Last updated: August 10, 2021

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Welcome to our big watercolour paper test 2021. Here we present all the watercolour papers we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best watercolour paper for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy watercolour paper.




Summary

  • Watercolour paper allows you to create very special works of art, especially with water and paint, without tearing.
  • The surface texture plays an important role in the result of the painting. A distinction is made between smooth or satin, matt, rough and torchon.
  • Heavy watercolour paper is particularly suitable for immediate painting, as there is no need to prepare the paper. Light watercolour paper requires some preparation to prevent the paper from rippling.

The Best Watercolour Paper: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should deal with before buying watercolour paper

Why should I use watercolour paper and not normal clay paper for watercolours?

Watercolour paper is thicker, more absorbent and has a different surface texture than regular printer paper. The material is also important and shows a big difference here as well. Watercolour paper can be made of cellulose, a mixture of cellulose and cotton or paper containing rags (cotton). Rag paper is particularly suitable for the wet-on-wet technique, as it allows the colour to run and absorb ideally.

The right watercolour paper is the basis for a successful work. (Image source: Pixabay.com / Marty-arts)

A conventional printing paper consists only of cellulose. Since watercolour painting works with wet paper, normal paper is less suitable for achieving the desired colour gradients. Printing paper tears very easily when wet or forms lint. In order to enjoy your watercolour for a long time, you should use acid-free watercolour paper, because paper containing acid decomposes over time or becomes yellow and brittle. Your watercolour would be destroyed.

Which watercolour paper thickness is right for you?

The paper thickness or grammage is usually given in g/m². There is light (less than 300 g/m²) and heavy (between 400-800 g/m²) watercolour paper. Whether light or heavy paper, both can be of high quality. Accordingly, the weight alone does not say enough about the quality of the paper. However, next to the colour, it is the most important utensil for the success of a watercolour painting. Here you can see a small overview of which grammage and which painting technique go particularly well together.

less than 250g/m² 250-400g/m² more than 400g/m²
Particularly suitable for charcoal/felt-tip pen/pencil or mixed techniques (additionally with colour) Well suited for watercolour, as it can be used for working with water Ideally suited for watercolour, ink and acrylic, as it can be used for working with large amounts of water

If you want to practise your watercolour painting skills or use little water for painting, a 300g/m² heavy watercolour paper is usually sufficient. These are often also cheaper. However, if you are planning a special watercolour painting, it pays to buy a heavy watercolour paper to get the most beautiful result.

What sizes of watercolour paper are there?

Roughly speaking, watercolour paper can be divided into sheets, rolls, single sheets, spiral blocks, single-sided glued blocks and four-sided glued blocks.

  • Sheets come in different sizes, so you can create a large watercolour or cut the sheet to your desired shape and size.
  • Rolls are particularly suitable for large works and can also be cut to your desired dimensions.
  • Single sheets are loose sheets in a package. You can also purchase single sheets laminated with a hard board. This eliminates the need to prepare the paper.
  • Spiral pads are very practical because you can fold the pages completely.
  • Single-sided pads are more economical than four-sided pads.
  • A four-sided block prevents the paper from rippling when it gets wet. This makes your preparation a little easier. The individual sheets can be separated from the other sheets with a folding leg, knife or letter opener.

Besides the right paint, watercolour paper is the most important utensil. (Image source: unsplash.com / Tim Arterbury)

Note that you should prepare light watercolour paper. Also remember that your stretched watercolour paper needs to dry again before you can start painting.

How much does watercolour paper cost?

There is a wide price range between the different paper thicknesses and formats. Depending on which format and paper thickness you choose, the price varies between 13-140 Euros. Most of the time, heavy paper is also a little more expensive. If you are still at the beginning of your watercolour painting career, light paper is a good option for you, as it is usually cheaper.

less than 250g/m² 250-400g/m² more than 400g/m²
5€-100€ 7€-130€ 11€-400€

However, you should bear in mind that small formats are generally found in the lower price range. Large formats, such as rolls, tend to be expensive.

Watercolour paper can be purchased with different surface structures, each surface has its own advantages and disadvantages. (Image source: pixarbay.com / lextotan)

Decision: What watercolour paper surface textures are there and which is the right one for you?

What distinguishes a matt surface and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Matt surfaces are particularly suitable for fine paintings. As the surface only has slight irregularities, it is particularly suitable for beginners and any watercolour painter who likes to paint delicate details. Full brush strokes can be achieved with the dry painting technique and brilliant colour gradients with the wet-on-wet technique. The paper absorbs the paint quickly, so you have to work fast to avoid edges.

Advantages
  • Particularly suitable for beginners
  • Detailed drawing possible
  • Brilliant colour gradients
Disadvantages
  • Fast work necessary
  • Water is absorbed quickly

The right brush is essential to achieve good results with watercolours, which is why we have linked our test page for watercolour brushes here.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a smooth or satin finish?

Smooth or satin surfaces are created by pressing between heated rollers. Satin surfaces are particularly suitable for fine detail drawings, glazes and washes. Watercolour paints also have a particularly luminous effect and can be removed from the paper again. A smooth or satin surface is less suitable for large-scale wet-on-wet work.

