Have Your Pick in Watercolor Papers
What watercolor paper you choose to work with when painting with this medium is key. Your paper’s weight, size, brand, whether its cold pressed or hot pressed, etc., can all influence the final outcome of your painting.
Artist Birgit O’Connor wanted to put one well-known brand of watercolor paper to the test. After rigorous testing, she shares her findings below. Will it live up to the hype? Read on to find out.
In 1832, scientist William Winsor and artist Henry Newton established a partnership; together they founded the company in London known as Winsor & Newton.
The company is dedicated to artists and provides some of the finest art materials on the market; however, no matter how trustworthy a brush, paint and paper manufacturer may be, it must move forward continually — making improvements, developing products and sometimes changing formulations.
Recently, Winsor & Newton has revamped its line of watermedia paper by way of partnership with a new mill. The former student-grade paper (Cotman) is now “Classic,” and the higher-grade paper (Artists’) is now “Professional.”
Winsor & Newton sent me several samples of its professional paper: a 300-lb. cold-pressed sheet, a block of 140-lb. hot-pressed paper and a block of 140-lb. cold-pressed paper.
The paper has no scent, and its surface is softer than other popular papers with a harder sizing. When wet, the heavier 300-lb. paper continues to lie flat.
It Takes Two (Sides)
Most interestingly, this mould-made paper has a noticeably different surface texture: The top side, with the Winsor & Newton logo watermark, is much smoother than the back side. Of course, you can paint on either side, but you can maximize the benefits of different techniques by using the difference in texture.
The heavier 300-lb. cold-pressed paper is surprisingly easy to tear without any special treatments or tools. The surface accepts water and color well, and it remains workable for a long time without drying out.
When testing the product, I was most pleased to see the consistency of the sizing throughout the entire sheet of paper, especially along the edge, which allowed for even washes — a key feature for quality watercolor application.
Smooth Washes, Even Color
The big surprise came when I applied a blue-gray blend of French ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. This combination is notorious for separating and settling into a paper’s tooth, leaving granulated effects.
With Winsor & Newton’s new cold-pressed paper, there was no unwanted separation. I could create smooth washes, even with colors that usually separate. When I applied color to the top of the paper, the results were flawless washes of color.
When mingling color directly on the watercolor paper, the paint moved easily and the surface remained consistently damp. Color intensity did take just a bit longer to build, but that was a minor issue. The color dried and didn’t blossom.
With each additional layer, the color flowed as freely as it did with the first layer. When I used lifting techniques or even tape, the surface remained intact — no tearing or other damage.
Winsor & Newton, of course, makes more than watercolor paper. Among its more recent offerings in watermedia are watercolor sticks and watercolor markers. The company also makes gouache and inks, as well as charcoal, canvas, varnishes and mediums.
Overall, I found Winsor & Newton Professional watermedia paper to be easy to work with for a variety of techniques. The surfaces are receptive to many different painting styles. I was very happy with the results of my experiments and will definitely use this brand of paper again.
Learn more watermedia tips and tricks in this issue of Watercolor Artist.