Paper Tales

Choosing the best paper for watercolor painting comes down to what the goal for the final outcome is. A little knowledge makes the process a snap!

Mixed media

Paper choices can be as difficult as which pencil to use when going for the watercolor over pencil technique. Cold press, Hot press, smooth finish, rough finish… the list goes on and on. The most popular watercolor finish paper is cold press. Hot press and Rough are fairly popular as well but may be a little harder to find. Artists will differ widely in their opinion on hot press vs cold press vs rough. Their are any number of reasons for each paper.

Cold pressed and hot pressed papers are named for the process that produces them. ArtNews says, “Named for a fabrication process that involves smashing pulp in heated cylinders, hot press papers present smooth surfaces with virtually no tooth.” Rough is paper known for its heavy “tooth” or very bumpy surface. ArtNews goes on to say that, “choosing a product for your needs is highly subjective.”┬áIt is subjective but also dependent on what you are painting. The surface can be as important to the painting as the paint.

Watercolor Affair gives a good description of cold vs hot as, “Cold pressed paper has a slightly bumpy, textured surface. But hot pressed paper has a smooth surface finish,” and “rough paper has a highly textured surface and a very pronounced tooth.” Cheap Joes Art Supply says, “The rough finish has an effect close to that of handmade paper and encourages a loose style.” Knowing the different attributes of each paper will help you decide which paper is better suited for what you want for the outcome of the final project.

When looking for which brand to buy, Kimposed has a great rundown of each brand. All of the covered papers are wonderful choices and here is where I’d say subjective reasons are the main ones to consider. Price may be a big consideration when all factors are weighed. Cheap Joes is a great option for comparing prices.

No matter what paper you choose, here are some possible issues you can consider. The red rose is on “rough” paper. It’s fairly easy to see where the paint bleeds out around the edges making it difficult to create sharp finished edges. The softer edges give the painting more of a romantic look. The dark purple iris is on hot pressed, smooth paper. Because the layers don’t absorb into the paper, the layers of paint can be more visible. One great option for the smooth surface is mixed media as colored pencils, ink and other media work well with the paint. The pansies and the variegated purple iris are on cold pressed paper which makes it easy to do to about any finish you you want. Versatile is a great word for the cold pressed finish.

Whatever paper you choose, having a little knowledge about the papers makes the choosing easier. Below is a you tube demonstration by Jenna Rainey. She is very knowledgeable and her videos are easy to follow.

Happy Painting!

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