James Whatman, a former leather tanner, began papermaking at the Turkey Mill in Maidstone (Kent, England) in 1740. He innovated wove textured papers in 1755, at the request of the printer James Baskerville (who wanted a finer surface to show off his newly designed serif font). In 1759 Whatman died and the mill operations were taken over by his son, James Whatman II (1742-1798), in 1763. In 1765 Whatman began using laundry blue to whiten naturally yellowed sheets of recycled pulp, and rapidly built the mill to become one of the largest suppliers of book, watercolor and engraving papers in Europe. In 1790 Whatman suffered a stroke and operations were handled by his assistant William Balston, who (to obtain investment capital) entered into partnership with two local businessmen in 1794. This partnership dissolved in 1805, resulting in two independent Whatman suppliers: William Balston built the Springfield Mill, the first in the world to power the new Fourdrinier machines entirely by steam; the partners retained the Turkey Mill and continued making watercolor papers by hand until 1859, when Balston and sons purchased all rights to the Whatman name. Whatman handmade papers were very popular with English and European watercolor painters from J.M.W. Turner through the early 20th century. Production of handmade watercolor papers ceased in 1955, and of mouldmade papers in 1962, but the mouldmade papers were reintroduced in 1983 after the company was restructured as the Whatman Reeve Angel group in 1974, then as Whatman plc. in 1990. Their watercolor papers are currently sold through Daler-Rowney.

Note: Whatman stopped production of their watercolor papers in Summer, 2002 but restarted production with new equipment a few years later. This review refers to the older papers, which are sold out of all sources I have contacted.

Whatman Watercolor papers are mouldmade, 100% cotton, internally sized with Aquapel, acid free and neutral pH, two natural deckle edges, with a "WHATMAN" watermark and the mill monogram. The rattle is moderately loud and rubbery; the paper burns completely, with absolutely no ash. — Available in white sheets only, in a variety of formats, in R, CP and HP finishes, in weights of 185, 290 and 400 GSM. Price of a single 290 GSM full sheet is about US$3.90.

The Rough finish has a knobby tooth, evenly spaced, that resembles the Lanaquarelle finish. The wire side is softer textured, the deckle is small, even and typically curled. The color is a cool bright white, one of the whitest sheets tested here. The sizing is moderately heavy: the sheet took a wash reluctantly, after rebrushing, and barely showed flocculation or banding in the wash pigments. Magenta went on without any blossoming. Resists peeled off with effort and with very slight damage to the surface. Scrubbing left slight streak marks; the green lifted completely and easily and caused a very slight darkening under the repainted area. — The Cold Pressed finish is very handsome, with shallow dimples in the tooth; again, the wire side is noticeably less textured. The deckle is larger, thinner and more uneven than the R sheet. The color is also a cool bright white, one of the whitest sheets tested here. The sizing is moderately heavy: the sheet took a wash with noticeable banding in the wash strokes, little pigment texture, and exhausting the brush. The magenta areas went on without any blossoming. Resists tore away paper when lifted, especially around the edges of the masking tape. Scrubbing left a very dark streak under a wash; the green lifted easily and completely, with very slight sluffing but no residual damage to the paper or discoloration of the repainted area.

Please see the page how to test watercolor papers for an explanation of my paper evaluation methods.

(300gsm R, CP)