Saunders Waterford is the brand manufactured by St. Cuthberts Mill, located in the Axe Valley in Somerset site of the earliest papermaking mills in England. Current operations combine traditional techniques with computerized mechanization to produce a consistent and high quality sheet. Now part of the Invernesk group, the mill produces special makings and stock runs for retail brands such as Winsor & Newton.
The Saunders Waterford papers are the premium quality watercolor papers made by St. Cuthberts; they combine features of the previous T.H. Saunders papers but with a tougher surface. Sheets are mouldmade, 100% cotton, internally and surface sized with gelatin, acid free, two natural deckle edges, with the watermark "T H SAUNDERS ENGLAND" or "SAUNDERS WATERFORD" along one deckle edge and the trademark "Waterford Series" embossed in one corner. The rattle is loud and fairly bright, indicating the pulp was well pounded; the papers burn to a light reddish gray to medium dark gray ash, indicating moderate inclusion of additives. The wire side has a subtle, gently undulating wire pattern. Available in white sheets or rolls, in a variety of formats, in R, CP and HP finish, in six nonstandard weights from 150 to 638 GSM. Price of a single 285 GSM full sheet is about US$2.40.
The Rough finish is one of the coarsest of any R sheet available, although the tooth is rounded and in low relief, excellent for granular pigments. The deckle is thin and ragged. The color is a warm ivory, slightly warmer than the Arches sheets but not as warm as the Esportatzione. The sheet took a very even wash, with very little pigment texture or cobalt violet banding. The magenta went on smoothly without any blossoming, indicating good surface sizing. Scrubbing left a distinct streak visible under a wash; resists lifted cleanly without damage to the surface. The green sponged off easily, with no damage or change in the repainted area. The Cold Pressed finish is similar to the Arches CP, although the surface stands up less well to scraping or assertive brushwork. The color is a warm ivory white. The sizing is slightly lighter than in the R sheet: the CP took a wash evenly but with noticeable cobalt violet banding and negligible blossoming in the magenta. The lifting capabilities of the paper are generally excellent: scrubbing left barely visible streak marks, and the green sponged off with difficulty but with no damage or discoloration to the paper or repainted areas. Resists came off easily. The Hot Pressed finish has a clear eggshell texture, comparable to the Fabriano Uno SP, with a much wider weave than other HP papers. The color is a dull ivory, the darkest of all HP sheets tested. This sheet took one of the most even washes of an HP sheet, but with strong cobalt violet banding; the magenta blossoming was slight, and flocculation almost absent, indicating good sizing for an HP sheet. Resists came off quickly and cleanly, but scrubbing left a noticeable streaking. The green lifted completely with no visible damage or discoloration. All the sheets are dimensionally quite stable, cockling very little even after repeated applications of wash solutions.
The Waterford sheets are generally very good for washes and limited lifting techniques; they have the advantage of solid dependability on all dimensions of performance. Cool colors tend to look slightly dull against the ivory tone of the support, which however makes the sheets especially suitable for warm toned portrait, figure or landscape work. And Waterford is one of the few commercial sheets (with Arches and Lanaquarelle) that is available in the spectacular emperor format (40" x 60"). Overall, Waterford has become one of my favorite mouldmade sheets.
Please see the page how to test watercolor papers for an explanation of my paper evaluation methods.