The Best Watercolor Paper For Artists

The Best Watercolor Paper For Artists

Watercolor paper comes in a variety of weights, sizes, textures, and qualities. Let's clear up the confusion over whether you should paint on paper or canvas. This article discusses the best paint paper for artists of all skill levels, from beginners to professionals, and includes surfaces that are suitable for several painting approaches.

Watercolor paper is often available in two types: cold press (or NOT) and hot press, depending on the manufacturing procedure. Cold press papers have a rough surface and are more absorbent, making them perfect for a range of watercolor methods. Hot press papers are smoother and more detail-oriented, making them perfect for more precise work.

Traditional papers are made from cotton, cellulose, or a combination of the two. Cotton papers are more expensive than cellulose papers, but they are of superior quality since they are more durable and archival, making them ideal for finished work.

Watercolor Pad Legion Paper

The Legion Paper Watercolor Paper differs from conventional watercolor papers in that it is made of Yupo, rather than cotton or wood pulp. Yupo is a synthetic paper that is both tree-free and waterproof. Because the material is impervious to water, it does not absorb paint like other watercolor papers. Rather than soaking into the material, the water accumulates on the surface and dries, resulting in intriguing textures.

The material is on par with, if not superior than, hot pressed paper. It displays the image clearly and vividly. It's easy to imagine that because the material doesn't absorb the paint, the design would last a long time, but this isn't the case. The painting is durable; it isn't as long-lasting as cold-pressed paper paintings, but it is still a worthy investment. One of the most common causes of paper degradation is removed since Yupo paper contains no acids. Another element that contributes to the paper's long-term endurance is its thickness. The Legion Paper Watercolor paper is ideal for graphite pencil work as well.

Canson XL Series

Canson's XL Series watercolor pad is a watercolor pad with 30 11-by-15-inch pages. Nothing comes close to the value of 30 high-quality watercolor paper sheets for less than $35. The Canson paper millers have been in operation since the 16th century, so they know their stuff. That is why their watercolor papers are so excellent.

Although the paper is labeled as cold pressed, when you open the pad and study the paper closely, you'll realize that it's smoother than cold pressed watercolor paper. It's not quite smooth enough to be classified as hot pressed, but it's getting there. This design is beneficial since it allows you to paint while drawing fine lines with acceptable results. It also makes blending the paint colors a lot simpler. Your artwork will last for years because the papers are acid-free, which you will appreciate.

Canson XL sheets are designed by art professors and tested for performance in a variety of media. They absorb color nicely and keep it in place, preventing it from fading. The pads aren't recommended for professional painting, but they'll come in handy for students and hobbyists.

Cold Press Pads by Canson Arches

If you're looking for the best watercolor paper, search for one that is comprised of cotton. This sort of paper is easy to paint on and absorbs a lot of moisture. To begin with, these papers are manufactured by Arches, a well-known brand in the industry.

Given the company's over 200-year history in the paper milling industry, you can imagine the depth of knowledge it has collected in the field of paper making. The company's items are of exceptional quality, which comes as no surprise. These watercolor papers are made in the traditional way, with a cylinder mold, and the grain appears organic and harmonious as a result.

One thing to check for when it comes to keeping artwork for a long time is whether the paper includes active acid pulp. If this occurs, the acidity will disintegrate the artwork, causing it to have a short lifespan. Because the materials used to make the Canson Arches Cold Press are free of acid pulp during the manufacturing process, you can trust these papers to protect your artwork for a long time.

Watercolor Paper Pad by Bellofy

You don't need to invest in high-quality paper if you're a student or just getting started with watercolor painting. Purchasing a student-grade paper is preferable because you will save money. You are still in the early phases of your schooling, after all. Because the paper is 130 lb, it isn't thick enough to withstand a lot of water. If you use too much water on the paper, it will warp, and your painting will suffer as a result.

The paper will sufficient if you're only doing small sketches or paintings that don't require a lot of detail. On one side, the papers are pasted and sorted on a pad. This practical layout makes it simple to flip through the pages while also making it easy to remove them. Because it is made of wood pulp, the paper is not as durable as pure cotton paper.

