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When paper lets you down...


Watercolor paper problems

I had a few minutes free so I grabbed a photo of Soave, Italy I'd had in my "to paint soon" stack and a scrap of watercolor paper. Yeah, finally time to paint!

This was never meant to be more than a scribble since I only had half an hour, certainly not a finished work (though I will be doing a finished painting someday, I hope.) I love the twisty vines and shadows! Walking through a dark archway into a dream of sun and shadows...

I was playing with a few new M. Graham colors too. (Love cobalt teal!) But the thing was a disaster. I don't mind disasters I cause - it's part of learning painting. You can't improve if you're not willing to fail completely a lot of the time.

But the paper was a remaining piece of Winsor & Newton cold press I bought years ago and had to throw out the whole lot. (Without a refund either - painful. Apparently refunds only are when you haven't "used" any.) This piece slipped by, I guess. I recognized the weird stippling and random marks immediately. The sizing was uneven inside and on this paper and some areas grab paint; some areas resist it like wax. Drying was weird too - muddy mess!

See the odd stippling effect? The sortof lumpy paint? And the uneven bleeding at the archway? Paper is NOT supposed to do that. That is not your paint

I've had this same problem with Arches hot press in the past too. Sizing and quality control on 140# paper is not always what it should be. I just can't bring myself to do doodling on really good paper!

When your paper is lousy, it takes enormous skill and a very cooperative subject to make it work. Your paper is absolutely critical to painting a good painting. You really shouldn't try to paint painting on lousy paper. Your time is too valuable to waste in frustration.

Never buy paper less than 140# or 300 gsm weight. It will buckle and puddle despite stretching. If you can afford it buy 300# or 640 gsm. If you can't, stretch it. And blocks should be taped to reinforce the stretch. Enough water and the edging pops off, especially toward the bottom of the stack.

The very best brand is Twinrocker, handmade and gorgeous. Expensive but worth it!

Arches (despite occasional sizing issues) is my next favorite. I like cold press for the texture.

Waterford is about the same level as Arches.

I use random textured paper for sketching since they're quick and easy. Handmade Indian, my Hobby Lobby sketchbook, interesting fun stuff. It doesn't really matter since you're just hitting it with one wash.

Strathmore greeting cards are a fun sort of thing to send for birthdays - but don't try to paint 2 washes on that since the paper will peel up in ragged chunks. Good paintings deserve good paper!  

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