Top 5 Tips in Choosing Watercolor Paper

A variety of watercolor paper from different brands

Here are 5 things you should look for when you’re purchasing watercolor paper.

1. Texture

Arches rough watercolor block

  • Hot press (smooth) or cold press (textured)
  • Don’t know the difference? Check out our comparison between the two
  • Textures will vary depending on the manufacturer (Go to your local art store and feel them!)

2. Weight

Watercolor paper in 140lbs weight.

  • Determines how thick the paper is
  • Usually measured in lbs or gsm
  • 90lbs/190gsm is on the thinner side
  • 300lbs/638gsm is very thick
  • Usually 140lbs/300gsm is the way to go for most purposes

3. Material

  • 100% cotton (rag paper) is very absorbent, strong, pliable, and lays flat even with multiple washes of paint
  • Cheaper, student-grade watercolor paper can be made of a combination of various cellulose fibres so they’re less absorbent, colors do not show up as vibrant, and the paper can distort, pill, or tear

4. Form

Arches rough watercolor block

  • Do you want the paper in sheets, rolls, sketchpads, or blocks? What paper size do you enjoy using?
  • Sheets – large sheets are useful when you want to determine the size of the canvas (cut it yourself!) while pre-packaged/cut small sheets are great if you don’t want to cut them yourself
  • Rolls – save some money and buy a giant roll if you know you’ll be needing lots of it
  • Sketchpads – convenient, and you can take out a single sheet each time you need it
  • Blocks – the sheets are glued together on all 4 sides, so you don’t need to tape down your paper

5. Tone

Sheets of cold and hot press watercolor paper.

  • Watercolor paper can come in different tones such as bright white, natural, or cream
  • It is up to if you like a certain tone or if your painting requires it

Not sure on which brands to pick after considering these 5 aspects of watercolor paper? Read our guide on Watercolor Paper Brands to get more familiar with all the manufacturers out there.

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