics of production, as well as the density and size of the sheet. Try painting on both ones. You will notice no significant difference.

What Paper Do You Use for Watercolor - Cotton or Cellulose? Check It Out.

Recently, cotton watercolor paper has been trending. It is widely believed that drawing with watercolors makes sense exclusively on 100% cotton paper. Most watercolorists will tell you about this at their workshops. However, we are convinced that it is not quite right to consider cotton paper as the key to successful work. Both have their pros and cons.

Actually, it is important to know about its properties and choose paper following the set tasks. After all, if a cheap cellulose paper allows you to get the desired result, then why overpay by buying a cotton one?

For beginner watercolorists, the high cost of cotton can even become a serious deterrent to creativity because watercolor painting requires courage, patience, and a lot of paper, accordingly.

Cotton Watercolor Paper: Distinctive Features

Allows the Paint to Get Inside Fibers. Cotton paper has excellent absorbency. Furthermore, its qualities are close to cloth, while cellulose remains wood. If you compare these two substances, it will become clear that cotton has more absorbent properties than cellulose. The paint penetrates more deeply in cotton than in cellulose.

Cotton Paper Dries Longer than Cellulose. It means that while working on cotton, you do not need to rush, performing multicolor pourings. A wet medium of pouring will allow you to spread the pigment more evenly. Besides, an artist has more time to trace some details until the paint has dried. However, the same feature can be a minus in a humid medium. When painting by the sea, for example, you will have to wait a very long time until the first layer dries to continue working.

Cotton Paper Cause Paint to Fade. Such a feature is especially evident in the multi-layered painting. Pigments penetrate deep into the loose surface of the paper, losing their original brightness.

Cotton Retains Paint. The cotton watercolor paper provides more options for multi-layered painting. Since the paint goes deeply, it almost does not peel off when applying subsequent layers. You can apply the bottom layer, then moisten the paper again and paint the next layer. Cellulose, in turn, will not tolerate that.

Provides Beautiful Texture when Pouring. The biggest plus of cotton is that it looks visually different. For instance, the picture executed in a la prima technique with a large number of pouring, performed on a cotton thick watercolor paper, looks more noble and velvety than on the same work done on cellulose. By the way, pouring works well on cotton because such objects as water, sky, clouds require spreading, and a minimum of control.

Waterproofness. Among watercolor paper types, the cotton one is often very water-resistant; it allows you to scrab paint or wash off failed parts. Moreover, it is no matter how to use cotton watercolor paper when you wash off some elements, as opposed to cellulose. That allows you to correct all areas when needed.

Types of Paper for Watercolor Painting: Cotton or Cellulose?

In most cases, cellulose copes well with artistic tasks. The big plus of cellulose is that it is highly recommended for beginner artists such as it does not cost so much, and you can buy even the whole watercolor paper roll. By the way, practice is crucial for painting. For that matter, the more papers you spoil, the better. From this point of view, cellulose is appropriable for developing skills, searching for your technology.

First, decide on what you will draw, and then you will see whether you need cotton paper. By the way, pick it if you care to focus on color, speed, and scratch while painting. You will do it better with cellulose indeed. The brightness of the colors will be preserved as well. Besides, you will be able to work quickly, while maintaining emotions and inspiration.


  • •    Cotton paper can be a problem if you paint on an open-air in a humid environment, and you also need a quick result.
  • •    On cellulose paper, you can write beautiful clouds, water, and fog in the same way. Also, it will be easier for you to deal with.
  • •    If one writes in multi-layered mode, one assumes the presence of soft edges in the second and third layers of writing. However, on cellulose, this is almost impossible. Thus, you need cotton.
  • •    If one writes in multi-layered mode, one assumes the presence of soft edges in the second and third layers of writing. However, on cellulose, this is almost impossible. Thus, you need cotton. If you prefer dry painting, pouring with an infusion of color into the color and also want to take.
  • •    Switch to cotton paper to paint a portrait. It is the texture of cotton that can convey the velvetiness of the skin, create the softness of color overflows.

Thus, we have found out what watercolor paper is and how important it is in watercolor painting. If you learn to work on modest-quality paper, and then just assume what miracles you are likely to work on professional quality paper! Good luck!


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