Certainly, if you are interested in starting or perfecting the art of watercolorus, you have already researched the materials and was amazed with the amount of options and values, right? There are not only several categories of paints, brushes and watercolour papers, but also a list of extra materials that we don't know if we really need. I've been on your side and I know how it is! It was thinking about it that I created the series All About (and get ready that it IS everything!).
The goal is to focus, initially, on the universe of watercolour, removing all doubts you have on the subject. Our first stop will be the one I consider the most important material for quality art: paper. Shall we?
First, why start with paper?
Because it is a technique with water, watercolour requires a quality surface that is very absorbent. I can say, with experience, that paper influences - AND A LOT! - in the result of your watercolour. So before we get started, a few quick tips:
- Buy blocks and papers that have the term watercolour on the cover. It seems obvious, but many mixed technique papers include watercolour as one of the suggestions, but they are not suitable for it and, generally, have a smaller weight;
- Always choose papers with 300g / m² or more.
- Opt for acid-free papers (I will talk about that below).
Knowing this information, we will learn more about the characteristics of the papers:
Characteristics of Watercolour Papers
Hot Press x Cold Press
The difference between the forms of pressing is in the final texture of the paper. Hot press makes the paper almost smooth, with no apparent texture and small grain. This causes the ink to run quickly through the paper and dry very quickly.
Cold press papers have more texture. They can be lightly or 'coarsely' textured, which helps to hold the paint well. They have a slower drying time than hot-pressed papers.
Textures: Which one to choose?
Coarse Texture - Rough Grain or Torchon
Rough paper, as it is also known, has a rougher and more apparent texture. Due to the roughness (small grains) that retains water on the surface, it is a paper that can stain in such a way, to be difficult to handle. The watercolour brushe strokes have an interesting texture and, if you like a more apparent texture, it is perfect. They are all cold-pressed.
Fine Texture - Soft Grain or Fin
Thin paper has a slightly rough and grainy texture. It is a paper with a pleasant texture - it is neither too smooth nor too rough - and it is its small texture drawings that hold the ink and do not allow it to run freely through the sheet causing stains. They can be cold or hot pressed.
Very smooth paper, with no texture or almost imperceptible texture (my favourite!). It has a soft texture, being widely used by artists who work with botanical, scientific illustration or even more delicate art. Its surface allows the creation of details that are not possible on paper with a lot of texture (because they lock the brush). They are all hot pressed.
And what are the other characteristics?
Grammage is the weight of the paper and what most influences your final work (remember what I said at the beginning of the post?). Undoubtedly, the safest option is to use papers of 300g / m² or more, with papers that reach up to 640g / m².
Why choose paper with high grammage? As we work with water, the tendency of the paper is to 'shrink' in the first contact with it. However, while heavier papers tend to return to their original state after drying, papers weighing less than 300g / m² no longer guarantee this return, and may deform during watering. My tip is always to glue the edges of the paper while the painting takes place; that way, you’ll be sure it won’t “bend”.
A very important feature for the durability of the paper. Acid-free papers have a neutral PH (7) and allow the paper to not turn yellow over the years. All professional watercolour papers are acid free, but not all from student area are.
Not all watercolour papers are 100% white. It is likely that this whitish tone will also vary according to the brand, form of production and even the manufacturer's own specifications. On one side, we have white papers with warm tones, with a light orange background, and on the other, cold tones, almost bluish papers.
It is good to point out that the color does not influence the transparency of the watercolor, but can influence the result of it (depending on the paints you use).
Gum – Sizing
Gum (like glue) is a substance applied to paper for a variety of purposes: helping paper suck water, fixing the color of pigments, among others. In the past, it was necessary to prepare the leaf before using it, washing it with pure water on the entire surface so that the gum would spread. Today, the best brands do it for you.
And how do you know if you need to wash this or not? Pay attention to the behavior of your paper. If you notice that some areas are drying out more quickly than others, a sign that he needs this initial treatment.
You have probably seen on Pinterest some watercolour papers with a smooth border and others with a 'torn' border. Although this irregular edge is very common in paper made by hand, some industrial papers are also produced with this finishing. In the case of industrialists, the torn edges appear when the paper is pressed by a cylindrical roller (which is basically like when we open a dough with a roller at home) and, thus, the edges become uneven like this.
In this Hahnemühle video, you can see how industrial paper is made, in case you are curious to know 🙂
Blocks, sketchbooks, sheets and rolls
What is the ideal shape for your painting style? The truth is that the presentation does not change the paper at all. First of all, the best choice is the one you adapt to. The advantage of the cut sheet, for example, is that you can buy a single one to test and also be able to cut it to the shape you want. The blocks, on the other hand, have the advantage of being more practical and easier to store and transport. The important thing is to test the models, use various shapes and, only then, you will find what you like best.
The watermark on watercolour papers attests to the product's brand and quality. They are usually found on individual sheets and attest to the authenticity of the work in the manufacture. On the other hand, it also has the function of indicating the correct side of the paper, where the gum and antifungal treatment has been applied.
And speaking in front of paper, it is always good to respect it. Do you know why? It is in it that is the complete treatment that makes it not yellow over the years with the presence of eventual moisture. I know we love to save, but in the case of watercolour papers, in the long run this can be negative.
Most of the papers are made of cotton and this is the favourite material among artists (I include myself in that!). However, currently we find papers of excellent quality that are made with other interesting materials, such as: bamboo fiber, banana, hemp, among others.
Anyway, as you could see, textures, colours and materials vary a lot from brand to brand. However, knowing all these main characteristics, it becomes easier to understand what each paper and brand means about your product. If you do not find all of this information in the purchase blocks or websites, you can see it directly on the manufacturers' websites, which are usually quite complete 😀
Did you like it? If you have any questions or want to suggest something, just leave a comment below.
And if you want to know more about watercolour, I have a post about vectorization of my works. Learn more!
Merci for following me, Francy ♥