The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Papers

Let’s take a moment talk about the difference between hot press and cold press papers.

I know this subject can easily become complex, especially to those of us who have never used watercolors. But watercolor paper is a great paper for colored pencil work, too, so knowing a little about it can help you make a better choice.

So I’m keeping this discussion short and sweet by concentrating on the primary difference.

The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Papers

The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Papers

The biggest difference between hot press and cold press papers is surface texture. Hot press papers are generally smoother (sometimes much smoother) than cold press papers.

Cold press paper is pressed with cold rollers or plates. These plates press the surface fibers down somewhat, leaving some surface texture. The amount of texture varies from paper to paper and company to company, but in all cases, cold press paper is toothier than hot press paper.

Cold-press paper is the most popular and versatile and is suitable for most media, depending on its weight. It’s a favorite for watercolor artists because it’s more absorbent and tends to stay wet a little longer than hot press paper.

Hot press paper passes through heated rollers or plates. The heated presses press the paper fibers down more completely, producing a smoother paper. Some texture remains. Hot press paper is not as smooth as Bristol, for example, but it’s much smoother than cold press paper.

Hot pressed paper is ideal for highly-detailed illustrations, printmaking, etching, drafting, sketching, and drawing. Yes. Even colored pencil drawing.

Read Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils? for more paper basics.

How to Decide Which Paper to Use

The type of watercolor paper (or any paper) you use depends largely on the art you want to create. If you like highly detailed artwork, use a paper sturdy enough to handle lots of layers and smooth enough to easily fill the tooth. Weight is important, but so is surface texture.

If you prefer a more painterly look, then choose paper with a bit more surface texture.

The watercolor papers I use are Canson L’Aquarelle and Stonehenge Aqua, both 140lb hot press. Both look and feel like Stonehenge traditional paper. I use watercolor or watercolor pencil under traditional pencils on both papers.

I also use only traditional colored pencils on both with good results.

Both papers—and probably any other artist grade 140lb hot press paper—are good for my drawing methods for landscapes. I’ve yet to do an animal portrait on either.

Nor have I tried cold press watercolor paper because I prefer smoother papers. But as I mentioned above, if you prefer a more painterly look for your art, give them a try.

For more detailed information on hot and cold press watercolor papers, read Cold Press vs Hot Press watercolor paper – Here’s how to choose ! It’s written for watercolor artists, but the paper information is good for colored pencil artists, as well.

Still Undecided?

Buy the smallest pad of each you can find and experiment. If you know a watercolor artist, ask him or her for advice. Or maybe a small demo.

You may even contact some of the more popular paper companies. Many of them offer free samples. The samples are often small—5×7 or less—but they’re large enough to find out what works and what doesn’t.

And you can’t ask for more than that!

4 Replies to “The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Papers”

  1. I am so happy that you printed this article. I want to start doing some water coloring for my greeting cards and have watched several videos. But I was very confused on whether to buy cold or hot pressed stock. Thanks so much for all you do and stay safe!

    1. Thank you, Patricia, and you’re welcome.

      If you live in the US and you have one nearby, check out Hobby Lobby. That’s where I bought the Canson L’Aquarelle. It’s a bit expensive, but but you can print a 40% off coupon off the internet.

  2. For CP work I like the Strathmore papers (Bristol Smooth and Bristol Vellum) along with the Stonehenge and Canson Mi Tientes.
    Thank you for the article.

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