The Best Watercolor Paper For Student & Professional Artists

Michael Daly
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Did you know that making paper is one of the three steps in the printmaking process? In the past, only the most skilled professional printers had total control over the paper, its quality, and its permanence. Nowadays, anyone can control these three factors by using high-quality watercolor paper.

So what does it depend on?

The quality of the watercolor paper will depend on the following things:

  • The fiber
  • The thickness of the watercolor paper
  • The finish
  • The surface of the watercolor paper
  • The sizing of the watercolor paper

Just like any other art material, the quality and price will depend on the quality. While the watercolor paper is not a complicated thing, it has a very big impact on what your artwork will look like.

In this guide, you will find a full set of tips and tricks to help you pick out the best watercolor paper for your needs.

NameCategoryProduct
CansonBest OverallCanson
UCreate Watercolor PadBudget PickUCreate Watercolor Pad
Bee Paper Cold Press 140 Pound Watercolor Paper PadUpgrade PickBee Paper Cold Press 140 Pound Watercolor Paper Pad

1. Canson

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canson

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Pros:

  • Made of acid-free paper
  • Can be used with many different types of watercolors, including watercolor pencils
  • Watercolor pad arches at a slight angle, which enables you to paint with more natural strokes
  • The cover is attached, so the paper stays clean inside
  • The sheets are lightly gilded, so they won’t stick together

Cons:

  • These watercolor paper pads are a little more expensive than the standard watercolor pads
  • The paper is thin, so it can’t be used as a substitute for toned paper

This brand of artistic papers are great for watercolors, pencil drawings, and charcoal. The sheets come already attached to the cover. The paper is created in a French-fold style, so it’s a bit thicker. The sheets are also heavier than the conventional watercolor pads.

It would be a great idea to place a sheet beneath those sheets to create a two-layered stack for extra stability. All sheets are created using a European process of manufacturing, which means that they’re more durable than the standard watercolor paper. This watercolor paper holds up almost three times the amount of water, and it doesn’t buckle.

2. Strathmore Paper 300 Series Watercolor Class Pack

Our rating: 9 / 10

Strathmore Paper 300 Series Watercolor Class Pack

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Pros:

  • Pure, Natural White Cold Pressed Paper
  • Variety of Pack Sizes
  • Acid Free, Chlorine Free, Archival Quality
  • Works well with a variety of Mediums
  • High-quality paper backed by a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee

Cons:

  • More suited to experienced artists
  • Paper is extremely thick and sensitive to blurring
  • Designed to resist water, not so much as bleed through paper
  • Paper can be quite expensive

(9" x 12")

Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Class pack is recommendable for both student and professional artists.

Although it is more expensive than a lot of the entry-level paper available on the market, it's well worth the price.

3. Arches Watercolor Block

Our rating: 9 / 10

Arches Watercolor Block

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Pros:

  • True quality paper that lasts
  • Authentic watercolor texture
  • Very little pigment when used with heavier brushes

By the name itself, you know that the ARCES watercolor block is intended for watercolor-related projects. Made from 100% cotton, it is a great choice for fine detailing as well as shading/blending. It can be used with ink, gouache, sumi, or printing. It is bound on one side with backing and is naturally white in color.

It is a cold press watercolor block that is highly versitile and can suit a number of different projects including painting, printing, and illumination. It makes for a good painting surface although it is best when you oil the surface before painting.

4. Canson Montval Watercolor Block

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canson Montval Watercolor Block

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Pros:

  • Can be used for a variety of painting techniques
  • Choice of different sizes and colors
  • Superior quality block paper
  • Can be torn rather than cut

This paper is our top pick for watercolor paper because it’s superior quality and works perfectly for various painting techniques. It’s acid-free. Plus, it’s great to work with wet media as well as dry.

Each paper block has a generous 140 lbs of weight. The sheets come on a pad with 15 sheets or a set of two pads. Along with watercolor, this paper can be used for pastel, pencil and printmaking.

In contrast to the other watercolor paper we’ve reviewed, this one is not really made for watercolors alone. However, it works well specifically for all three watercolor painting techniques. It has a very particular texture achieved through a combination of a rough surface and a velvety surface.

