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Choose the right watercolor paper

After you have selected your Watercolors based on my previous tips, you need to buy the right watercolor paper for painting. I have covered the following topics below:

Let's Go

Choosing the right paper & why: People ask me, why is it so important to choose watercolor paper? Can’t we just paint on any paper that we have? Choosing the right paper for watercolor painting is as important as choosing the right ingredients for making a particular dish. People get frustrated when they start painting with watercolor, just because they didn't choose the right paper. Any thick paper or chart paper or regular drawing book paper will NOT work. The main differences between a normal paper and a watercolor paper are; the surface texture, the thickness of the paper and the property to absorb water. Watercolor paper has a specific thickness due to which it can hold more amounts of water and will not pucker or rip like other papers with the same amount of water. You'll see the difference as soon as you start using it.

[I use Brustro, Canson Montval & Fabriano watercolor sheets]

Camlin Watercolour set

Right Thickness: It is measured in GSM which stands for 'Grams per Square Meter'. It determines the capacity of the paper to hold water. My suggestion is to start with at least 200gsm. If you want to paint using wet-in-wet technique, then you need at least 300gsm or more.

[I mostly use 300gsm sheets]

Right Size: You get various sizes of watercolor paper – A2, A3, A4, A5, etc. (where A5 is the smallest). I suggest you start with A3 which is around 16 inch by 11.5 inch paper. This size painting looks good enough on framing too. A4 and A5 are very small especially if you want to do some detailing. And if required, you can always try to paint 2 or 4 paintings on a single A3 sheet by partitioning it, if you really want to paint a smaller one. Once you have a grasp of paintings, you can even buy A1 size watercolor sheets (size similar to Engineering Drawing sheets) for bigger paintings. Or you can use the A1 sized sheet to make multiple smaller ones by cutting them into different sizes as per requirement. It is definitely more cost effective, if you are ready to do the extra effort.

[I buy A3 & A1 size sheets & I also use a Fabriano 5ft by 10 meter roll by cutting into required sizes]

Loose sheets or Pads: You get watercolor paper as loose sheets as well as in the form of a pad or book. Advantage of using a pad is that you can keep them organized at one place. Advantage of using loose sheets is that they are cheaper than the pads.

[I always used to buy A3 size watercolor pads with 20 sheets each. But have now started buying loose sheets as I anyways keep them in separate folders] Rough, Cold pressed or Hot pressed: The rough is very rough and has an almost a lumpy texture to it. Cold pressed paper has a slightly bumpy, textured surface. But hot pressed paper has a smooth surface finish with hardly any texture and virtually no tooth. Hot pressed are ideal for artworks that require seamless blending. Each of these will be better suited to a certain style and technique of watercolors and the effect you wish to achieve. [Generally I prefer cold pressed which is neither too rough nor too smooth]

Market Survey and Reviews: If you want you can try to do a market survey of all types of brands of watercolor paper available locally. Check their reviews & then purchase the best suitable. But never go for the cheapest ones. Always ensure paper thickness. And if you still feel confused, go by my recommended ones. [I have tried other brands with same thickness & size mentioned, but still the quality was not at all satisfactory. They were very thin which warped so easily. The brands I suggested are tried and tested by me. I have more than 200 paintings created on these sheets and they are just excellent quality]

Recommendations: I have collated all these suggestions based on my personal experiences which I thought would help beginners. Some are tips which I felt would have helped me a lot if I knew them when I was a beginner. Some are points that I realized when I take workshops and students do not get the desired effect because their art materials were not right. Hence I started writing these tips so that it might be helpful to someone like you who has just started painting or are facing problems in a specific area. [Please try to use these tips as much as you feel adequate]

For any queries, you can ask in the comments. I will be happy to help.

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