A Paper Primer

Q. Several articles in Watercolor Magic refer to the professionals using 140-lb. paper and sizing, soaking or stretching it. I’ve used 300-lb. paper and detest 140-lb. paper. What are the good qualities of 140-lb. as opposed to 300-lb.?

A. I believe it’s all a matter of personal preference, so my suggestion is to experiment—try everything you’ve read. (In the Winter 1997 issue of Watercolor Magic, I demonstrated how and why to stretch watercolor paper.) I’d recommend that in the beginning, you try all of the papers, stretch them, don’t stretch them. Soon you’ll know what’s comfortable for you. What else matters? The only thing that’s important is that you like it. If a professional uses 140-lb. paper, he or she must like it, just as you prefer your 300-lb. paper. If, however, you use a great deal of water or like to rework, scratch and rub your surface a lot, I’d suggest using the heavier paper because the added thickness helps it stand up to repeated soaking and reworking. If you’re looking for quicker drying times, 140-lb. is perfect. But there are no rules.

Catherine Anderson is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West and the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Society. Visit her Web site at www.catherineanderson.net.

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