watercolor papers review

4 Best Watercolor Paper for Painting

In this article, we will present you the 4 best watercolor paper from different watercolor paper brands. At the end you will also find our least favorite paper. Thanks to Arleebean for sharing her selection of paper that stood out during her long watercolor painting experience! 

If you are interested, we wrote all about watercolor supplies you need to begin your wonderful watercolor painting journey! You can find below our selection of the best watercolor supplies you will ever need :

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Watercolor Paper by BaoHong

Watercolor Paper by BaoHong

You can order this watercolor paper on Aliexpress. This paper is 100% cotton and 200 GSM so it’s a little bit thinner than the 300 GSM. This block is relatively large and comes with 20 sheets. The paper is gummed on all four sides with a little opening in the middle of the one side that allows you to remove the paper when you’re all done.

I really like this paper because even though it’s a little bit thinner so it does sort of warp while you’re working on your piece because as it’s gummed, it dries completely flat.

When I first started working with watercolors, I wasn’t working with 100% cotton paper because it generally tends to be a bit more expensive than a wood pulp or cellulose paper.

Like many watercolor artists just getting started, I started out on Canson XL watercolor paper. That’s super cheap paper that you can buy at Walmart and I did enjoy that paper but once I started to get into this realm of cotton papers it just blew the others away as far as quality.

 I really like the way the paint absorbs and adheres to the paper while still staying wet long enough that it’s workable. This paper even though it’s thinner stays wet for a nice amount of time which allows me to charge areas with more color or blend out my edges in a way that’s just really pleasurable

As with any watercolor paper the color does tend to dry a little bit lighter than when it’s wet. So I wanted to show you an example of that here and this is especially the case when it comes to darker colors like blues and purples and blacks.

As you can see below as this color dries, it is a little bit lighter than when it was wet but that’s pretty standard for watercolors and I felt the cotton papers to actually do that a bit less than other types of paper.

Watercolor Paper BaoHong Test

You can see below that when the paper is completely dry I’m able to layer other colors on top without really disturbing my layers underneath.

Watercolor Paper BaoHong Test 2
Watercolor Paper BaoHong Test 3

When you use a cellulose paper it becomes a lot easier to reactivate your initial layers which if you’re not layering the same color can cause you to have muddier colors. And even if you are using the same color, it can get rid of some of the lines or the edges of the watercolor that you may have wanted to keep.

Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper

Watercolor paper: Fluid 100

It is also a cotton paper that comes in a block in size 6 by 8.

When I got this paper I was really excited to do some smaller little portrait study type things on it and it’s been extremely enjoyable to work on for both gouache and watercolors. It has a lot of those features that I like from cotton paper. Working in a smaller block like this kind of feels like a sketchbook and I really like it.

Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper by Arches

Watercolor paper: Arches
Watercolor paper: Arches 100% cotton

It is the fancy paper that everybody loves. But I have to say, when I first used this paper I didn’t like it. The texture in it is very pronounced and I found the paper to feel a bit dry. It took me some time to get used to the way the paint and the pigment spread. I struggled with it a lot at first and after I did my first couple little pieces I was not enjoying it but the more I allowed myself to work with it, the more I found that this paper is actually pretty awesome.

As you can see the color lays really nicely on it once you have enough water and you’re working with enough paint at one time.

Watercolor paper Arches Test

The color stays wet for quite a long time which is one of the primary features of this particular paper and I think it has a lot to do with the finish of the paper and the fact that it’s a cold pressed paper. It absorbs really nicely into the paper and stays nice and wet that allows you to really manipulate the colors once they’re down.

Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper by Blick

Watercolor paper: Blick Hot Pressed

If you live in the United States you may be familiar with Blick art supplies. There are lots of shops and you can also buy their supplies online and they have their own line of watercolor papers. The only one I’ve tried so far is the hot pressed paper, also 100% cotton.

What I like about this paper is that the colors dry so bright, vivid and saturated. They just kind of dry the way you see them when they’re wet for the most part and I really enjoy that. The color stays wet in a nice way. The sizing of the paper is really nice.

Watercolor paper Blick Hot Pressed Test 1
Watercolor paper Blick Hot Pressed Test 2

I’m able to soften edges and blend the colors together when I want to. I actually really like the way that granulation shows up on this paper. It has a really nice texture to it even though the paper itself is fairly smooth as you can expect with hot pressed papers.

I also really enjoyed the hard edges that come from this particular type of paper. Overall it’s just kind of a nice joy to work on.

I comparison, I found that arches hot pressed paper just dried too fast and I didn’t really like it 

My Least Favorite Watercolor Papers

The reasons that I do not like these particular papers are pretty much all the same.

  • Strathmore 400 Series Paper
  • Hot Pressed 25% Cotton by Fabriano Studio watercolor
  • Canson Montval Watercolor Paper

The reasons that I end up not liking these papers is because the colors lift too easily. When I try to layer them it just lifts the colors underneath and it’s really difficult when you love putting lots and lots of layers on paper like I do. 

The way granulation appears on these particular papers is that generally overall not that bad. There’s just a lot of lifting that happens and while I am able to kind of do some layering it doesn’t adhere and absorb into the paper as well as it does with cotton paper.

That being said, I still tend to grab the Canson XL when I want something a bit looser.

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About the Author: Watercolor Classes

Hello, and welcome to our site. We've been passionate about watercolor for years and have learned a lot along the way. We hope our tutorials and tips will help you out on your watercolor journey. Let's make art together!

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