Watercolor Paper Brands:

  • - Saunders
  • - Fabriano
  • - Arches
  • - Bockingford
  • - Strathmore
  • - R.W.S. (Royal Watercolor Society)
  • - Twinrocker

Paper Format:

  • Blocks - pads of mold-made, 100% cotton paper with sealed adhesive edges. eliminates need for stretching. great for traveling.
  • Sheets - standard full sheet size is (22”x30”)
  • Ten-yard rolls - difficult to use and handle. to remove the paper memory of the curl, you can cut the paper to your desired length and soak it in the tub then hang it or mount it on a board to dry.

Paper Finish:

  • Hot press - smooth, hard, not very absorbent - better for dry-brush techniques. run through heated rollers that result in a smooth surface. intended for fine details.
  • Cold press - semismooth, absorbent. easily workable, and most common surface used in watercolor. run through cold rollers that press out a bit of the texture during the drying process.
  • Rough - very rough, absorbent. creates a lot of texture. not useful for fine details. comes right off the bed and is allowed to dry as is.

Paper Weight

  • 90lb (190gsm) / 140lb (300gsm) - buckle more and accept less water and handling.
  • 300lb (640gsm) - accept more water, lifting, reworking, and general handling.
  • 260lb (550gsm)
  • 400lb (840gsm)

Paper Material (fiber):

  • Cotton - highest grade and ost archival. naturally acid free. longest and strongest fibers making it extremely durable.
  • Cellulose - low to mid quality. typically student grade paper with the shortest fibers. (Newsprint and construction paper are both made from cellulose) these papers are more acidic and not archival and will break down over time.
  • Combination - mixture of wood and cotton fibers. generally used as a multipurpose paper.

Paper Terms:

  • Tooth - surface texture
  • Ream - 500 sheets of paper
  • gsm - grams per square meter
  • Sizing- starchy glue that binds and strengthens paper. helps paper be more resistant to moisture absorption. paper with both internal and external sizing is best and allows for richer color saturation. It is also more durable for reworking, lifting and scrubbing. less permeable paper.
  • deckled edge, watermark

Stretching Watercolor Paper:

  • the paper can be clipped onto a board for support using binder clips.
  • Most artists prefer to tape the paper on all edges to hold it in place and give a clean, white border when the tape is removed.
  • If you enjoy working on larger sheets of paper, or more lightweight varieties, stretching paper is a good skill to learn.
  • Stretching steps
  • soak paper in clean tub for 10 min.
  • holding two corners and tipping the paper, drain off as much water as possible.
  • lay the sheet on your support board
  • once paper is flat, use a staple gun and place a saple  in an upper corner. gently pull the opposite corner tight but do not overstretch. Staple that corner down. do the same for the other two corners, again taking care not to pull too hard. then add a staple in the middle. be sure to put the corner staples first then the middle ones.
  • make a 1:1 mixture of wood glue and water
  • using brown paper packing tape, torn to fit each side of the paper, wet a strip with the glue mixture and stick on watercolor paper/board overlapping about 1/2" Press in place. repeat for all sides.
  • put staples every 2" on top of the brown paper and let it dry flat.
  • To leave clean edges when the painting is done, use 2" white artists tape, again overlapping the white paper by 1/2"
  • Board materials
  • Plywood - heavy, unless sanded and varnished, it may have splinters.
  • Masonite - best for taping and clipping, but not stretching. lighter, more compact.
  • Gatorboard - durable, lightweight, for clipping, taping and cardboard surface makes it great for stretching. useful for  painting on location.