Picking Your Perfect Watercolor Paper

Picking Your Perfect Watercolor Paper

Picture this: you’ve got your watercolor kit and palette all set up, and you’re brimming with inspiration. But what’s the best watercolor paper option to make your artistic dreams come true?

Read on to discover how to choose the right watercolor paper and a few other surface options for your watercolor work.

In the world of watercolor paper, there are two main factors that affect your watercolor paper: texture and weight. Using the right (or wrong) type of watercolor paper can truly make or break a painting.


Hot Pressed Paper

This type of watercolor paper is pressed using metal rollers, which create a smooth surface and an even texture. Hot-pressed paper is great for mixed media work. When combining watercolor with other media, even ink and graphite will glide smoothly over its surface.

Hot-pressed paper also captures detail well and offers a sleek finish. Plus, the smoothness of the paper is great for creating subtle color gradients, which is very useful when painting things like flowers, skies, skin and clothes.

Cold-Pressed Paper

This type of paper presents a rougher texture than the hot-pressed paper. When you glide your brush over it, some of the paint settles on it while skipping the indentations of the grainy texture, leaving them blank.

This creates a beautifully textured brushstroke, perfect for representing all kinds of sparkling bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans, among many other subjects. Cold-pressed paper is great for beginners and is also a favorite among many artists.

Rough Paper

As the name indicates, this is a paper with a very textured surface, making it very different from hot-pressed paper. It’s not ideal for painting a lot of detail, but it creates expressive brush strokes that can provide a lot of character and emotion to a painting. This is a fun texture to work with, as you never really know what the results will be.


How can you tell if the paper has soaked long enough? Try gently bending a corner: If it holds its position, then you’ve reached the perfect soaking time. If it falls down, it’s been in the water too long (don’t worry, you can still use it!); if it comes back to its position, it needs more time.

Step 3: Place on Flat Stretching Surface

Place the soaked paper on your stretching support. The most common supports are stretching boards, gator boards (a kind of foam board) and medium-density fibreboard (MDF). This support needs to be acid-free and solid enough to stay flat when the paper dries and shrinks. The paper should cling to the stretching support.

Step 4: Remove Excess Water and Secure

Remove any excess water by smoothing it with your hands. Secure the paper using the support’s system or with staples or tape.

Step 5: Dry

Let your paper dry in a horizontal position so the water is equally distributed. After a few hours, it should be drum tight and ready for painting.