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Arches Cold Press Watercolor Paper Review



Arches manufactures more sizes and weights of artist grade watercolor paper than any other paper company I know of. It's marketed as professional artist grade watercolor paper. I generally have a roll of huge Arches in stock as well as a few blocks!



The Arches factory was founded in 1492. Paper is still made in the original factory in Lorraine, France. Paper is made from 100% cotton rag and natural gelatin sizing. Paper is made on a cylinder roll, so there are 2 natural deckles and 2 torn deckles on a full sheet. Paper is air dried.

Arches is owned by Canson. Arches is made at the same French mill as BFK Rives paper.

Arches manufactures more sizes and weights of artist grade watercolor paper than any other paper company I know of. It's marketed as professional artist grade watercolor paper. I generally have a roll of huge Arches in stock as well as a few blocks!




Blue Sky Sketching Painting Tutorial
painted on Arches Cold Press



Positives

Arches is a good, all around workhorse paper. Arches hot press is not extremely slick. Cold press is not extremely textured and the rough is not very rough. Arches is a basic, reasonably consistent paper for most work.


Charleston Palm Tree Painting Tutorial
painted on Arches Cold Press







Negatives

Well, sometimes you want a really slick hot press or a rough with a lot of tooth. Arches is well known for smelling like cat pee when wet. Frankly, that smell doesn't affect the painting. Sometimes the sizing is patchy. You won't know the sizing is patchy until you're doing a wash and it shows up in blotches of extremely saturated or resistant paper. Awful. You usually can't return it either - because you've "used" it. However, the quality control of most watercolor paper companies is well, sketchy. If you buy enough paper, you'll end up with some bad batches.







Value

Arches is a good, basic paper. There's nothing exciting about it, but it usually delivers consistently. I think the quality has gone down recently, quality control is letting a lot of things slip through. But if you're looking for a basic workhorse paper, Arches is ideal.

Paper Finish Type Weight Durability Saturation Finish Color Overall Feel Value
Full Sheet (22" x 30")
Sample with
Pthalo Blue,
Cadmium Red,
Quinacridone Gold
Overall Rating
Cold 140 Surface Sized
B
B B Soft White B
Nice, but basic.
$ 10.30 B

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Conclusion

Arches is a good all around professional artist quality paper. The quality control has some minor issues, but overall it is fairly consistant.

Arches will not hold up to intense working and layering, but does hold up to a reasonable level of working. If you're not stretching it or buying a block, always get 300# paper. I always get 300# if it's not in a block. The 140# paper will buckle if it's not firmly stretched.

I use Arches for a lot of painting and almost always for demonstrations.

Another good, very scientific review of Arches paper is found on Handprint. It's a few years old, but still relevant since the paper hasn't changed much!




Boboli Gardens Painting Tutorial
painted on Arches Cold Press


I bought all of the supplies reviewed on this page with my own money.
These reviews are to simplify the confusing world of non standard artist materials.
They are supported by the ads shown and selling my paintings.



Testing Criteria

Durability
Can I scrub the paper?
Is the sizing immediately gone?
Will it pull up on multiple washes?
Will masking come off easily?

Saturation
Will it resist or soak up water?
How quickly can I do another wash?

Overall Feel
This is my personal viewpoint on the paper. Do I like to paint on this paper?

How does the paper feel to work on? Does it respond well to the brush or seem to resist it? Can I work quickly and easily or do I have to keep in mind the paper's quirks as I go?

Paper's feel is difficult to quantify but very important to the artist. Sometimes I work with difficult papers just because I love how they respond to the paint and the overall affect.


Individual artists will have as many different opinions as painting styles!

Value
First, is this meant for students or professional artists?
Does the price reflect this?


In these days of super sales and discounts of 50% expected off a artifically high MSRP, it's impossible to give accurate prices. I'm using MSRP for comparative cost.

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