Art & Craft

Watercolour Paper: Tips on choosing a right watercolour paper.

Watercolour paper

Watercolour paper: 80% of your paintings go wrong because of the paper, choose wisely.

The right paper.
Your paper is your real muse!

Watercolour is a live medium, the one that steadily comes to life with every stroke.

The paper majorly dictates the quality of the outcome it is produced
on, and what better choice than a tailor-made watercolor sheet?

Watercolor paper is the canvas one must choose to exhibit your painting prowess. It’s partially or entirely made up of cotton. An artist tends to choose watercolour paper over regular paper mainly because of its ability to absorb more water than paint.

The primary difference between a printer paper, regular drawing paper, and watercolour paper is their weight in GSM.

There are several reputed watercolour paper brands that one can expect to choose from at their local art store. To ensure you pick out the best, there are several parameters you must take into consideration.

Typically, watercolour paper comprises organic extracts like wood pulp or cotton.
The paper can acquire its necessary cellulose from either cotton or of wood pulp origin, therefore, our first step on the journey of picking the most suitable watercolour paper can distinguish samples

Watercolour paper

Selection of watercolour sheet on the basis of material:

● 100% cotton origin paper is more durable to taping, scratching, and masking techniques than the one with wood pulp and, therefore,
costlier. A cheaper alternative to this is using papers made up of
wood pulp or a combination of cotton and other cellulose fibers.

● Apart from being a more durable canvas, the cotton watercolour paper also has a neutral pH – making it naturally acid-free. In contrast, its variants are chemically treated to achieve the same. One realizes the necessity of the acid-free nature of the watercolour paper over the years. Leftover acid gradually turns the paper yellow.

● Since the expense of acid- free paper is higher, a beginner may
choose to work with a cheaper paper having mild acid content. Which is entirely okay as your aim is just to learn and probably not store it for years.

Mold-made and Machine-made watercolour paper generally come in three different textures. While browsing for watercolour articles, you may have come across terms like ‘hot-pressed’ and ‘cold-pressed’ paper which refers to the paper’s surface texture. These terms are references to the process of manufacturing of the watercolour paper.

Cold Pressed Paper Vs Hot Press Paper

What will you choose??

Cold-pressed watercolour paper :

● Labelled as ‘CP.’
● Cellulose pulp passes through metal rollers at a very low temperature.
● Has a slightly textured surface.
● Faster absorbent than Hot-press, therefore one must not hover the
brush over it for long!
● The paper’s texture adds to the outcome, thereby making cold-pressed more popular.

Cold press watercolour paper

Hot-pressed watercolour paper :

● Labeled as ‘HP.’
● Cellulose is pressed at high pressure at high temperatures.
● Gives a smooth surface finish.

● Slower absorbent than Cold-press hence allowing more extended play of colour.
● It makes corrections easier.

Hot pressed watercolour paper

Selection of watercolour paper on the basis of size

Based on the size, one can easily find watercolour paper in three sizes and pick according to their convenience. Most common sizes are :

● Watercolour paper pads – Like a book, watercolour pads are a
compilation of watercolour paper one can flip through!

● Watercolour paper blocks – As the name suggests, it’s a stack of
paper pasted to each other from the edges, one may use a paint knife to separate it.

● Watercolour paper sheets (Rolls) – Except their size, watercolour


Unlike the fine-cut of the machine-made or mold-made watercolour paper, a hand-made watercolour paper has four natural, uneven, or ‘deckle.’ edges. The pulp tends to thin out at the deckle edge, indicating the wanted imperfection.

In the seventeenth century, deckled edges were a mark
of the parchment’s authenticity, also because they were the true hallmarks of hand-made paper and not machine-cut. Since then, many artists prefer deckle-edged paper over finished edges. Today, one can get deckled edges by sandblasting, sawing, or merely tearing.

Interesting experiment with your watercolour sheets

How to give a hand-made paper the perfect deckle edge in less than two minutes?

● Use a damp paint-brush to dab the edges of the paper lightly.
● Place a thin wooden block or a ruler on the damp side.
● Tear the paper gently, Ta-Da!

● Cantilever the edge you want to deckle off your work desk.
● Use a piece of sandpaper to sew the edges.
● Remember to saw outwards and not back and forth vertically!


Most high-grade papers are both internally and externally sized.

Sizing of a watercolour paper refers to the process of coating it with
numerous substances as a protective filler. It envelopes the fibers and restricts their hydrophilic (water-loving) nature. Unsized paper is called ‘waterleaf.’
Traditionally, gelatin was used to size a watercolour paper. Sizing can be done internally and externally.

