Are you new to watercolors and looking for the best watercolor paper to practice? Or maybe you're a seasoned artist looking for a quality paper that will allow your artwork to shine. Either way, you're in the right place. This blog post will explore some of the best watercolor papers for beginners and share our top picks. So, whether you're just starting out or looking for an upgrade, read on for some great suggestions!
What Is Watercolor Paper?
Watercolor paper is a type of paper that is specifically designed for watercolor painting. It is made from various materials, including cotton, linen, and rag, and comes in different weights and sizes.
One of the benefits of using watercolor paper is its high absorbency, which allows the paint to dry quickly and evenly. This is important for preventing the colors from bleeding into each other or becoming muddy.
When it comes to choosing the best watercolor paper, there are a lot of different factors to consider. Not only do you have to choose between different types of watercolor paper, but you also need to decide on the right watercolor paper size for your project. We’ll explore some of the best watercolor papers on the market and explain why they’re a good choice for beginners here, so keep on reading!
What Is the Best Watercolor Paper for Beginners?
We recommend starting with a cold press watercolor paper. Altenew’s A2 cold press watercolor paper has a smooth surface ideal for painting techniques requiring fine detail. Plus, the smooth surface makes it easier to achieve even washes of color.
There are a few different types of watercolor paper that you can choose from, depending on your needs. Here are some of the best watercolor papers for beginners:
|Watercolor Paper Brand||Features||Perfect For|
|Altenew Watercolor Paper Pad||
||Beginners and Professionals|
|Canson XL Watercolor Paper||
|Arches Watercolor Paper||
||Beginners and Professionals|
|Saunders Waterford Watercolor Paper||
||Beginners and Professionals|
|Fabriano Watercolor Paper||
No matter which watercolor paper brand you choose, make sure to test it out first to see how the paint reacts. Every paper is different, and you may find that one type of paper works better for you than another. Experiment and have fun!
Types of Watercolor Paper
When it comes to watercolor paper, there are three main types to choose from:
- Professional-grade or Artist-grade
- Student-grade watercolor paper is the most affordable option and is perfect for beginners. It's typically made from a combination of cellulose and wood pulp, so it doesn't retain color or detail as well as artist-grade watercolor paper. However, it's an excellent option for experimentation and practice. This machine-made watercolor paper usually has less texture than cold-pressed artist-grade watercolor paper.
- Professional grade watercolor paper is usually mold-made from higher quality paper stock and can handle more paint without buckling or warping. This watercolor paper pad is made from 100% cotton, so it retains color and detail better than student-grade paper. If you're planning on doing serious painting, professional-grade watercolor paper is the way to go.
- Handmade watercolor paper is just what it sounds like - paper that's been handmade by an artisan. It's the highest quality watercolor paper you can buy, and it's perfect for those who want the best results possible. However, it's also the most expensive option.
Can you do watercolor on normal paper?
Absolutely not! Regular copy and printing paper only weighs 24lb or 90-120 GSM. Thin paper cannot withstand the application of water and will cause it to warp and tear.
Watercolor Paper Sizes
Watercolor paper comes in a variety of sizes, from tiny postcard-sized sheets to large pieces measuring 22 x 30 inches. The most common size is 9 x 12 inches, which is a good size for both beginners and experienced artists. In the US, the most common watercolor paper sizes are:
- 9" x 12"
- 10" x 14"
- 11.7" x 16.5"
Large watercolor paper can be intimidating for beginners, while smaller sheets can be challenging to work on, and may not provide enough space for your paintings.
When choosing a watercolor paper size, consider the type of paintings you want to create. If you plan on painting large landscapes or portraits, then a larger watercolor paper is necessary. For smaller paintings or sketches, a smaller watercolor paper will suffice. Altenew offers A2-sized loose watercolor sheets that are ideal for card makers who want to incorporate watercolor art into their handmade greeting cards.
Watercolor Paper Weights
Not to be confused with its physical size, the weight of watercolor paper is measured in pounds and refers to the thickness of the paper. The three most common watercolor paper weights are 90lb, 140lb, and 300lb.
- 90lb watercolor paper is thin and lightweight, making it easy to transport and ideal for projects that require a lot of painting. However, it's also more likely to buckle and warp when wet, so it's not the best choice for beginners.
- 140lb watercolor paper is thicker and more durable than 90lb paper, making it an excellent choice for beginners. It can still buckle and warp when wet, but it's less likely to do so than thinner papers.
- 300lb watercolor paper is the heaviest and most durable option. It's ideal for paintings that require a lot of water or wet-on-wet techniques. It's also less likely to buckle and warp when wet, making it a good choice for artists.
Watercolor Paper Textures
Watercolor paper comes in two main textures: hot press and cold press.
Hot press watercolor paper has a smooth surface ideal for detailed paintings. It's also less likely to buckle and warp when wet, making it a good choice for wet-on-wet techniques.
Cold press watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface ideal for more expressive paintings. While most cold-pressed watercolor papers are more likely to buckle and warp when wet, Altenew’s A2 watercolor paper sheets are still super smooth so it’s perfect for both beginners and professionals.
Hot Press vs. Cold Press Watercolor Paper
|Hot Press Watercolor Paper||Cold Press Watercolor Paper|
|Smooth surface||Textured surface that is slightly bumpy|
|Less absorbent||More absorbent|
|Easier to lift off paint and make corrections||Lifting off paint isn’t as easy|
|More vibrant colors||Colors are flatter|
|Perfect for watercolor paintings that require more precision and accuracy (ex. portrait paintings)||Ideal for different watercolor painting styles|
|Fast drying time, so you won’t have much time to play around with the paint.||Slow drying time so you can have more time to move the paint around and play with it|
When it comes to choosing the best watercolor paper, there are a few things you need to consider. Let's walk you through the basics of what to look for when selecting your watercolor paper pad and give some tips on what will work best for your needs. Here are a few tips on choosing the best watercolor papers for beginners!
- The first is the type of watercolor paper. Watercolor paper comes in two main varieties: cold press and hot press. Cold press paper has a more textured surface, while hot press paper is smoother. If you're just starting, it's best to choose a cold press paper because it will be easier to control your paint on a textured surface.
- The next thing to consider is the weight of the paper. Watercolor paper weights vary from light to heavy. If you're just starting out, choosing lighter-weight paper is best because it will be easier to control your paint on a lighter sheet.
- Finally, you need to consider the size of the paper. There are large watercolor paper pads and small ones. If you're just starting out, it's best to choose a smaller size paper because it will be easier to control your paint on a smaller sheet.
Find the Best Watercolor Paper for Your Watercoloring Needs!
For a beginner watercolorist, knowing which paper to choose can be daunting. There are so many brands and types of watercolor paper on the market, each with its own pros and cons. We’ve explored some of the best watercolor papers for beginners and explained their features. Make sure to experiment with different types and sizes of watercolor paper until you find the one that works best for you. And don't forget to have fun!