On the other hand, the paper is devoid of acids, which are one of the most common causes of deterioration. The paper is long-lasting and will serve a learner well, albeit it is not as robust as artist-grade 100 percent cotton paper. Because the paper isn't particularly strong, you don't want to tape it down. Furthermore, after removing the masking, you may detect some damage, although the wet on wet performance is otherwise quite decent. Although the manufacturer calls it "cold pressed," this is not the case. It's been described as a hybrid of hot and cold pressed coffee. It isn't rough, but it isn't completely smooth either.

Strathmore 500 Series

With Stathmore watercolor paper, you can't go wrong. It is one of the most well-known brands available. To this point, we've only talked about cold pressed or at least fairly rough paper. This Strathmore paper may be the answer if you need hot pressed paper. It has a smooth surface that enables for detailed sketching and vibrant artwork display.

Strathmore Series paper, measuring 5 by 7 inches, is perfect for small sketches like flowers. The 140-pound paper is robust and thick enough to withstand repeated washing. The paper is also durable enough to be taped down without being crushed or damaged. Any seasoned watercolor artist will tell you that the paper's material is quite significant.

This paper is entirely made of cotton, which helps it to absorb paint and display the image vividly while also giving it the strength to withstand powerful washes. Because acid, one of the elements that causes paper to decay, is completely absent from this paper, it lasts a long time and acts as a reliable drawing substrate.

Watercolor Block by Arches

Arches is the best brand on the market, according to several artists. For those who prefer a block to a pad, the Arches Watercolor Block is without a doubt the ideal alternative. You won't need to tape the papers down when painting because they're glued together on both sides and held together as a block. The block will keep the paper safe by holding it in place for you.

Furthermore, it is simple to remove the papers. Simply go around it with a palette knife inserted into the slit beneath the paper. What about the quality of the paper? You've asked a question. The paper is made entirely of natural cotton fibers, first and foremost. It wasn't made by a machine, either. Instead, it's made in a cylinder mold, ensuring excellent quality. The weight of the paper (which is expressed as the weight of the ream or rather 500 sheets) is equally significant when choosing a watercolor paper. Anything weighing at least 140 pounds is substantial enough for professional water coloring. You'll like the 140-pound weight of the Arches Watercolor Block. The toothiness of the material appeals to artists. Because it was cold pressed, it has a rough surface. The paper's hardness allows it to handle watercolors beautifully and gives you plenty of time to work with the paint, allowing you to mix colors as you choose.

The 400 Series by Strathmore

The Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper can endure a lot of washing, making it ideal for both beginners and experts. Strathmore's paper is a must-try if your designs call for a lot of paint and water, and you've tried other watercolor sheets that buckled when wet. Another advantage is that the paper does not bleed or pill when treated with water. Because the paper is rough, creating artwork with a lot of texture is possible.

One of the most crucial aspects to consider while looking for the perfect watercolor journal is the lifespan. This Strathmore sketchbook features a long-lasting cover that will last you a long time. Pulling off the top layer reveals the brown cover, which provides robust protection for the papers inside. The paper is textured, as cold pressed paper should be. It's also rather thick, which aids in its resistance to warping. Most water coloring brushes and pigments are compatible with it, so you're in luck if you want to use a range of brushes and paints on it. When ordering this paper, keep in mind that it is half the size of a standard letter paper page.

Canson Artist Series

Are you looking for some good watercolor paper on which to develop your skills? You will benefit greatly from the Canson Artist Series. This is a 20-sheet paper pad with one side that is held together. Because the papers are 9 by 12 inches, you can use them to make small to medium-sized paintings. This work, unlike many other low-quality student papers, is great and may be used professionally. It isn't ideal for professional use, but it will suffice.

When used on wet material, it withstands erasing, scraping, and repeated washing. Because it is microperforated and cold pressed with a consistent grain, the paper absorbs water effectively without bleeding or pilling. The ream weight of this paper is 140 pounds, which, as you may know, is considered suitable for professional watercolor painting.

Paper degrades quickly as a result of pulp acids. Although this paper is not entirely made of cotton, you can rest assured that the pulp acids have been removed. Because the paper is acid-free, it will last a long time and keep your artwork looking fantastic. This paper should be at the top of your list if you're on a low budget. You get 20 nice sheets for less than ten dollars. This paper, like any quality watercolor paper, is not machine-made. It's made in a mold, which means it's made to rigorous standards.