5. Field Artist 4 in. x 4 in. Square Watercolor Journal

Our rating: 9 / 10

Field Artist 4 in. x 4 in. Square Watercolor Journal

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Pros:

  • 80 Sheets of Cold Press paper
  • 19mm wide x 24mm thick
  • Super-vivid acid free pigments
  • Compelling texture
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Does not have a larger page format
  • No paper clips or inkwells
  • Does not come with a hardcover
  • Some paper colors are unavailable

If you’re looking for a smaller-sized watercolor journal that still has a large page of paper, then the Field Artist 4 in. x 4 in. Square Watercolor Journal is an excellent option to consider.

This smaller-sized journal from Field Artist has 80 sheets of paper, and a thickness of 19mm x 24 mm.

There are no paper clips included with this Field Artist journal…but that’s okay because you can likely find some from any office supply store for a quick and easy addition.

6. Strathmore 440-1 Strath W.Color 400 9X1212SHT 130 lbspirl

Our rating: 8 / 10

Strathmore 440-1 Strath W.Color 400 9X1212SHT 130 lbspirl

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Pros:

  • Rough surface great for holding paint
  • Title sheet in every pad
  • 94 bright sheets

Cons:

  • There is some show through on some pages and painting wet
  • The surface can be rough for some users
  • Use a pencil underneath to avoid bleed through

If you are looking for a good color paper to use with watercolor and acrylic paints, then this product is a good choice. The strathmore paper pads come in a package of 140 sheets. You are sure to get your color mix and blending just right when you use this high quality watercolor paper. The sheets are thick enough to give a smooth feel while absorbing water just right. There is a little bit of show through because of the paper but you can cover that with a waterproof pencil.

Once painted on, it is also a good paper choice if you decide to work with charcoal. If you enjoy kinetic art or want a good sketch paper, this is a good choice for you.

The beauty of the strathmore watercolor paper is that you can either paint on it wet or dry and get a good result. Why is this material so good for watercolors?

7. UCreate Watercolor Pad

Our rating: 8 / 10

UCreate Watercolor Pad

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Pros:

  • Recyclable
  • Heavyweight sheets
  • Ultra white
  • Acid-free
  • Doesn’t bleed through
  • Thin, light card stock paper

Cons:

  • Hard to keep clean because of bleed through
  • Not so great for watercolors, better for sketching
  • Crumbles or tears easily if pinched
  • Corners get damaged while unpacking
  • Colors look either faded or dull

This paper is very similar to the Canson brand paper, but it is noticeably lighter. The surface is smooth, and it has a nice sheen to it. It holds water well and doesn’t cause bleed through. It’s a pretty thick sketchbook, and some artists say that it is too stiff, but it’s definitely one of the best sketchpads. The only problems some users experienced is that the paper bleeds a bit with watercolors, and the corners get damaged while unpacking.

8. Canson, 9 by 12-Inch

Our rating: 7 / 10

Canson, 9 by 12-Inch

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Pros:

  • Contains 80lbs of 100% cotton
  • 300 sheets per pad
  • Acid-free and neutral ph
  • Lightweight
  • Has a card stock backer
  • Made in France

Cons:

  • A bit expensive
  • Only available in a 9 by 12-inch size
  • Doesn’t contain any waterproof coating

Watercolor Pad.

Here’s another great product that’s great for beginner artists. Unlike the previous product we shared with you from Canson, the 9 by 12-inch watercolor pad is already pre-printed on one side, and is made of 80 lbs 100% cotton.

It’s made in France, and contains 30% recycled material along with an acid-free and neutral ph. The ink used has also been tested by an independent ink lab to make sure that they don’t contain any heavy metals.

9. Economy White Artist Tape 1.5In X 60Yds

Our rating: 6 / 10

Economy White Artist Tape 1.5In X 60Yds

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Pros:

  • Widely used by students and professional artists
  • Peeled off quickly (but will leave sticky residue)
  • Cuts easily with scissors

Cons:

  • Leaves sticky residue that can prove difficult to remove
  • Scissors may cut through it while cutting the drawing
  • Not quite opaque once applied

10. Bee Paper Cold Press 140 Pound Watercolor Paper Pad

Our rating: 6 / 10

Bee Paper Cold Press 140 Pound Watercolor Paper Pad

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Pros:

  • Thick 140 pound paper
  • Cold press watercolor paper
  • Made in USA
  • Acid-free and archival-safe
  • Image imprint remains true to the original work of art
  • Contains 10 sheets per pad
  • Top-graded paper brand
  • Available in several sizes

If you are an artist, then you might just need a good quality watercolor paper. The Bee Paper Cold Press Watercolor Paper Pad is a great option for beginner artists who can benefit from Bee’s high-quality paper.

