Watercolour Paper – An Economical Option For Beginners
Although painting is a relatively cheap hobby the main expense over time is probably the watercolour paper itself. There are many types and very many manufacturers. Also each sheet has its own distinctive character. Some are whiter than others: ‘Bockingford’ paper is an example.
The quality of a paper is generally determined by the percentage of cotton it contains. The higher the cotton level the better. But also it is consequently more expensive!
Types of Watercolour Paper
Watercolour paper is usually produced using a mould machine and generally be divided into three types.
1. Smooth, which will usually have been heat treated , hence the term “hot pressed” or more commonly H.P.
2. Medium which has a bit more bite or texture , a cold pressed paper , known as “NOT’, meaning not hot pressed, a versatile and popular choice.
3. Rough which is heavier and more textured ,suitable for a range of textural effects, i.e. sea-spray, snowy landscapes, tree bark, weathered surfaces etc.
Stretched Watercolour Paper
Lighter weighted paper usually needs to be stretched for best results. The heavier ‘Rough’ usually does not. Although stretching is a time consuming chore, it does result in a drum smooth working surface. Thich should cope with wet on wet techniques without buckling.
The expense of these quality papers can have an inhibiting effect on beginning painters. I peak from experience! The fear of wasting yet another good sheet of paper can be paralysing. The dilemma is that you need to practice constantly to see results. Is there no way to avoid the expense?
An Alternative To Conventional Watercolour Paper
I would like to suggest an alternative to conventional surfaces. It is so cheap that you’ll be able to practice without restraint. Try using Lining Paper – as used by decorators when hanging wallpaper. It’s the paper between the bare or wall and the wallpaper. Its purpose is to promote a smooth finish.
I stumbled across this possibility many years ago through trial and error. I was thrilled and relieved to see how similar it behaved to regular watercolour paper.
You can find Lining Paper in hardware or D.I.Y. stores and comes in two thicknesses: 800 and 1200.
My Reactions To Using Lining Paper Instead Of Watercolour Paper
I find the finer paper easiest to handle as it does need to be stretched. It comes in handy to carry rolls and can be cut to any convenient size. It’s not a pure white but an oat or light beige colour. The surface is not quite as smooth as cartridge paper so you can practice the various techniques like ‘dry brush, speckling, graded washes as in calm skies where you apply successive horizontal strokes from the top of the sheet to the bottom or to the horizon catching the ‘bead” of the previous stroke. It’s equally good for working ‘wet in wet’, which really surprised me.
If you’re curious, give it a try and let me know what you think – I would be glad to get your opinion.
Also if you have found any other good alternatives, do please let me know.
Good luck with your painting and experimenting!