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Watercolor paper texture choices

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Paper choice by a watercolorist impacts the outcome of the painting
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Watercolor paper textures choices vary depending upon personal preference

The kind of paper that an artist paints on is extremely important. Over time, you will discover through trial and error which kind of paper that you like or dislike based on how it looks and feels, its weight and how the paint goes on the paper.

Watercolor paper comes in various textures, sizes and weights. Watercolor paper can be custom hand-made or machine made. It can be very pricy or inexpensive.

Watercolor paper comes in reams, sheets, blocks, boards, pads and rolls. The weight of the paper, referring to the weight of the ream of paper which contains 400 sheets, is commonly between 60 lbs. all the way up to 1,200 lbs. Some master artists recommend using a paper that is no less than 140 lbs. Those weighing over 200 lbs. do not wrinkle as much as lighter weight papers do and will not require stretching.

Watercolor paper comes in three main textures. Texture refers to the surface finish on the paper. The texture of the paper will make a difference in the outcome of your painting. If you want to produce a painting that has numerous details in it, opt for smooth textured paper. If you want, for example, to create reflections on water, a textured paper is better.


The three primary types of watercolor texture paper include hot press, cold press and rough.

Hot press paper provides a good surface for drawings. It is smooth and even. The surface is somewhat slick which allows the artist to create some intriguing outcomes. However, when using hot press paper it is harder to make transitions that are soft and you may end up with hard edges in your painting.

Hot pressed paper is milled through a set of cylinders that are hot. The heat makes the fibers lie down in a smooth fashion. This creates the smoothest watercolor paper.

The cold press watercolor paper is very popular with watercolorists. It is somewhat bumpy in texture. This texture enables the paint to get into the hollows that are created by the texture or, conversely, lets the paint sit on top of the grooves or skip over the pockets entirely.

Cold pressed watercolor paper derives its name from a finishing procedure that is used by the paper makers. After the molds of paper are made they are milled through a set of cylinders, which causes the cotton fiber in the paper to lie down. The cylinders are cold and that is why this is called cold pressed.

A rough textured paper is just that: rough. If you enjoy employing over-stated texture techniques this is the paper for you. The rough texture produces what is considered a hit and miss effect because the paint brush bounces across the surface that is uneven. The unpainted areas of the textured paper are white and produce a sparkle with practice. The rough watercolor paper is the result of being pulled straight from the mold. The paper is not run through any cylinders

Handmade paper has more texture than machine-made paper.

Beginning watercolorists may want to start with a slightly textured cold-pressed paper. Cold-pressed paper is versatile and a good choice for novices although rough watercolor paper is a good choice too. In time, the paper texture that you use is going to be a matter of personal preference.

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