Not All Paper is Equal

I am not going to go into all of the different types of watercolor paper on the market as you can easily research that.  However, I will tell you what I have been using up until today.  I have been using mainly Winsor & Newton Cotman Gummed Water Colour Pad, 140lbs/300gsm, cold pressed/not grain.  I have also used Daler Rowney 140lbs/300gsm, not.  I have been buying what is available to me, but the only places near me that sell paper are The Range and HobbyCraft and they are not cheap.  140lb is the lightest weight paper I will work on as it really doesn’t buckle much and you don’t have to stretch it.  The W&N Cotman paper is quite sturdy, so if there is a little bit of crinkle, all I do is spray the back with clean water and place the painting face down on paper towels and put paper towels on the back and then cover it with a heavy book.  When it dries, the painting is flat as a pancake.  The W&N Cotman paper soaks up a lot of water.  So, when I am working wet on wet, I usually need to wet the paper a few times to get really nice washes.  Up until today, I wasn’t aware that Winsor & Newton also make Artists’ Watercolor paper.  I will need to buy some to see how different it is.

Today I used up my last A4 piece of Cotman 140lb paper.  I had purchased a pack of Bockingford Paper 140lb/not surface online as it was really cheap.  I paid just over £7 for 20 sheets of paper!  When working on another lesson today, I got very different results.

Irises-Watercolor on Paper-A4
Irises-Watercolor on Paper-A4

The painting on the left is the first one I did on the Cotman paper.  The painting on the right is the one completed on the Bockingford paper and is the type of paper that the artist has used in the book I am working from.  Both papers have a good stiffness with very little buckling.  They are both cold pressed, 140lbs, not surface.  But that is where the similarities end, as apart from the price, the Bockingford was very cheap in comparison as I got 2x the amount of paper for nearly the same price.  Also, the feel of the paper is very different.  The Cotman feels very smooth while the Bockingford is a little bit more rough.  For the painting on the left,  I worked from the lesson as the artist does – with a fully loaded wet brush.  Unfortunately, the paint just sinks in too quickly as I noticed when I painted the main flower petals.  It looks like a mess.  For the rest of the painting, I first wet the paper a couple of times before applying the paint and that seemed to work better.  I was still not able to get the paint to bleed the way I wanted.

The painting on the right was painted on the Bockingford paper.  Because I had a disaster with the paint previously, I started the main petals by painting them with water first.  The water just seemed to sit there, so I took some off with a paper towel and applied the paint.  I also used a new color.  Instead of using Quinacridone Magenta, I used Rose of Ultramarine (it is my new favorite!)  I also used a bit of wax on the leaves as a resist as I couldn’t scrape out white lines on the leaves.  I should have done one in the middle with the wax, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to look.  I know for next time.  With this paper, it wasn’t really necessary to wet every section before painting as the paint did eventually do what it was supposed to.  I only touched up one small segment as the color wasn’t bright enough, otherwise this was it.  As you can see, there are no backruns or too many hard edges.

I used a watersoluble pen on the painting on the left and decided not to for the one on the right.  The lines on the leaves were created with a spatula, some details were painted in and in the painting on the right, the edges around the petals were created by the paint, so drawing lines wasn’t really necessary.


I think this is my favorite so far and am looking forward to seeing if changing my paper has really made a difference.


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