Watercolor Postcards from Strathmore

Are you interested in sending a postcard? Sending a watercolor-painted postcard with your own artwork is a fun way to accomplish it. Each card is 4 by 6 inches, allowing you to paint while keeping it small enough to mail as a postcard. What about the living conditions? You'll be relieved to find that the cards are manufactured in the United States by a well-known firm. Strathmore is a well-known brand, so buying from them is a good idea. The paper is composed of natural cotton, and it contains no pulp acids, which is even more astonishing.

Due to the high quality cotton fiber and acid-free state, the paper does not deteriorate as quickly as ordinary paper. It will keep your artwork safe for many years. It almost looks like the paper was cold pressed. Its surface isn't as rough as you'd expect from cold pressed paper, but it still has enough teeth to allow for effective paint absorption and sketching without difficulty. It has a ream weight of 140 pounds, which means it is thick enough to withstand several washings without buckling.

ARTEZA Pack Watecolor

This product appears to be expensive at first glance, but closer inspection reveals a different picture. In terms of value for money, the ARTEZA Watercolor Pack is one of the best options. 

Although the product is on the lower end of the price spectrum, the quality is excellent. If you're a professional looking to create some gorgeous artworks, this collection is a must-have. The papers are acid-free and made entirely of cotton. That means your work will survive for years and you won't have to worry about it deteriorating due to acids or other contaminants. The paper is cold pressed, but not excessively so, and has just enough bite for light paint absorption. Furthermore, the grain is constant, ensuring a smooth and consistent application.

If you want to make a great painting, these ingredients will come in helpful. You won't have to worry about this paper fading when you use it. It is constructed of cotton and, as previously said, does not contain acids. That means there's nothing to detract from the vibrant hues. You should use heavyweight paper when painting with watercolors. 

Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress (Legion Stonehenge)

The Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress paper from Legion is a great intermediate paper. It's made entirely of cotton and is acid-free, with a neutral pH. Legion also contains no optical brightening chemicals or chlorine, lowering its manufacturing environmental impact.

Legion paper is available in a range of sizes and hot and cold pressed options, whether you buy it from Amazon, Dick Blick, or Jerry's Artarama. Because of the changes in texture between the different types of paper, you may pick the perfect texture for your next painting (remember: hot pressed for detail, cold press for deeper texture and layering). The surface of the Legion Stonehenge should be able to withstand the most extreme demands, whether you're painting with watercolors or another medium.

Watercolor Paper Journal by Winsor & Newton

In terms of toughness and longevity, the Winsor & Newton Watercolor Paper Journal is unparalleled. This cylinder-shaped paper is exceptionally durable, withstanding numerous washing without warping or pilling. The paper is made up of interwoven strands, ensuring that it is strong and free of flaws. The paper was described as "excellent for artists" by one user, and we agree that it would be useful to a professional. Because of the interior and exterior size of the fibers, as well as the fact that the paper is made of cotton, the colors stay vibrant long after the paint has dried.

By the way, we're not talking about a cotton blend. It's constructed entirely of cotton and doesn't include any acids. The absorption rate is ideal and the product will last a long time if it is made entirely of cotton. Because it is cold pressed with just the right tooth/texture and homogeneity, the paper allows the paint to soak in but not so much that the painting appears cumbersome. The treatment reduces the artwork's coarseness, giving it the appearance of being painted on hot pressed paper. The colors are quite vivid. There is no pilling or bleeding, and color consistency is good.

What Is Watercolor Paper and How Does It Work?

Watercolor painting is done on watercolor paper, which is a specific form of paper made of cotton or a combination of cotton and wood pulp. Pure cotton types are more expensive than blended cotton types, but they are the best since they absorb the paint well and keep the artwork in good condition.

It's critical to understand that the amount of pressure applied throughout the manufacturing process has an impact on the paper's surface type. Hot-pressed paper receives the most compression, followed by cold-pressed paper with medium compression, and rough paper with very little compression. Each approach has the following characteristics:


Manufacturers apply light pressure to the paper sheets using a cold press, resulting in a more textured surface. This type of surface allows some pigment to pass through. Although this type of substance can be utilized to generate a dispersed wet-into-wet application, it does allow for some bleeding, which makes control difficult. In any event, cold-pressed paper lends itself well to a range of advanced watercolor techniques.


