Watercolor Basics ~ Paper (5 Tips)

It’s Back to School time, so I thought it would be a great time to go back to basics, Watercolor Basics. Let’s talk about paper. When I first started out in watercolor I was using the wrong paper. Watercolor paper is specially designed for watercolor paint – it has texture, absorbs the paint, and can withstand a good amount of “working” at your painting before the paper starts to break down.

I resisted at first because I wanted a very white paper. I was using a paper that had a coating on it and the coating was preventing the paper from absorbing the paint. Eventually I found watercolor papers that were the cool white I wanted. Once I made the switch I realized what a difference the paper actually makes. 

I now use cold pressed paper. What does that mean? According to watercoloraffair.com,

“In a nutshell, the terms “hot press” and “cold press” refer to the paper’s surface finish or texture. Cold pressed paper has a slightly bumpy, textured surface. But hot pressed paper has a smooth surface finish. You will also hear artists talking about the tooth of the paper.”

The paper I use most often is Fluid Easy Block Fluid Watercolor Blocks, most often the 9″ x 12″ size.

Watercolor Paper Tips:

  • Always use watercolor paper or a multimedia paper – this is the multimedia sketchbook I use.
  • Before I paint, I trim my paper to 9″ x 11″. This creates a painting that fits nicely in mats and frames for 8″ x 10″ artwork. Before I started trimming the paper my paintings were too long for the mats and too much wasn’t visible in a standard mat. I use this mat set for 8″ x 10″ artwork. It includes the mat, backing board, and a clear bag to protect your matted artwork.
  • Always tape down your paper to a board using painter’s tape. I use the cardboard back of old art pads. The cardboard needs to be larger than your paper.I use a painter’s tape like this one. I prefer tape that is less than an inch wide. The reason for taping down your paper is that water and paint causes paper to buckle. Taping your paper to a board helps keep the paper flat.

  • It is important to use the correct side of the paper. The side facing up when you take a sheet off the pad. If you have trouble keeping track – make a small pencil x mark on the back side of the paper.
  • Even though the paper is made for watercolor — Don’t rub your brush too hard or the paper will start to come apart. This can also happen when you overwork a section of your painting.

Other Watercolor Basics posts: 
Brushes: What types of brushes should you use?
Paint: What type of paint should you use?

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out my new guide “Beginner Watercolor Exploration” 

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises & projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

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Watercolor Basics ~ Paper | What type of paper should you use and other tips for painting with watercolor

Published by Eileen McKenna {my creative resolution}

Watercolor Artist, seascape painter, collector of creative inspiration. Sign up for my newsletter! Want to learn watercolor? Visit: https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/

4 thoughts on “Watercolor Basics ~ Paper (5 Tips)

  1. Pingback: Watercolor Wisdom

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