NOT or Extra Smooth, Hot or Cold Pressed. Sometimes, product descriptions for watercolour paper can be a minefield of terms that might not necessarily help you in deciding which watercolour paper is right for you. We’ve put together a quick visual guide of the most popular watercolour papers so that you can compare them, side by side.
When I first started working with watercolour and looking at the different papers I felt like I needed a University degree in the properties of paper and wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between Hot and Cold Pressed. What I really needed was to be able to physically see all the different papers next to each other so I could compare and make a decision as to what I wanted to work on. As well as our handy Guide to Watercolour Paper on our website, I thought it would be a great idea to show the textures of our most popular watercolour papers with paint on them. Here is a quick explanation of some of the most commonly used phrases when discussing watercolour paper textures:
What is Hot Pressed Paper?
Hot Pressed paper tends to be favoured by artists that like to work delicately and with a lot of subtle detail, for example botanical artists. It is the least textured surface, and is completely smooth as it is pressed between 2 hot metal rollers. It is also favoured by artists who will want to reproduce their watercolour on smooth paper.
What Does ‘Not’ mean?
Not and Cold Pressed paper amount to the same textured surface – this is the name given to paper with has a slight tooth to it. It is the most popular surface for watercolour painters as it allows for a little texture in your work, as the paint will sink a little into the dimples on the surface of the paper, but it will also be sympathetic to some detailed work. It is made by pressing through the cold metal rollers. It is thought to be the easiest watercolour paper surface to work on.
Rough surface paper
As one might expect, rough surface paper is the roughest texture paper available. It is pressed between sheets of textured felt during the drying process, which is why it has a felt like texture. The heavier ingrain of texture means that granulating (irregular colour application) effects are enhanced. This paper surface is not recommended for those interested in detailed work and is more suited to bolder, more expressive painting techniques.
I tested Saunders Waterford High White, Canson Moulin du Roy and Jackson’s Eco Paper using the Carmine from the Lutea Watercolour Range and also a Jackson’s Studio Synthetic Watercolour Brush. Below are the swatches from my experimentation with a link to each paper.
This superb artist’s grade paper from Saunders Waterford is now available in bright white, along with their normal natural creamy white paper. This high quality paper has a watermark in the corner for authenticity and 4 deckle edges which are visually beautiful and perfect for float framing.
Artists grade watercolour paper is archival which means it will not discolour or fall apart over time and is made of 100% cotton rag. This paper is much more durable than lower grades of paper because it is gelatine surface sized and it is mould-made, both of which mean it can take scrubbing of the surface without falling apart.
You can clearly see the difference in both the texture of the paper and also the way the paint has settled – on the Hot Pressed the colour is much smoother and uniform across the surface whereas on the NOT Surface, pigment has settled in the dimples of the paper.
Produced on a traditional cylinder mould machine, this 100% cotton paper has the look and feel of a handmade paper. Both absorbent and strong, Moulin du Roy has internal and surface sizing which means it is strong and permits the lifting of dried colour and the reworking of watercolour. In terms of colour, Canson Moulin du Roy watercolour paper is naturally white, acid free and made entirely without bleaching agents, for an optimal conservation over time.
Our very own Eco friendly 100% cotton, internally & externally gelatine sized, deckle edged handmade paper from India. The machinery normally used to make paper uses a lot of energy, turning paper pulp into a giant roll of perfectly dry paper in barely a minute. Our handmade papers however are made from recycled cotton, they are individually set into the moulds and then dried slowly in the Indian sun. The water used in the production is then run off to irrigate the field neighbouring the factory.
Out of all the papers that were sampled, I found Jackson’s Eco Paper to be the roughest and most resistant – it’s texture remained the same when I lifted colour from it and so it is quite forgiving. This paper also has a lovely handmade quality to it which is great if you don’t want an ultra smooth polished finish or if you were using it to press flowers.