WATERCOLOR PAPER CHOICES

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor paper choice affects the techniques an artist uses. There are numerous papers of various weights and white shades; and textures and sizing may vary. The paper may be handmade or machine made. It is important to use a paper that will produce the intended painting result. Watercolor paper is available in sheets, blocks, pads, or rolls.

Watercolor Paper Characteristics

Most professional watercolor paper is made from acid-free, cotton rag. It usually comes as 140 lb. or 300 lb. weight paper; and because traditional watercolor requires white paper, it comes in a range of white shades, depending on the manufacturer. Unless watercolor paper is purchased in blocks, it will need to be stretched and allowed to dry before painting on it.

Sizing is usually added to watercolor paper. Lightly sized paper will absorb more paint; the colors will dry duller. Soft wash edges are produced on this paper, but changes may be difficult to correct. Heavily sized paper absorbs less paint, and the paint dries on the surface of the paper. This paper allows paint to be rewet and reworked, and paint can readily be removed by scratching. Colors remain vibrant and washes can be easily merged. Dampness of the atmosphere can affect wash results.

Watercolor Paper Types

Rough surface paper has a rough to somewhat smooth texture and tooth. It is an absorbant paper, often of heavier weight, and the surface produces a flat wash. This paper works well for painting with a loose approach. Colors appear bright, although thicker paint may be needed for wet-in-wet techniques.

Cold-pressed paper has a slightly grained surface, somewhere between rough and smooth textures. Cold-pressed papers are sized both internally and on the surface, allowing for some absorbancy. The paper surface is dull and washes lie flat, Colors may need to be mixed brighter than desired as they will dry lighter. This is the most popular paper and is generally easy to paint on.

Hot-pressed paper is smooth and usually heavily sized. Very fine work is possible, producing sharp edges and fine lines. Flat washes may puddle on the surface, and drying marks may result. This paper does not absorb paint well.

There are other more unusual types of watercolor paper. Synthetic paper has a very smooth surface and produces a lot of texture. Then there are oriental papers, aquabord, illustration board, and watercolor canvas.

Watercolor Paper Resources

paint wash on watercolor paper

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Watercolor Techniques - Paper Choices