My Favorite Watercolor Papers

Time to talk about the art supplies I find the most useful for the type of work I do. Today’s topic is paper; specifically, my favorite watercolor papers.

Here’s the reader question.

Hi Carrie.

I have read a few of your articles on eliminating paper holes showing through colored pencil, but I would like to know which paper you recommend using to apply the water color or Inktense under painting before applying colored pencil. Multi-media, hot or cold pressed watercolor paper, or something else. Some watercolor papers have so much texture they are no fun to use for colored pencil drawings. Thank you.

The Different Types of Watercolor Paper

The reader mentioned the surface texture of some watercolor papers. That is probably the most important thing to consider when choosing watercolor paper for colored pencils.

There are two types of watercolor paper. Hot press and cold press. The type you choose makes a huge difference in how your art looks.

Cold press paperĀ has more texture. The amount of texture differs, but it’s always a bit rougher than hot press watercolor paper and most traditional papers. The texture isn’t gritty; it’s more pebbly, and in my opinion, it’s unsuited to dry colored pencil work.

Hot press paperĀ is smoother, but it’s not as smooth as Bristol. It also has a different feel. Rather than being slick feeling, like Bristol, it’s a bit softer. Almost velvety, sometimes.

So when it comes to choosing the right watercolor paper for your colored pencil work, make sure to look at the differences between cold press and hot press.

For more detailed information, you might want to read The Difference Between Hot Press and Cold Press Watercolor Papers.

Now, to my favorite watercolor papers.

My Favorite Watercolor Papers

I prefer 140lb because it’s very tough and thick enough to stand up to many layers of color and some abuse. It needs to be taped to a rigid drawing board of some kind for larger piece, or it will buckle if you get it really wet. But it’s ideal for smaller pieces or for pieces on which I use moderate amounts to moisture.

For a really heavy paper, you could try 300 lb hot press watercolor paper. 300 lb paper is quite thick and stands up very well under lots of water and layering. I used Strathmore 300 lb. watercolor paper for this piece several years ago and it was quite sturdy.

I did not note whether or not the paper was hot press, but in looking at the texture shown in the high resolution image, I think it was probably cold press. So you can do great work on cold press, but it does take more work.

The Brands I Like Most

The watercolor paper I use most is Canson L’Aquarelle 140lb hot press. It has a nice, velvety surface that works as well for completely dry colored pencil, as it does for watercolor and colored pencil mixed.

I’ve used it for larger works (8×10 usually) and for small studies of 6×9 or smaller. It’s very satisfactory for every technique I’ve tried; even some very experimental techniques.

The reason I prefer this paper is that it’s usually available at outlets such as Hobby Lobby, so if I need a pad quickly, and I stop by the store and pick one up. I prefer 9×12 inch pads, but it comes in other sizes, as well.

If you shop online, you can also find it in full sheets.

I’ve also used Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press and it feels almost like regular Stonehenge. It stands up to water extremely well, and you can use regular pencils on it just like on regular Stonehenge.

I got samples of this paper from the Legion company and wrote a review on my experiences here.

The two papers are pretty similar in every way but cost. Stonehenge is a bit more expensive than Canson L’Aquarelle, but I’ve been very happy with both.

Those are My Two Favorite Watercolor Papers

The truth is that almost any watercolor should work, and you can try almost any brand. When you buy paper, keep in mind how you want your finished artwork to look, and choose the paper accordingly.

Also knowing how you plan to use wet and dry media is important. The example I showed above involved a lot of watercolor work. I used colored pencils for glazing and details, so the additional texture was helpful.

If you don’t plan to use wet media for more than tinting the paper, then you may want to consider a hot press paper.

And don’t be afraid to try heavier papers. Sometimes that additional substance in the paper is just what you need; especially for larger works.

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