With only a little compression, rough watercolor paper is the most textured of the three. Because of its fibers, a lot of pigment can pass through. As a result, the wet-on-wet treatment is very effective. In addition, complex techniques like dry brushing, which may be used to create scenic plants, are ideal for this type of surface. A downside of this paper is that it is difficult to wash for editing.


A hot press uses a lot of pressure to produce paper that is extremely smooth and devoid of flaws. In addition to being smooth, hot-pressed paper is exceptionally resilient, allowing just a minimal amount of color to penetrate its surface. As a result, it's great for fine detail techniques like ink and pencil, but it doesn't work well with watercolors because it doesn't allow for wet-on-wet application or dispersion.


If you prefer painting scenery or simply appreciate the idea of painting outside, a watercolor paper pad can be a great alternative. Because this type of device is often light and portable, it's an ideal choice for the aforementioned applications. Pads are typically made of the same high-quality paper that students use.

This type of cloth is cheap and light, but it's textured and good enough to hold watercolor paint. Paper pads are commonly tape-bound, allowing individual sheets to be removed at any time. Another great option is the wire-bound pad, which allows you to flip over a previous painting and start working on a new one.

Sheets and rolls

If you're looking for something that's both economical and convenient, watercolor paper sheets might be worth considering. They're normally sold individually or in a set. Because these sheets are so thin, they must be stretched before painting to minimize warping or buckling. Although stretching the sheets is not difficult, some painters may find it unpleasant and inconvenient.

When it comes to Artists' quality paper, individual sheets are rarely available; instead, rolls are offered. This will save you a lot of money in the long run. You'll need to stretch out this rolled-up paper a little before you can use it effectively.


One of the most common and well-liked watercolor paper presentations is the block. A stack of watercolor paper sheets is known as a watercolor paper block. These sheets' sides are bonded together with a light glue. As a result, the sheets come out of the block looking gorgeous and straight.

You may operate directly on the top sheet without it buckling or wrinkling because this presentation is thick and robust. You can easily pull the sheet to frame it, place it in a folder, or do anything you wish with it once it has dried. These bricks are useful and convenient, but they are also a little pricey.


Texture is more of a personal taste when it comes to paper. Personal preferences and painting styles ultimately determine which type of texture is preferred. Watercolor paper comes in three different textures: hot-pressed, cold-pressed, and rough. On hot-pressed paper, the smoothest surface may be found. It's also the most durable and resistant.

Cold-pressed paper, on the other hand, has a medium level of roughness and texture. Finally, the rough paper is great for washes and brilliant colors because to its particular texture.


Many types of watercolor paper are colored to make them appear warmer and more inviting than they would without. It can also help the material nicely reflect light. This color is normally a creamy white, however it can vary based on the design of the cloth.


Because it's built of sheets of watercolor paper and sturdy board, it's a great alternative to blocks. Boards, like blocks, are solid and resistive enough to allow you to work directly on them without putting too much strain on the paper. Because it is connected to the hard board, it will not wrinkle, deform, or decay when the watercolor paint dries. Paper boards, as a result, are a more cost-effective alternative to paper blocks.


It's critical to assess the quality of the numerous products accessible, just as it is with anything else. When it comes to this type of work, there are two primary quality levels: student quality and artist quality. Students' quality paper, as one might guess, is less priced but of lower quality than artists' level paper.

Because it is free of acid and other harmful substances, artist's quality paper is thicker, more textured, more dynamic, and more durable overall. As a result, it will not fade or stain with time. Here's an example of the watercolor paper's ability to handle oil colors.

Method of Production

This substance is produced in three ways: by hand, mold, and machine. The production procedure determines the quality of a paper. Hand-made paper is usually of the highest quality, but it also has the most defects. In terms of quality, mold-made paper comes in second. It is less flaky than its handcrafted counterpart. Finally, machine-made paper is the cheapest option, but it also has the fewest defects.


The abbreviation GSM stands for grams per square meter (grams per square meter). The heavier and thicker the paper is, the greater the GSM. When you consider that office paper normally has a GSM of 90 to 120, you can get a better idea. Art paper, on the other hand, usually has a GSM of 300 to 640.
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