Hot and Cold

Yesterday I opened my new “goody box” from Paletteful Packs and I spent some time playing with the supplies. I’m definitely having fun with the inks and markers, and even though the watercolor paper samples are small, I’ve enjoyed trying them out and making comparisons between the hot press and the cold press Stonehenge paper.

First, what’s the difference between hot press and cold press? I found a bit of information on Spruce Crafts — a link is provided below — but I’m not sure how accurate this is.

Hot-pressed watercolor paper has a fine-grained, smooth surface, with almost no tooth. Paint dries very quickly on it. This makes it ideal for large, even washes of one or two colors. It is not as good for multiple layers of washes, because there is more paint on the surface and it can get overloaded quickly. It is good for drawing and for pen and ink wash. — From Spruce Crafts

I’ve used hot press paper for pen and ink wash. You can see the project here if you want. That drawing/painting was done on Strathmore 140-lb. hot press paper. For most of my watercolor art, I stay with cold press.

Cold-pressed watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface, somewhere in between rough and hot-pressed paper. It is the paper used most often by watercolor artists because it is good for both not only large areas of wash but also as fine detail. — From Spruce Crafts

My sample packs also explain a bit about the differences. Again, though, I’m a bit confused. It seemed that the more I researched, the more differing “facts” I found.

  • The Hot Press blurb reads: Smooth and silky. Water permeates this paper slowly, allowing time for fine details and subtle color gradations. Pigments tint bright and radiant. An innovative, custom-made paper to fulfill the needs of watercolor artists.

Of course, I don’t think of myself as a watercolor artist. When I’m using watercolor, it’s mostly for playtime. I’m not especially concerned with fine details or subtle color gradations. 

  • The Cold Press blurb says: Hand-crafted with the watercolorist in mind, this rugged and textured substrate is our latest creation in artisan paper. Each cold-pressed sheet naturally receives applied moisture, making it ideal for blending and lifting color.

Again, I’m not really a watercolorist, so blending and lifting colors aren’t things I’m generally too concerned about.

For me, watercolor is fun to play with. The gansai I use is a bit more opaque than traditional “western” watercolors, and it’s become the only watercolor I use now. And so, just for the fun of it, I tried out both the hot press and the cold press Stonehenge paper.

I began by doing a very loose landscape on hot press paper. Keep in mind that this is very small — approximately 2 inches by 3 inches. I used a waterbrush with my gansai, and this was fun to do.


Legion Stonehenge Hot Press Watercolor Paper

Next, I did essentially the same scene, again using my gansai with a waterbrush. This time I painted the scene on cold press paper.

Legion Stonehenge Cold Press Watercolor Paper


While you might not see a lot of differences here, when you look at these miniatures up close, you can see that the papers did respond in different ways. It seemed that the hot press paper diffused the color much more. That makes sense, I think, because of its smoother surface.

Then, just for the fun of it, I made two more miniatures using my sample pads.  This first one was done on the hot press paper.

And this one was done on the cold press paper. But, what are those splotches? Well, Isabella the cat was visiting. A good bit of cat hair ended up on the painting. I think of it as her adding her own artistic touch.

For me, the most notable difference is that although both papers are 140-lb. the hot-press feels thicker and heavier. That seemed odd to me, since the hot press paper has a smooth surface and the cold press is more textured.

At this point, my preference is the hot press paper. When I used the Strathmore paper before, I enjoyed it, and since I do like doing pen and ink washes, hot press paper is a good choice for me.  When looking at my little miniatures, however, my husband’s favorite was the first one done on the cold press paper.

I plan to do more experimenting between the two papers, trying out various techniques, but I am definitely confused on several points. According to Spruce Craftswatercolor dries more quickly on hot press than on cold, yet according to Legion, water permeates the hot press paper slowly. So, which is it? Although I’m not an authority on watercolor paper, I’m thinking that the Spruce Crafts information is a misprint. Further research confirmed for me that watercolor dries more quickly on cold press paper than on hot press. I found the following article very informative, so if you’re interested in learning more, you might want to check it out.

Cold Press and Hot Press Watercolor Paper – What’s the Difference — Etchrlab

This article also says that hot press allows more color lifting than cold press — again, a difference of opinion from the Stonehenge blurbs above. It all leaves me a bit confused, but between what I’ve read and what I’ve done with these papers, I can see that cold press watercolor paper requires an artist to work quickly. Hot press allows the artist a little more time.

Later today I’ll play around a bit more. I’ll grab a larger brush and make a few flat washes, try a gradient wash or two, and maybe even play with multiple washes. I’ll also do a bit of ink drawing and detail work. I’ll play with blending techniques and color lifting, and maybe I’ll clear up some of the confusion in my head about these different types of watercolor paper.

Again, though, I’ll say that my preference — so far — is the Legion Stonehenge hot press. You can find it here or at your favorite art supply store.  If you’re looking for the Legion Stonehenge cold press paper, you’ll find it here, or again, at your favorite art supply store.

You can find additional information on both of these papers — and others — at Legion’s Stonehenge Aqua website.



  1. When I want to make a hot mess I use hot press. Yes the rhyme is on purpose. It muddles things up quite efficiently, at least when I’m the user. I prefer cold press. But then we have to remember that I do like some detail in my watercolors. Almost hit auto predict on my tiny phone keypad and that would have given me watercress instead of watercolors. 😂 I guess watercress can be detailed too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. i too prefer the cold press..i didnt at first though. It wasn’t until i understand the effects i could get with the heavier textured cold press. Then i experimented with various brands and now wont use anything except Arches Cold Press 140lb block style. The more you experiment, the more you know.If you ever do get “into” water colors i also learned that i prefer Daniel Smith watercolors. the effects i get with the two combined are amazing.But it took a few years to really figure that out:)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I go back and forth with watercolors. I’d really love to learn more about using them, but then again, I know watercolor is never going to be my “preferred” medium. I do have fun with it though. I love playing — and learning a bit in the process. For now, that’s probably where I’m going to stay so that I can focus more on oil painting and then relax and enjoy doodling and playing with my gansai. I love using it for my nature journal. It’s so easy for me to carry it with me when I go outside. 🙂

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      1. Yep. That’s one of the main reasons why I’ve chosen not to get too much “into” watercolor. I’m happy with my gansai and inexpensive papers. I know if I really wanted to become a watercolor artist, I’d have to invest in better paper and more high-quality paints. I do have some M. Graham paints, and yes, I love them. But overall, I’m just as happy playing with my gansai. For me, for now, that’s enough. Especially when I have so much love for oil painting. That’s really where I want to invest my time and money.

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  3. Delicate and beautiful! (My experiences with watercolors have been unfortunate so far, mostly bec I end up making holes in the paper. I need a “lighter touch” & a tougher ground.) Btw, my fav of this group is the last one. The bright colors are gorgeous and the textures are very interesting. 👏👏👏👏

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