You’ll find that watercolour paper comes in different weights. Generally speaking, the heavier the paper, the thicker it is. So if you see some watercolour paper that’s referred to as being quite thick, this also means it’s quite heavy. The weight of watercolour paper is measured in pounds per ream (lbs) or grams per square metre (gsm). There are lots of different weights available, though the standard ones you’ll most commonly find are: 90lbs (190gsm), 140lbs (300gsm), 260lbs (356gsm) and 300lbs (638gsm). Heavier paper, usually paper that’s above 260lbs (356gsm) in weight, will probably require stretching in order for you to paint on it without any problems arising.
Most watercolour paper isn’t actually white. You’ll find lots of basic watercolour paper types come in variations of white and light, creamy colours. The colour of the paper does tend to vary from brand to brand; even a single manufacturer can offer several different colours in their line. The colour of the paper can affect how your painting turns out, though it’s not something to worry about too much. The best thing to do is to just go for watercolour paper of any colour of your choice and to see how the painting goes. If you’re happy with the finished product, you know what colour to work with next time; if not, there are plenty of other colours for you to try.
You can actually paint on both sides of watercolour paper. You will notice, however, that there is a difference between each of the two sides. One of the sides is usually a bit smoother, while the other is usually a bit rougher and has more hair to it. There’s no right or wrong side to use, however you should probably use the smoother side if you’re doing a painting that has a lot of detail to it; use the hairier side if you want to use glazes to build up your colours.
There are three types of watercolour paper surface: rough, cold-pressed and hot-pressed. Rough paper produces a sort of grainy effect and has the most texture of the three types of surface; it is not recommended for paintings with fine detail because it has ridges, grooves and indentations. Cold-pressed paper has less of a textured surface than rough paper; using this type of paper gives paintings a level of texture, but it also allows for a good amount of detail. Finally, hot-pressed paper is the smoothest of the three and is the best for detail, though it has the less texture of the three. Because of its lack of texture, you may find the paint is harder to control with hot-pressed paper, though you’ll soon get used to it.
Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art. She specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes and loves capturing the natural beauty of her local countryside. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx Joanne can be found on Facebook