Home » Back To Watercolor Basics: A Crash Course On Watercolor For Beginners

Back To Watercolor Basics: A Crash Course On Watercolor For Beginners

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Step 4: The Lowdown On Watercolor Paper

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Another essential tool for practicing watercolor basics is the paper. Watercolor paper comes in 3 different forms: in pads, blocks, or single sheets. A pad is like a sketchbook made with watercolor paper, while a block is a high-quality pad and means the paper is sealed on 4 sides. This makes the paper less likely to buckle (i.e. warp), and is good for painting outside as the seals keep the paper stable. To remove a finished painting from the block, there’s a notch in one edge where you can slip in a pocketknife and slice the painting free. Single sheets are self-explanatory, although Steve recommends taping the edges down with artist’s tape to keep it flat.

Watercolor paper is categorized according to 3 aspects: surface, size, and weight. The paper’s surface is labelled according to how the paper’s made. This is also called the “tooth”, which describes the texture of the paper. The more textured a surface is, the more liquid the paper can catch and absorb. This gives you more control over your paint, although some artists prefer a smooth surface for different reasons. There are 3 types of surfaces – hot press, cold press, and rough. Hot press is the smoothest, while rough has the most “tooth”. Thus, Steve recommends cold press, as cold press paper sits right in the middle. The size of the paper is also important to consider, and depends on how big you need your painting to be.

As for weight, this is measured by poundage, or grams per square meter. For paper that’s thick enough to handle a good watercolor painting with little buckling, Steve recommends 140lb minimum. While he uses the Arches brand, you can always find something within your budget that meets the same requirements to go beyond watercolor basics.