Paper. The most common medium to use for watercolor painting, yet there are others such as canvas, Yupo, watercolor board, and claybord, to name a few, but I’ll talk about paper for now.
Watercolor paper comes in various weights, finishes, forms, and brands. There are sheets, blocks, rolls, and weights of #90, #140, #200, #300, #400, and textures of cold press, hot press, or rough. The options are endless and can be mind-boggling. Over time you will learn the best weight, brand, style, and finish you prefer to work on, but first, let’s talk about the options.
Weight denotes the thickness of the paper, with the weight number determined by the total weight of a ream of 500 sheets. For example, a ream of 500 sheets of medium-weight paper is #140. A ream of 500 sheets of heavyweight paper is #400, and so on. The best and most commonly used weight is #140. It holds up to multiple applications of paint and handles well when stretched. Some favor heavier-weight paper to avoid stretching the paper since heavier-weight paper does not buckle nearly as much as #140.
Sheets, blocks, or rolls
You can purchase watercolor paper in sheets of 22 x 30, which is most common, in blocks or rolls, and various weights and finished. Blocks are sheets of watercolor paper bound flat to secure each sheet, allowing you to paint quickly without stretching your paper. Once your painting is dry, you remove it from the block, revealing a new sheet of clean paper ready for painting. Rolls allow you to paint in larger formats and wrap around a frame similar to canvas.
There are numerous brands on the market, from student grades to professional grades. The most common and oldest is Arches, but Fabriano, Windsor & Newton, and Canson are available. I paint mainly with Arches in both sheets and blocks, my preferred brand. I also paint on Fabriano Artistico, Fluid, and Kilimanjaro. The last two are of more consistent quality.
Each weight and finish of paper and form, whether sheet or block, is slightly different. So, for example, a sheet of Arches #140 will be somewhat different in texture than a #140 sheet from a block, with the block having more texture. Remember to take this into consideration when selecting a subject to paint.
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