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All About Watercolor Paper You Need to Know

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watercolor paper

There are many types of watercolor paper that can be found in the market. Each manufacturer has its own characteristics. Some artists find no difference between papers of the same grain, while others are very sensitive to these differences. Therefore, the only way to discover your preferences is to use and practice with different types of paper to find one that best suits your working style.

The paper used for watercolors must be able to absorb water and expand. Its surface must be able to retain moisture well, be able to expand in all directions, and be able to return to its original shape when dry.


Watercolor paper is made from wood pulp, cotton, and binder. The best paper is made totally from cotton, while the cheapest paper is made totally from wood pulp. Manufacturers can mix these two elements in the ratio of 50% wood pulp + 50% cotton to reduce costs but still ensure good quality.

In the manufacturing process, the binder is used twice, first as a binder in the pulp and then as a surface coating. Paper is a natural product, they can oxidize, this can be seen when the paper becomes dark or yellow. To prevent oxidation, an alkali is added to the pulp to maintain a neutral pH value. Antifungal additives are also added to prevent fungus from growing and causing yellow stains to develop over time.


The weight of paper is usually given in pounds per ream (lbs) or grams per square meter. The heaviest paper is usually the thickest, the weight of watercolor paper ranges from 90 to 300 pounds (185-640 g). Moreover, the weight difference in the paper’s performance, paper heavier than dian 140 pounds (300 g) does not need to be stretched before painting, unless the paper is soaked in water.


In watercolor painting, the quality of the paper is assessed by its resistance to washing and repair: For example, does it allow the paint to be removed to create accents?. In addition, it must hold the pigment on its surface to save the intensity of the color.

Art students and amateur painters are the main users of medium-grade papers. This paper has a high cotton content, above 50%. So, it is more expensive than student class but much better with washing and repairing process.

Medium quality paper, suitable for student-level and useful for developing artists in the early stages of the learning process. Typically, this paper is composed of cellulose from wood pulp, not cotton. It is the most economical and the quality is not too bad. So, it can be used to make sketches and drafts

Artis’s grade is the highest grade of paper intended for artists, professionals, and serious amateurs. This type of paper is made fully of cotton. Extremely stable and exceptionally resistant to repeated washes and fixing. Therefore, it is expensive but the quality is much superior to student grades and medium grades.


All watercolor paper is sold in many different forms, including Pads, Sheets, blocks, and more.

Watercolor paper Pad
Arches Pad

Pads are shaped like a book or spiral, it comes in a lot of types and sizes. Pads typically range in size from 7 x 10 inches (18 x 26 cm) and 20 x 28 inches (50 x 70cm).

Arches block
Arches Block

Block is a set of watercolor papers glued together that can be held together with adhesive on one side or on all four sides of the sides. Since the glue around the sides stretches the paper, allowing you to work on the main block and save time on stretching it yourself. To split-up sheets, just slide a knife between them.

Arches Watercolor Sheets

Sheets. Most sheets of watercolor paper have a standard size of about 22 × 30 inches (56 × 76 cm). Sheets are available packaged or loose and in a variety of sizes

Arches Roll
Arches Roll

Roll is usually 10 yards (10 m) long and 1 yard (1 m) wide. They can be purchased in whole or in part. The advantage of roll is that you can cut the paper to the size you want.

Strathmore Postcard
Postcards Strathmore

Postcards. Watercolor paper in postcard format has appeared recently on the market. One side of the sheet is printed for addressing the card and the other is blank so artists can paint whatever they like.


The surface of the watercolor paper has three different types: Hot Press (HP), Cold Press (NO), and Rough.

  • To begin with, Hot-pressed is the smoothest watercolor paper and is perfect for artists who like to paint in detail. Illustrators and designers often use this type of paper because its flat surface is very easy to reproduce.
  • Next, Cold-pressed paper with a medium textured surface is preferred by beginners because it is compatible with a wide variety of techniques and applications.
  • Finally, Rough is the most textured watercolor paper. This textured paper is perfect for those with a loose watercolor painting style.

Several brands of paper on the market.

You may have noticed that there are many types of watercolor paper on the market. Besides, each manufacturer has its own characteristics.
If you are wondering which paper brand to choose for your work, you can read: Top 5 Best Watercolor Paper for Artists that I recommend.

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