Internal sizing of watercolour sheet

  1. The paper is said to be ‘internally sized’ when the sizing agent is added to water and pulp mixture before the paper is actually made.
  2. The most common internal sizing agents are alkyl ketene dimer. (AKD), rosin, and alkyl succinic anhydride (ASA).
  3. Internal sizing agents must have specific properties such as hydrophobicity, excellent retention of fibers and must strongly bond with the fibers.
  4. Internal sizing agents can be classified into acidic sizing agents (Rosin and its derivatives) and basic or neutral sizing (AKD, ASA) agents.
  5. Sizing ensures that the paper doesn’t easily succumb to scratching or scrubbing.

External sizing of watercolor sheet

  1. The paper is said to be ‘externally sized’ when the produced sheets are soaked in the substance itself.
  2. The substance forms a thin layer of itself over the paper.
  3. Different chemicals are used as external sizing agents such as modified starches, Styrene Maleic Anhydride (SMA), Styrene
    Acrylic Emulsion (SAE), Styrene Acrylic Acid (SAA), Ethylene Acrylic
    Acid (EAA), gelatin, and Polyurethane (PUR).
  4. This process is also known as surface ‘modifying’ or surface

What is khadi watercolor paper

Khadi hand-made watercolour pad is among the top ten recommended canvases for water colouring. The conventional
300 GSM Khadi paper has a cold-pressed texture, and hence, like other cold-pressed papers, the outcome of water colour on Khadi paper is backed by a beautiful texture. As no chemicals are used in the manufacture, the paper’s color varies from bright white to natural creamy white. Feel free to try your hand on the Khadi paper and be prepared to be surprised!

Regular printing paper

These papers can withstand multiple soakings and press-runs without failing. These are used for multiple purposes like screening, block-printing, etching, lithography, etc. These are also quite popular amongst painters!

Frequently thought questions

1. What is Vegan watercolour paper?

When a paper during its manufacturing journey doesn’t involve any
chemical that originated from animals, it is said to be a ‘vegan’ paper.

2. What is meant by the bleached paper?

Any paper that has been treated with chemicals to lighten its
original colour is said to be ‘bleached.’ Most common bleaching
agents are chlorine compounds. These agents are usually mixed with the pulp at the time of manufacture itself!

3. What is meant by the unbleached paper?

When, in the making of paper, the extracts that form the pulp are not
forced by chemicals to get rid of their colour, their outcome is a
naturally tinted paper. By using an unbleached paper, you are
taking a step to encourage the paper industry to adopt more
environment-friendly ways of business.

4. How to measure the thickness of the paper?

The simplest way to measure a paper’s thickness is to stack up
multiple sheets of the paper, at least until their combined thickness
reaches the least count of your ruler. Measure the cumulative
thickness and divide it by the number of sheets in the stack to acquire the thickness of one sheet.
Permutations and combinations of the above properties can be fun to experiment with. You might end up choosing the most unconventional style of canvas to convey your story, but as long as you are comfortable with it, you own it all!

5. Where can i buy watercolour paper?

At Ayush Paper we sell watercolour paper with 270 gsm and fabriano at 300 gsm 100% cotton. The 270 Gsm papers start from 220/- for A5 size with 20 pages.

6. Is watercolor paper good for acrylics

You could use watercolor paper for acrylics. It all depends on the weight of the paper. Choose watercolor papers that are 100% cotton and 400 GSM should be ideal for your acrylics could take up to a few layers. But there are some papers for acrylic paint that you should give a thought to.

7. Can you put watercolor paper in a printer

Yes! Provided the tooth is not to much else the ink might not set in well. We have tried taking color print on watercolor paper too. The colour becomes slightly dull when you print on the watercolor sheet as the paper is cotton it absorbs the color but the effect looks amazing.

Go for it!

8. which side of watercolor paper to use

Usually all the watercolor papers are same from both the sides. Incase your is not same on both the sides you should use the side that has texture.

9. Five reasons why is watercolor paper so expensive

Production of watercolor paper is difficult as

  1. maintaining white color is difficult.
  2. sourcing consistent raw material is tough.
  3. Skilled labor is required to make quality paper.
  4. Texturing of paper needs to be correct with appropriate tooth else the paint wont set well on the paper.
  5. As paper ages its sizing properties reduce.

Wishing you luck as you get familiar with these terms that help you
understand your work better and rectify your errors. Continue
to experiment, for you never know what may appeal to the artist in you! And id like to know what brand of watercolor sheets have you used???

Watercolor paper

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