The Zerkall paper mill, by the Rur River near Cologne (Germany), dates from the late 16th century. Now known as Papierfabrik Zerkall Renker & Söhne, and managed by the Renker family for four generations, it produces a very large range, including some of the finest mouldmade papers manufactured in Europe. The company has earned a high reputation for creating custom papers for specialized publications and small presses, including special makings to complement the design of limited editions. For large art papers, Zerkall has a special mould machine to produce sheets with four deckles up to a maximum size of 60"x88".

The Zerkall Aquarag papers are designed for general watercolor use, but have been adopted for printmaking and etching as well. Sheets are mouldmade, 100% cotton (containing a mixture of cotton rag and cotton linters), acid free and calcium buffered, internally sized with starch and tub sized with Aquapel, with two natural deckle edges and two torn edges (almost indistinguishable from the deckles) along the long sides, and the watermark "ZERKALL" within a rectangle. Sheets are two sided: the wire side has a delicate laid texture. The rattle is loud and snappy; the papers burn to a very light gray, fragile ash, indicating the sheet consists almost completely of pure cellulose. — Available as a warm white, in CP or R finishes, in a variety of formats, in weights of 200 or 300 GSM. Price of a single 300 GSM 20" x 251/2" sheet is about US$2.30.

The Cold Pressed finish deliciously combines a slight linear pattern from the mould with an even, gentle tooth from the blanket, visible as a regular texture of shallow dimples. Deckles are large, wispy and very irregular. The color is a bright and slightly cool white. The sizing is very nice; the sheet took a very even wash, without exhausting the brush; the cobalt banding was very faint but collected across the shallow dimples, creating a unique and lovely freckled effect. The magenta went on smoothly with no trace of blossoming; the ultramarine gave a soft, subdued flocculation. Resists came off cleanly and easily. Scrubbing caused quite a lot of sluffing and unsightly streak marks, but this was probably because the paper was pushed more than necessary: the green lifted cleanly and completely with little effort, and left no damage or discoloration apparent under the repainted area.

This is an exceptional sheet, one of the best supports tested here, and well worth investigating, despite its unusual size. Available from New York Central Art Supply.

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