The good news is that my watercolor techniques are improving — somewhat. Doing daily “watercolor warm-ups” is helpful. Practicing each day leads to progress. Painting every day makes a huge difference.
There’s something else that makes a huge difference, I’ve learned, and this is where the bad news comes in. For the best results in watercolor, we really need to use the best watercolor paper, and folks, that is not cheap.
I’ve watched a lot of watercolor tutorials recently, and despite a lot of practice, and even though I see some improvement from my efforts, I just wasn’t getting the same results I saw other artists achieve. Yesterday, during one video, the artist talked about the paper she used. Saunders Waterford. Great for the demo projects she was working on, right? Well, according to her, yes, but then — attentive art student that I am — I rushed over to Amazon to see about placing an order.
Here’s what I found:
Seriously, folks? $109.35 for 20 sheets of watercolor paper? Well, at least they offer free shipping! No, I did not purchase Saunders Waterford paper in any shape, size, or form.
I’m now on a mission to learn as much about watercolor paper as possible. I know the basics. I know about cold press and hot press, but what I don’t really know is about the sizing used for the paper and how that affects the all important dispersal properties for paint.
Watercolor is definitely a frustrating medium because of the variables involved, not the least of which I now see is the paper. In the past, I naively thought one watercolor paper was more or less as good as another with some being a bit better than others, of course, but overall any of them good enough for a beginner to use, and I’m deliberately letting this sentence ramble on to illustrate the way my mind often rambles on about things I’m learning in art. In other words, my thoughts go here and there, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to get anywhere! To put it another way, I’m often unsure, confused, and quite mistaken about things.
Watercolor paper now being a case in point.
I’ve seen some artists and bloggers advocate for cheap papers, even suggesting paper from Dollar General. Seriously? I hear many mentions of Fabriano, and at $43.00 for a 20-sheet pad (Amazon’s pricing) it’s definitely a bargain next to Saunders. Still, too rich for my poor blood.
Arteza? Strathmore? Canson? How about Zenacolor? US Art Supply? Master’s Touch? What about Bellofy? I’d never heard of that one until today. And then there’s Arches. When I first began learning watercolors back in 2016, that was the brand that seemed to be most popular. It’s still more costly than I’d like, but…
Okay, so here’s the question. Obviously papers from places like Dollar General and the children’s art section of Walmart aren’t going to be top-notch, high-quality watercolor paper that will provide the proper flow and dispersal for paints. Even those from Canson and Strathmore — slightly higher in price — are only slightly better in quality. At least this is my experience.
But where is the line drawn? How much must we expect to pay for reasonably good quality watercolor paper that will allow us to develop our skills and end up with reasonably good results?
Choosing the right paper appears to be a concern for many artists, especially art students who — like me — are struggling to learn. As I started researching, I found lots of information:
I could go on and on. There are many more websites offering much more information, but… seriously! Maybe having too much information is as bad as not having enough. Is it any wonder I’m confused and unsure about what’s really best for me and my needs?
I know I don’t need to pay $109.00 for watercolor paper. I know I don’t want to pay $40.00 or more. For now, I’ll keep practicing with my Strathmore and Canson papers, and once in a while I’ll take out my Arches for special projects.
Rather than reading everything I find online, I think it might be more helpful to get ideas from other artists. I know many of you are watercolorists. What are your personal recommendations for beginning watercolor artists? All advice will be appreciated… seriously!