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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!

Arches Cold Press #140 is my goto paper. It's the one I take blocks with me on painting trips in varying sizes. I'll usually bring a rough press and a cold press on any painting outing. Then I'll start varying the sizes.

I use cold press as my happy medium paper. If the painting has lovely colors but also has some interesting textures, cold press will give me both of those.

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!

Forsythia Sketch Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial
painted on Arches Cold Press


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

The really great thing about Arches Cold Press versus a student grade paper is the sizing is heavy enough to let you really work with the paper. A less sized watercolor paper only allows for one or two washes before it starts looking worn. If you're reasonably careful, you can paint 50 washes on Arches paper. It only breaks down if you scrub it while it's wet.

So go for multiple washes and lifting on Arches!

Hinckley Boatyard Painting Tutorial
painted on Arches Cold Press


Well, sometimes you want a really slick hot press or a rough with a lot of tooth. Arches doesn't have the interesting texture of handmade paper. But it also doesn't have the price.

Arches is well known for smelling like cat pee when wet. Frankly, that smell doesn't affect the painting. Mostly the smell will show up if you're soaking paper to stretch it, not when you're 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. That can be unbelievably frustrating, but it also rarely happens.

The quality control of most watercolor paper companies is well, sketchy. If you buy enough paper, you'll end up with some bad batches.

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Arches is a good, basic paper. There's nothing exciting about it, but it usually delivers consistently. If you're looking for a basic workhorse paper, Arches is ideal.

I would not buy watercolor paper in less than 140# (300gsm) weight. Everything I said earlier about multiple washes will no longer be true. A 90# paper will only give you 1-2 washes at best and forget scrubbing or lifting.

If you're on a budget, buy full sheets (22" x 30"), cut them into quarters or eights, and paint on the fronts and backs of the paper. Unless, of course, you paint a "keeper." The more you paint, the better you'll paint, but practicing on lesser quality paper will just lead to frustration.

A full sheet Arches Cold Press #140 is the best value paper you can get as a student - or as a professional!

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


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

Arches will not hold up to intense working and layering like a handmade paper (click for why), but does hold up to a reasonable level of working. If you're not stretching the paper 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 keep multiple sizes and multiple textures of Arches on hand in blocks at all times. I seriously have a rotating 10 blocks at any given time in a full range. It's great paper to use, but not to precious to try stuff on.

I use blocks a lot more since I had kids. Much easier!

I use Arches for a lot of painting and almost always for demonstrations since it's relatively easy for everyone in the world to get.

Chicken Wrangler 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

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

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!

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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