guide to watercolor papers

Paper is the support and source of light for a painting. Yet, with the exception of a single book, there are no test based comparisons of watercolor papers of the same kind that are made for watercolor paints. So I adapted or developed my own paper tests to evaluate how the papers would respond to typical watercolor use. (The page on how to test watercolor papers describes the tests mentioned in the paper reviews.)

This sampling of sixteen brands includes most of the better known mouldmade papers and several notable handmades or historical papers. Retail availability permitting, I evaluated the complete range of finishes — commonly rough (R), cold pressed (CP) and hot pressed (HP) — from each manufacturer, using a full sheet (22" x 30") in the 300 GSM basis weight or the nearest equivalent (for example, 280 GSM for Velké Losiny Moldau paper). Color and lightness comparisons between brands were made with the CP sheets.

Prices listed (current as of June, 2002) are the lowest U.S. retail price for a single R or CP full sheet ... some manufacturers charge more for the HP finish.

Hayle Mill
Jack Richeson
Moulin de Larroque
St. Armand
Saunders Waterford
Velké Losiny
Winsor & Newton

A paper's surface finish varies by weight: heavier sheets by the same manufacturer typically have a coarser texture in the same nominal finish. (See for example the comparative images of cold pressed finishes in 300 GSM and 640 GSM Arches Bright White.) Heavier sheets also show a greater difference in finish between the felt and wire sides. Finally, in most papers the R finish has a slightly darker tone than the CP finish, and the HP is lighter than either, regardless of the basis weight.


comments : requests

No Japanese, Indian or other non-European papers are reviewed here because it would have been an overwhelming task to sample them fairly. I hope to try them someday.

Where can you buy all these papers? The most popular brands are available from any of the recommended online retailers; be sure you comparison shop, as prices can vary widely. The most comprehensive inventory of art papers I am aware of is available from New York Central Art Supply ... call and ask for their paper department, and be sure they send you the latest copy of their paper catalog. You can find paper manufacturer addresses and phone numbers in the books by Sylvie Turner and Ian Sideway.

For additional information about papers, I urge you to visit the Hand Papermaking web site, which includes a complete index to the current and past issues of their handsome magazine, published quarterly since 1986. The Twinrocker Mill site is also a great resource for paper information, links to related papermaking sites, and images of papermaking processes and equipment.