How to choose water colour paper

There is so much and are so many different kinds of water colour paper on the market, its hard to know where to start. Here is some general advice and information about water colour paper, which I hope will help you. The weight is decided on how much 500 sheets weigh. The heavier the paper the fewer the sheets and the more it weighs.  Thicker paper absorbs more water and paint without buckling. The three generally bought water colour papers are 90 grms 140 grms and 300 grms. Anything under 300 grms needs to be stretched before painting. Basically water colour paper comes in three different sorts, hot pressed, cold pressed sometimes called not and rough. Cold pressed paper is passed through cold rollers when its being manufactured and gives a medium texture which is very popular.

ARTEZA 5.5×8.5” Watercolor Pad, Pack of 3, 90 Sheets (140lb/300gsm), 30 Sheets Each, Spiral Bound Acid Free Cold Pressed Paper, Painting & Drawing Sketchbook, Perfect for Wet, Dry & Mixed Media


Arches Watercolor Pad, Hot Press 9″X12″


Hot pressed or not, as you may gather is run through heated rollers when it’s made and has a smoother texture. This is ideal for pen and ink work. Rough paper is heavier and courser and needs a lot of practice in its use. There is also Artists and Student quality paper.  As someone who is just starting water colour, student quality is good enough to practice on and is a lot cheaper to buy.  Student quality is usually machine made, whereas professional quality is usually hand made. Water colour comes in many forms. There are sheets, blocks, rolls, pads or boards. You can buy water colour paper in single sheets or in a pack. Under the 300 grm. weight these have to be stretched. Blocks are gummed together water colour paper, with a small opening in the gummed edge, where you can insert a craft knife and remove your painted image.



Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Block, Cold Press, 11″x15″ Bound (4 sides), 15 Sheets/Block

Pads are loose pieces of water colour paper that are usually spirally bound at one edge and are good for water colour sketching.

Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Pad, 5.5” x 8.5”, Top Wire Bound, 12 Sheets (100511057)

Water colour boards are usually rigid card covered with water colour paper that doesn’t need stretching.

Canson Plein Air Watercolor Art Board Pad for Watercolor, Ink, Gouache and Acrylic, 12 x 16 Inch, Set of 10 Boards


Water colour paper can also be bought in rolls and cut to size as needed.

Canson Artist Series Montval Watercolor Paper, Cold Press, 140 Pound, 48 Inch x 5 Yard Roll


The colour of water colour paper is generally white. This can however be bought in tints, sometimes it comes in crème, pink or greyish tints.

Legion Stonehenge 5 by 7 Inch Pad (L21-STP250MC57), 15 Sheets, Multicolor Paper

There are special hand-made cotton papers that also include strange things like the skin of banana, tea, algae, bamboo, sugar beet and wool. Bamboo for instance has been around for centuries and is used in Chinese art. The manufacturer Hahnemuhle, are using this as a cheaper alternative to pure cotton paper. Well worth trying.


Strathmore (105-906 400 Series Artist Trading Cards, Textured Surface, Natural White, 20 Sheets