|Watercolor paper test using Sade's template. The paper in question is Strathmore 500 series hot press.|
Getting a good paper is not as simple as just buying the most expensive paper. Some artists prefer the lesser water absorption of cellulose papers even at the cost of not being able to layer, and some artists prefer the enormous stability of cotton rag papers for expressive wet-in-wet techniques.
The only way to figure out if a watercolor paper works for you is to test that paper yourself for the qualities that you need. I found a great video by Sade of Sadie Saves the Day that shows how to use her watercolor paper test template.
I added a couple more regions for myself to test how inks lie on the paper, since I often use watercolors with ink. I also use Viridian (PG18) for granulation tests, as I don't yet have Lunar Black (PBk11).
Testing out your paper for other water media separately as well also comes to mind—for instance, Inktense, watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, gouache, and casein will all react differently than watercolor paints, and different techniques are more or less relevant to each medium type.
I'll note that Strathmore watercolor paper, even the 500 series, has noticeably different surface qualities depending on which side of the paper you use (one side will feel more velvety and smooth than the other, even for cold press levels of roughness). I tested each side accordingly, which yielded a lot of information below.
|Strathmore 500 series cold press, rougher side, 140 lb / 300 gsm|
|Strathmore 500 series cold press, smoother side, 140 lb / 300 gsm|
|Strathmore 500 series hot press, rougher side, 140 lb / 300 gsm|
|Strathmore 500 series hot press, smoother side, 140 lb / 300 gsm|
Not all watercolor papers have different sides; for instance, Pentalic AquaJournals have pages that are the same (as far as I can tell) on either side, which is a nice, predictable quality.
I highly recommend checking out Sade's video and checking out her corresponding blog post with the template and directions.
Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.