Spiral bound along one edge, typically on one short side, allowing multiple sheets to be easily worked on without having to remove them.
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Types of Watercolour Paper
Made Hand Papers are made from textile fibres such as cotton, linen & hemp and is typically surface sized with gelatine, this results in an unique paper with variable thickness and surface finish.
Most high quality artist papers are made on a cylinder mould machine, providing the appeal of hand-made paper but with a more uniform structure, some keeping details like deckle edges, giving a consistent quality and providing exceptional surface stability.
Process used for lower priced papers it results in an extremely regular surface and will often be made of more wood fibres and less cotton. It will usually be less suited to being able to remove colour without damaging the surface so it can't be over-painted again.
Materials paper is made from
The two most common materials for Watercolour papers are Cotton and Cellulose Pulp (chemically created from wood).
Cotton is used in the highest quality papers offering very good stability and archival properties. Examples being Arches Aquarelle, Saunders Waterford and Fabriano.
Other papers like Bockingford or Langton are 100% wood pulp and offer a satisfactory paper at a more affordable price.
Other artist papers will contain a mixture of the two (e.g. 50% Cotton), providing a compromise between quality and economy.
There are three main surface textures to watercolour papers:
SMOOTH or HOT PRESSED
also referred to as Satine, Satina, Silk, Botanical and HP. Has the smoothest surface, suitable for high detail work.
NOT (not one or the other) or Cold Pressed
also referred to as Fin, Fina, Medium Grain and CP, has a slightly textured surface and is the most popularly used as it is suitable for most types of work.
ROUGH also referred to as Torchon or Grossa, typically used for landscapes, seascapes etc where a heavily textured paper enhances the final piece of work.
Does paper have a side?
Because of the way it's made most papers will have a 'correct side' for example with mould-made papers the 'felt side' is the one that touches the woollen felts first during manufacturer and the 'mould side' is the side that touches the wire mesh around the cylinder called a mould.
Both sides of the paper can be used for painting, but the 'felt side' is often preferred, some papers will indicate the correct side by the use of the watermark being able to be read the correct way around or even by the manufacturer or distributor using a barcode sticker on the 'wrong' side, if not then you need to look very carefully at the paper to try to see the lines left by the fine wire mesh of the mould.
Forms of watercolour paper
Paper comes in sheets, pads and blocks.
Pads are either square bound or spiral bound, typically along one short edge to create a landscape orientation.
Some papers due to their long production history will be only available in 'imperial sizes' (measured in inches) especially in sheet form and blocks which are sized in divisions of the original sheet size, while pads often also follow this sizing many are also produced in 'A' sizes.
Weights of paper.
Papers are produced in a range of thicknesses denoted by its weight expressed in either pounds (lb) per ream (500 sheets) or grams per square metre (gsm)
The common weights are 90 lb/190gsm, 140l b/300 gsm, 260 lb/356 gsm, and 300 lb/640 gsm.
Heavier weight papers have the ability to absorb more water and allowing the surface to be scratched or re-worked with minimal damage.
A recent introduction has been watercolour boards, panels and canvases.
Acid Free and Paper shade
Almost without exception watercolour papers are acid free or pH neutral, meaning they will allow work to be stored for many years without deteriorating, often described as Archival Quality.
A lot of traditional papers are a natural slightly off-white shade that provides a natural warmth to paintings, while others will bleach the cotton or wood pulp to produce a 'high white' paper, for example available in the Saunders Waterford range. Bockingford is available in a range of coloured tints.