Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Watercolour paper - trying a different texture/grain

With the style of artwork that I create, I mostly use hot-press watercolour paper whereby the surface of the paper is very smooth.  This is due to being passed through hot rollers during the manufacturing process.  I can achieve very fine detail and it is also more beneficial to work on a smooth surface if the painting is going to be reproduced for illustrative purposes.

Occasionally I will use cold-press paper which is normally considered to have a more textured surface than hot-press.  I like using this for natural history illustration, especially when I am using granulating colours.  I love seeing the effect of these paints on the paper and how the paint often separates and settles into the shallow textured surface of the paper.

As we gain experience of using different watercolour papers, it is good to try a variety even if they are all of the same grain or texture.  A hot-press paper made by one company can be totally different to that made by another.  I go into more detail about this in two previous blog posts:

Choosing watercolour paper for botanical drawing and painting - part 1

Choosing watercolour paper for botanical drawing and painting - part 2

Where do I buy my paper ?
I buy Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper (HP) in traditional white and extra white from either Jacksons Art Supplies or Great Art.  In recent times I have been painting mostly using the extra white.
A year or two ago I placed an order for HP and unfortunately there were dispatch problems from the factory and I was mistakenly sent Fabriano Artistico in a surface texture that I had not heard of before.  I opted to keep it as I was intrigued to see what this paper could be used for.
It wasn't HP and neither CP.  After a bit of research I discovered the surface was called soft-pressed !  This meant it fell into a category between HP and CP.
What was needed was a test of this paper to see how it behaves.  Needless to say I have only just got round to it !
What does it look like ?
Looking at it the paper looks like a CP paper, but look closer and you will see that the undulations and texture on the surface are much closer together.
From Handprint
Here you can see the grain of the texture of the paper
What colour does it come in ?
Only in extra white
What weights and formats is it available in ?
300 and 640 g/m (square) in sheets and rolls.  (I was using the 640 weight).
On another note, it is 100% cotton and is internally and externally sized.
What is it like to paint on ?
This is the big question !  It is smoother to paint on than you think it is going to be.  It is very absorbent (reminds me a little of painting on Saunders Waterford HP).  I liked the way the paint moved on the paper in both fluid washes and with dry brush work. 
Disadvantages - yes there was a couple !  Because of its absorbency the paint went into the paper quite quickly (this may not suit some painters), this meant there was less time to complete any lifting of colour, for example if I wanted to retain or re-establish areas for highlights.  Although I didn't do huge amounts of this, I can imagine the surface not being that durable to a bit of wear and tear. 
If you want to get ultra-sharp detail, you may struggle to achieve this, but never the less I was pleased with the results.
What would I use it for ? 
You could use it for botanical painting, but I am really, and I mean really enjoying using it for painting birds.  My latest painting 'Yaffle' is being completed on it (painted in Schminke Artists gouache), but you will have to wait to see that !
I am also going to use it for my study sheets and I have even made this concertina sketchbook with it.
Rowan study sheet

Concertina sketchbook.  The covers of the book were cut out of grey board and covered in some delightful wrapping paper that I already had.  They were made slightly bigger than the paper itself to provide more protection to the pages within.  A ribbon was added to help keep the book closed.

Why haven't I heard of it before ?
Apparently, it used to be known as UNO.  Fabriano decided to re-brand it as Artistico Extra white.  The rough and CP textures were re-formulated but the SP and HP remained the same standard.
To read more about the original UNO paper, there is a good description and evaluation on the Handprint website 

1 comment :

  1. Thank you so much for these well explained posts. I recently tested a number of watercolour sheets and found so many differences in the HP ones I tested. I use watercolour pencils so I as trying to find a paper that would work with how I currently use them in Moleskine . Your descriptions explain the differences I encountered ! I am currently trying is a Lana 300gsm on the back side.


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