Fabriano 100% Cotton 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: Really easy to work with and very forgiving – I was able to lift hard edges and mistakes even after they had completely dried. It made working with this paper extremely enjoyable and I wouldn’t mind using it regularly.
Strathmore 400 Series 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: This was nice for the elephant project because I wanted to just keep moving along with it and not wait for things to dry and the paint dried nearly instantly on this paper. Tori was using Bee paper, and hers took at least 3 times longer for each section to dry, if not longer. You have to work fast with this paper, and not go over your work very much once you laid down the color because it would tend to streak.
Arches 100% Cotton 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: Extraordinarily easy to work with. Hard edges blended out easily at any time. Colors seem to stay truer to what they are and blooms don’t form easily.
Hahnemuhle 140 lb, Rough: Has a really neat texture on the surface, but I found it really hard to work on. Blooms developed much too easily and almost immediately and blending out was nearly impossible because it just wanted to lift all the paint layers back up. I didn’t really enjoy painting on it – I was frustrated more than happy. Colors did stay pretty vibrant, though.
Bee 100% Cotton 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: Easy to work with and the paint looks nice on it. I did notice that the paint wanted to pull up from it easier than Arches, and it also dries faster than Arches, leaving less working time. Really hard to blend out hard edges, but part of that may be the blue I was using in the painting.
Canson XL 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: almost fun in a way because of the fact that your paint stays very much on the top of the paper. There is no soaking into the paper at all, but that does keep your colors mostly vibrant, but sometimes very shiny as well. Paint pulls off easily, even when it shouldn’t, and it dries quickly with a lot of hard edges.
Canson Moulin du Roy 300 lb. Rough: An absolute delight to work with. Stayed wet a really ong time, so I didn’t have to rush through any part of the painting. I could even go back and work with places I had already finished working on several minutes prior. The paint looked really soft and pretty once it dried and the paper stayed flat throughout the entire process, without stretching it before-hand. I would love to ALWAYS work on this paper – it was the most enjoyable out of all previous ones so far.
Paul Rubens 100% Cotton, 140-lb Hot-Press: I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference when actually painting between this and my regular cold-pressed paper that I’m used to other than the fact that my water washes dried much more quickly so I had to use more water than usual to pre-wet the paper each time. Some of my thicker layers of paint did tend to be more shiny than on my cold-pressed paper. The paper did start to peel up when I kept adding a really light wash to one section, so many layers and some lifting techniques are probably not recommended.
Ampersand Aquabord: Quite fun to work with but challenging all at the same time. I now agree with the others – you should water it over completely first, then let it dry before using it like normal because it does help get rid of some bubbling. Tends to bleed over to sections that I was pretty sure were dry and went right under my washi tape nearly as if it weren’t even there. Color lifts off of it really easily (REALLY easily). Masking fluid worked really well on it. Looks more velvety when completely dry, which is a really nice feature, and that fact that it’s already “mounted” on a hard surface makes framing choices a bit easier, and might eliminate the need for a frame altogether. If you can get over the challenges of working with it, then I highly recommend giving it a try. The finished product looks really nice.
Strathmore 500 100% Cotton, 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: This has a very “slick” feel to it under the fingers – more like cellulose paper (rather than the more fabric, soft-like texture of Arches or Etchr cotton paper). It also warped A LOT when I put a water wash on the entire background, causing many puddles, but I was able to blend those out later and the colors I used didn’t create mud when mixed together, so that helped. This paper is more suited for dryer applications of paint, such as the fur on the owls. Although my background and log turned out just fine in the end, I wouldn’t recommend this paper for wet-in-wet techniques. The water tends to stay on the top of the paper for a long time instead of soaking in, making for a tricky application of paint or a lot of waiting time to get the paper’s wetness just right. This paper would benefit from being stretched first, which I am too lazy to do so far.
Etchr 100% Cotton, 105-ish lb Cold-Pressed: Always such a delight to work on – my absolute favorite sketchbooks to paint in, even with the paper being thinner than 140 lbs. Easier to work wet-on-wet with this paper because an application of NOT-soaking-wet-paint on dry paper will dry the paint very quickly – almost instantly – especially here in Colorado. But easy to blend out, colors look vibrant and beautiful, and I highly recommend it, just as much as Arches or Fabriano.
Handbook Watercolor Journal, 200 gsm, Cold-Pressed: Ugh. While this works perfectly well as a watercolor journal, it was definitely reminiscent of the Moleskine sketchbook I use for my dot card paintings. The paint sits on top of the paper, so multiple layers end up looking streaky instead of blended or glazed. This is probably better suited for people who work in very dry layers with their watercolors, like detail painters or someone who uses fine liners with just watercolor accents. But I have done washes, and it takes them just fine, but it’s wavy and uneven, so you just have to live with that.
Moleskine Watercolor Notebook, 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: Typical cellulose watercolor sketchbook. Dryer uses of color work better, and multiple layers tend to get streaky, so glazing is not recommended. It’s fun to work on for small, simple sketches, and would work well in a more fine-liner type of style with small watercolor accents. I use this for my dot card watercolor sketches, and it’s fun for that, but not nearly as nice as the Etchr sketchbooks – I’m just trying to use it up. I would not purchase this again.
Bienfang Watercolor Paper, 140 lb, Cold-Pressed: This paper felt only slightly nicer than the Canson XL paper, but very reminiscent of it at the same time. The paint did soak into this paper slightly better than the Canson XL, so less of the paint was on the surface, which made the finished product look nicer. This paper would be fine for dryer applications of paint and not big washy sections as it dried unevenly and quite quickly, so it’s hard to do washes without getting a lot of hard edges.
Fluid Watercolor Paper, 140 lb, Cold-Pressed:. Even though this is NOT cotton paper, it reminded me almost exactly of the Strathmore 500 paper, except that this paper allowed me to “erase” certain parts more easily than the Strathmore (where I got the green background into the antlers, for example). I remember this “erasing” feature from when I used this paper last year for WWC month (the painting of the two girls in lifejackets at Lake Powell jumping into the water). I actually really like this paper. A few of the warp puddles took FOREVER to dry, however, so keep a hair dryer nearby (I still don’t have one, darn it). This is the best cellulose paper I have tried so far. Your paint will still be shiny in heavier coats, however, so be aware of that.
Legion Stonehenge Heavy, 300 lb, Cold-Pressed: Just like the Canson Moulin du Roy 300 lb. paper this was a joy to work on. It doesn’t warp, it’s very forgiving, and the paint just stays vibrant-looking and beautiful when it dries. This does have less of a fabric/cottony feel to it than the Moulin du Roy paper, and I think the paint soaked into it slightly less, which I enjoyed just as much. Heavy paper like this just makes painting more fun. I can’t say yet whether or not I would prefer this or the Moulin du Roy paper – I would have to do several more paintings on each surface to know for sure – but if you choose this paper, you should have an enjoyable painting experience.