Advantages
  • Watercolours have a radiant effect
  • Detailed drawing possible
Disadvantages
  • Not suitable for large-scale wet-on-wet painting

What are the characteristics of a rough surface and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Rough surfaces allow relief-like painting and influence the result. The rough and irregular structure makes the paintings look more three-dimensional. This surface is created either by an embossing process or by the screen structure directly during production. With the dry technique, the paper is only painted irregularly, as the paint cannot be applied evenly. This creates small white dots that give your artwork a certain touch. This is in contrast to the wet-on-wet technique, where the colour in the depressions of the paper turns out darker, creating different colour effects. This influences the luminosity of your watercolour. Extra rough surfaces enhance the colour effect, especially with the wet-on-wet technique, and the formation of white dots with the dry technique.

Advantages
  • Plastic effect
  • Very suitable for wet-on-wet technique
Disadvantages
  • Not suitable for detailed work

What are the characteristics of a Torchon surface and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

By Torchon is meant a very coarse linen structure. For watercolour paper, this means that the surface is very pronounced and cloud-like. As a result, the colour runs differently than with the other surfaces. With the wet-on-wet technique, the colours run very strongly, creating distinctive colour edges. However, Torchon paper is less suitable for beginners.

Advantages
  • Brilliant colours
  • formation of striking colour edges
Disadvantages
  • rather unsuitable for beginners

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate watercolour paper

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate watercolour paper. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular watercolour paper is suitable for you or not. In summary, these are:

  • Grammage
  • Block format & loose sheets
  • Surface structure
  • Production method

In the following paragraphs we will explain what the individual criteria are.

Grammage

We would like to go into more detail here about the paper thickness, as it makes a significant difference to your watercolour painting. Due to its low volume, light paper can absorb less water than heavy paper. Therefore, it is better suited for a painting technique with less water. Nevertheless, you should bear in mind that a light paper is more prone to forming ripples when wet. It is advisable to stretch or fix the paper before use. Otherwise you will get unsightly puddles in your watercolour. In contrast, heavy watercolour paper is thicker and can absorb a lot of moisture. The heavy paper is very suitable for working with a lot of water, as there is hardly any rippling of the paper.

Block format & loose sheets

Watercolour paper comes in different formats and variations. You have a wide range of choices. Many artists find the preparation of watercolour paper a nice introduction to painting, others want to get started straight away. Blocks glued on one side are suitable for direct painting to a limited extent. It is recommended that you detach the sheet from the block and then stretch it out. If you omit this step and the sheet is light, there is a risk of rippling. Four-sided glued blocks, on the other hand, are glued on all four sides.

The paper does not curl. This means that you can start painting straight away without having to do any preparatory work. If the preparatory work is not a burden for you, then single sheets, loose watercolour paper and watercolour blocks glued on one side are your must-have. If you are a direct painter, we recommend a watercolour block glued on four sides or a heavy paper.

Surface structure

The watercolour world divides the surfaces of watercolour paper into satin or smooth, matt and rough. Many terms come from the French, for example "Grain fin" is another term for smooth. "Torchon", on the other hand, has a particularly coarse and cloud-like structure. Depending on what you want to draw, different surface structures are suitable.

If you attach importance to filigree details, then satin paper is well suited for you. If you see yourself more as a wet-on-wet fan, then rough paper is a good option. Nevertheless, in the end it all depends on your preferences and perhaps a little on your personal experience. Are you a beginner and not so good with a brush, but still want to try your hand at watercolour? Then we would recommend watercolour pencils, because they look like crayons, but you can mix them with water.

Type of production

We can divide into different types of production. There are:

Hot pressed watercolour paper has a smooth surface and little structure. On this surface you can draw very well in detail. Hot pressed watercolour paper is also well suited for dry work. Colour gradients, however, are more demanding.

Cold pressed watercolour paper has a rough or matt structure. The paper absorbs colour very quickly, is very robust and well suited for wet painting techniques. However, colours appear less radiant. Cold-pressed watercolour paper is rather unsuitable for detailed work.

Handmade water colour paper is a traditional paper-making method. There is a cylindrical screen on the cylinder mould paper machine. This screen is dipped into the fibre pulp. The rotation of the screen cylinder and the simultaneous pumping out of water causes the fibres to be deposited on the circulating felt. Up to 14 m of paper/min are produced on a cylinder mould paper machine.

Academy paper is produced on fourdrinier paper machines. The fibre-water mixture is evenly distributed by the vibrations on a plastic wire. The felting of the fibres forms an endless paper web. Up to 110m paper/min are produced on a Fourdrinier paper machine.

Interesting facts about watercolour paper

How does the wet-on-wet technique work?

The wet-on-wet technique is a widely used watercolour technique in watercolour painting. For the wet-on-wet technique, you should moisten the surface with a brush or sponge. However, only wet the area you want to paint with the wet-on-wet technique. Then you can start. The longer you wait to apply your paint, the wider the colour gradient. The wetter the surface, the stronger the gradient of your colours. Often it is a big challenge to control the colour gradients according to your wishes, but with experience you will gradually get better at it.

How can I wet paint on watercolour paper?

  1. First moisten the sheet with a brush or sponge.
  2. Wait until the damp sheet is smooth again.
  3. Stick paper with wet tape on all four sides to support (wood, cardboard).
  4. As soon as the paper is completely dry, all waves have disappeared.
  5. Wet tape cannot be removed again. The watercolour must be cut out.

What does ragging mean?

Hader (torn cloth, rags) refers to fibres of linen, hemp and cotton. Until the middle of the 19th century, rags were collected and used as rag for making paper. Cotton is still used in the production of rag paper. The fibres extend the life of the watercolour paper.

Image source: 123rf.com / 55663747

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