Bee is a well-known watercolor paper brand and has been in the business for a long time. All their watercolor paper is made in the USA and in a dedicated watercolor mill. You can find a variety of count, old barn, cold-press, and hot and cold-pressed watercolor paper by Bee. And all of their paper is 100% recycled.

11. Winsor & Newton Reeves 8490530 9-Inch by 12-Inch Water Color Paper Pad

Our rating: 5 / 10

Winsor & Newton Reeves 8490530 9-Inch by 12-Inch Water Color Paper Pad

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Pros:

  • Soft, molds to right shape
  • High quality, doesn't bleed easily
  • Thick, but not too stiff
  • Tear-proof

Cons:

  • Not for beginners, since it takes a while to dry
  • Might be flimsy and delicate for some
  • Not for use with water-soluble oil paints

Cotton paper is often the best paper for watercolor paint because the holes in the paper allow for plenty of space between the fibers to hold water. These sheets of pad-sized paper are great for creating rough sketches or creating larger than life images.

These pads are acid-free and suitable for watercolor pencils, markers, and crayons. Simply fold the pad back on itself to expose more paper.

Out of all the available options, we personally like that this particular pad is available in an array of 31 colors. However, what sets this product apart is that each sheet is removable and able to be replaced with the color of your choice after the first few sheets have been used up.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What paper do professional artists use?

The paper used by professional artists varies from one individual to another. Some prefer to use cold pressed watercolor paper with a weight of 140lb or higher. This is because this paper is heavier and thicker. Gamblin, Arches, Saunders, and Fabriano are examples of watercolor paper brands.

However, there are also those who prefer hot pressed paper with a weight of 100lb to 140lb. The main reason why many artists prefer these types of paper is that they are less expensive. While some artists say that they are not as durable as cold pressed ones, they are still very popular.

While the paper an artist decides to use is always his or her own choice, some paper is better than others for certain uses. Watercolor paper comes in different thicknesses and sizes. When buying paper, take note of the weight, size, and other details.

What is the best weight for watercolor paper?

The best weight of watercolor paper is 140lbs. This paper is a bit on the thinner side and great for artists who want to begin painting with watercolor. Drawing and sketching are perfect mediums with a watercolor paper of this weight. An artist can paint a simple drawing on 140lbs paper and then paint over that sketch if he or she wishes to create a final product that is embellished with the beautiful washes of color that watercolor allows.

Watercolor paper that is 140lbs or more is of higher quality. Painters will find that a thicker paper gives the artist a better surface to paint upon which will not buckle and warp as the paint is was applied. However, such watercolor paper has less usable water because the heavier weight absorbs more water than the lighter weights.

What is the best watercolor paper for beginners?

For beginners, make sure to purchase watercolor paper designed specifically for watercolor use. It might be tempting to buy some poster board or cardstock from the dollar store but the paper will absorb all the water and won’t hold the paper together well.

Can watercolor paper go through a printer?

Not all watercolor paper can go through a printer. If you would like to create an image that goes through a printer and has color or any other substance added to it, you need paper designed specifically for ink-jet printers. This paper will also produce a sharper image than the paper that comes with a watercolor set.

When you are purchasing a watercolor paper made for ink-jet printers, it is wise to make sure it is labeled as such. However, it is difficult to determine this unless the package is opened.

If you do not have any idea which is which, skip the watercolor paper and just get the plain paper which you add color to.

Conclusion

Being an artist is one of the most challenging occupations of our time that require the skill, dedication, and passion. Further, in order to preserve the beauty of your art form and have a creative expression of arts. The watercolor sketching paper is one of the biggest things you would definitely need and must. This paper is for the fresh and professional artists and let them have best work.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
CansonBest OverallCanson
UCreate Watercolor PadBudget PickUCreate Watercolor Pad
Bee Paper Cold Press 140 Pound Watercolor Paper PadUpgrade PickBee Paper Cold Press 140 Pound Watercolor Paper Pad