The Best 5 Watercolor Papers of 2024

Watercolor painting is a beautiful art form that requires the right tools and materials to achieve the best results. One essential element in watercolor painting is the choice of paper. Having the best watercolor paper can greatly enhance your artwork and bring out the vibrancy and transparency of your colors.

In this article, I will introduce you to the top 5 watercolor papers of 2024 that are suitable for artists of all levels. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, these papers will provide you with the quality and performance you need to create stunning watercolor paintings.

Introduction to 5 Best Watercolor Paper for 2024

Watercolor paper is specially designed to withstand the unique properties of watercolor paint. Unlike regular paper, watercolor paper has a higher absorbency, allowing the paint to be easily absorbed and giving you more control over the flow and intensity of your colors.

It also has a rough texture that helps to retain the paint and create interesting textures and effects. This makes it ideal for creating beautiful washes, gradients, and layering techniques that are characteristic of watercolor painting.

Here are the top 5 watercolor papers.

  1. Fabriano Artistico is a top choice for its exceptional quality and versatility. It’s cost effective, too! My personal favorite and go-to-paper.
  2. Saunders Waterford is a popular choice for its quality and durability. Saunders delivers on all levels and second only because of it’s slightly higher price tag.
  3. Arches Bright White is known for its exceptional durability and longevity. This is a favorite amongst most professionals and the most expensive of the bunch. Yes, it’s more durable and worth the money if you don’t mind spending a little extra.
  4. Blick Premier is favored by amateur and beginner artists for its exceptional price and performance. Not as durable as the others but certainly a good purchase if you are just starting your watercolor journey.
  5. Winsor & Newton Professional is a versatile and affordable option for artists of all levels. While not as popular as some of the others, this paper certainly stands up to the test.

Importance of Using High-Quality Watercolor Paper

Using high-quality watercolor paper is essential for achieving the best results in your artwork. Cheap or low-quality paper may not be able to handle the amount of water and paint you use, causing the paper to warp, buckle, or even tear. It may also result in colors appearing dull and muddy, as the paint is not properly absorbed or distributed on the surface.

Investing in good watercolor paper also allows you to experiment with different techniques and styles without limitations. Whether you prefer a wet-on-wet technique, dry brush, or glazing, high-quality paper will give you the freedom to explore and push the boundaries of your creativity. It also provides long-term stability, ensuring that your artwork will stand the test of time and retain its original beauty for years to come.

Three Different Types of Watercolor Paper
Three Different Types of Watercolor Paper

Three Different Types of Watercolor Paper

There are three distinct classifications of watercolor paper texture, which span from a smooth to a coarse surface. These categories include hot press, cold press, and rough. Hot press paper is characterized by its smooth texture, while cold press paper possesses a medium level of texture. On the other hand, rough paper exhibits the most pronounced grain.

Each of these textured surfaces elicits a unique response from the paint applied to them. When using watercolor paint, you will observe that it behaves differently depending on the surface finish of the paper.

Now, let’s delve into an overview of each type of watercolor paper texture:

Hot Press

The hot-pressed paper boasts the most velvety smooth finish. Its name derives from the method of pressing the paper between heated metal rollers, resulting in a texture that is incredibly refined.

This surface is particularly ideal for intricate and detailed artwork. There are no visible grains to interrupt the graceful flow of your brush strokes. Moreover, it is perfectly suited for various mixed media techniques, such as pen and wash.

However, it is worth noting that this surface is harder and less absorbent compared to cold-pressed or rough paper. Consequently, it may present some challenges for beginners. The slower absorption rate of paint on hot-pressed paper means that watercolor washes can accumulate on the surface, heightening the risk of unpredictable effects like back runs or blooms.

Cold Press

Cold-pressed paper is also known as “not hot-pressed” or more commonly referred to as “cold press.” This type of paper is manufactured by pressing it between cold metal rollers covered in felt, which gives it a slight texture.

Compared to hot press paper, cold press paper is more absorbent, although it is generally less absorbent than rough paper. These characteristics make cold press paper ideal for beginners, as it is considered the most forgiving type of paper. It is known for its ease of use and ability to accommodate corrections.

The texture of cold press paper allows for detailed brushwork, while still allowing artists to create textured brush strokes. This versatility makes it suitable for a wide range of painting styles.

Rough Press

Indeed, rough paper is the surface of choice when it comes to watercolor painting. This type of paper has a heavily textured surface, achieved by pressing it between coarse felt sheets that emboss the texture onto the damp paper as it dries.

The texture of rough paper allows for better absorption of water and pigments, resulting in more pronounced brush strokes and irregular watercolor effects, such as granulation. While this may pose a challenge for beginners in watercolor painting, it is highly suitable for those who prefer expressive painting styles.

3 types of watercolor paper texture
3 types of watercolor paper texture

Factors to Consider When Choosing Watercolor Paper

When choosing the best watercolor paper for your needs, there are several factors to consider.

  • The weight or thickness of the paper is an important consideration, as it affects how much water the paper can handle without buckling or warping.
  • Heavier weights, such as 300gsm or higher, are generally preferred for watercolor painting.
  • The texture of the paper is another factor to consider. Rough texture papers are ideal for creating texture and adding interest to your paintings, while hot-pressed papers have a smoother surface that is better suited for detailed work and fine lines.
PropertyStudent GradeProfessional Grade
Material UsedLow quality fibers, wood pulpHigh quality cotton, or linen fibers
Archival PropertiesLess archival, low longevityArchival, higher longevity
Acidity/pHBuffered to remove acidity, less pH stabilityNaturally acid-free, pH neutral & alkaline
SizingLower quality sizingBalanced internal & surface sizing
AbsorptionModerate to high absorptionHigh absorption
DurabilityLess durable, more prone to bucklingMore durable, less prone to buckling
Price RangeLower costHigher cost
Best Suited ForPractice, beginnersIntermediate to advanced artists

Is it Cotton, or Pulp?

Another important consideration is the composition of the paper. Watercolor papers are typically made from either cotton or wood pulp.

  • Cotton papers are considered to be the highest quality and are preferred by professional artists for their durability and ability to handle multiple layers of paint.
  • Wood pulp papers are more affordable and are suitable for beginners or for practicing techniques.

It is also important to consider the sizing of the paper, which affects how the paint is absorbed and distributed on the surface. Papers with internal sizing are more resistant to buckling, while papers with external sizing allow for easier lifting and blending of colors.

wood pulp and cotton image
wood pulp and cotton image

Comparison of the Top 5 Watercolor Papers for 2024

In this section, I will provide a detailed comparison of the top 5 watercolor papers of 2024. These papers have been chosen based on their quality, performance, and popularity among artists. Each paper offers unique features and benefits, so you can find the one that best suits your preferences and artistic style.

Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper
Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper

Fabriano Artistico

This exquisite paper provides the most pristine shade of white imaginable, all without relying on optical brighteners or bleaching agents. Fabriano’s Artistico papers are crafted using a traditional mould-making process, utilizing 100% cotton fibers that are both acid-free and pH neutral, making them environmentally friendly.

Artistico stands alone in offering a “soft press” sheet, a sumptuous texture that lies somewhere between hot press and cold press. These papers are not only luxurious, but also incredibly resilient, able to withstand lifting and scraping techniques without sacrificing their integrity.

Buy Fabriano Artistico at Blick

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Saunders Waterford watercolor paper
Saunders Waterford watercolor paper

Saunders Waterford

Professionals from all corners of the globe adore this exquisite paper for its exceptional performance and ability to withstand distortion. Crafted with utmost precision from 100% cotton, Saunders Waterford is treated with gelatin and boasts a neutral pH. Each sheet exhibits two natural deckles and two tear deckles, showcasing its impeccable craftsmanship. Notably, Saunders Waterford has earned the esteemed endorsement of the Royal Watercolor Society of England.

Measuring at 22″ x 30″, High White, 140 lb, Hot Press, Single Sheet – Saunders has innovatively introduced the High White variant in response to the pleas of professional artists yearning for a whiter hue in their watercolor paper. The brighter base color of High White brings forth a heightened vibrancy and shimmer to pigments, imbuing artworks with a modern and invigorating allure. Acting as a canvas, High White allows for the attainment of the most delicate highlights, achieved through color-lifting or the use of masking fluid. These highlights possess a luminous and pristine radiance, intensifying the contrast between the lightest and darkest elements within paintings.

Embraced by artists worldwide, Waterford High White proudly bears the endorsement of the esteemed Royal Watercolour Society of England.

Buy Saunders Waterford at Blick

Buy Saunders Waterford at Amazon

Arches Bright White watercolor paper
Arches Bright White watercolor paper

Arches Bright White

Arches papers are not limited to watercolors alone. They can be used for a variety of artistic mediums such as drawing, calligraphy, gouache, printmaking, acrylics, and even digital printing. These papers are made from pure cotton fiber, ensuring their durability and longevity. With proper storage and handling, they will retain their beauty and vibrancy for centuries without the need for conservation. Many artists prefer Arches papers because they believe that working on an inferior surface is not worth the effort. In addition to their exceptional quality, Arches offers a wide range of sizes, surfaces, and formats to unleash your creative expression.

Arches Bright White paper is crafted without the use of optical brighteners or bleaches. The pulp used in this paper is brighter than the Natural White Sheet, which allows colors to appear more vividly on the surface. It features two deckle edges, two waterline edges, and a watermark. Despite its brightness, this sheet maintains the same level of durability and strength as the Natural White sheet.

Buy Arches Bright White at Blick

Buy Arches Bright White at Amazon

Blick Premier watercolour paper
Blick Premier watercolour paper

Blick Premier

At Blick, we take great pride in offering artists top-notch supplies at affordable rates. Blick Premier Watercolor Paper is produced using a traditional method in a European mill that has been crafting paper for centuries. This paper is both internally and externally sized, with its surface created using natural woolen felts. As a result, it can endure vigorous scrubbing and various wet techniques without ripping or tearing.

Blick Premier Watercolor Paper is crafted from 100% cotton. It is acid-free and archival, making it perfect for watercolors, gouache, inks, and acrylics.

Buy Blick Premier at Blick

Winsor & Newton Professional watercolor paper
Winsor & Newton Professional watercolor paper

Winsor & Newton Professional

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper is designed to maintain the brilliance and clarity of colors, providing artists with a high-quality surface for achieving smooth and even washes. The paper is meticulously crafted using a traditional mold and is composed of 100% cotton fibers.

It is both internally and externally sized, ensuring exceptional strength and excellent absorbency. The sheets are naturally white and do not contain any optical brighteners, resulting in a bright and natural whiteness that is archival in quality.

Buy Winsor & Newton Professional at Blick

Buy Winsor & Newton Professional at Amazon

Conclusion and Final Thoughts on the Best Watercolor Papers for Artists of All Levels

In conclusion, choosing the best watercolor paper is crucial for achieving the best results in your artwork. The top 5 watercolor papers of 2024 that we have discussed in this article offer exceptional quality, performance, and versatility.

  • Fabriano Artistico is a top choice for its exceptional quality and versatility.
  • Saunders Waterford is a popular choice for its affordability and quality.
  • Arches Bright White is known for its exceptional durability and longevity.
  • Blick Premier is favored by professional artists for its exceptional quality and performance.
  • Winsor & Newton Professional is a versatile and affordable option for artists of all levels.

When selecting watercolor paper, consider factors such as weight, texture, composition, and sizing to ensure that it suits your preferences and artistic style. Investing in high-quality watercolor paper will enhance your artwork and allow you to explore and experiment with different techniques and styles.

By using the best watercolor paper, you can create stunning watercolor paintings that showcase your creativity and talent. So, go ahead and choose the perfect watercolor paper for your next masterpiece!