Before the 1800's, watercolor painting is done on any paper that is available.
Normally, it will be very difficult to paint on heavy paper that is colorfast. A wrapping
paper, a white paper or even tourist guide papers are common since the manufacture
of watercolor paper were to come later.
Today, watercolor paper is manufactured well with formulation for specific watercolor
applications. These applications are divided into attributes such as weight, color, size,
furnish, permanence, packaging, dimension and color.
Weight - Grams per square meter (GSM) determine the weight of the watercolor paper.
Depending on its density and thickness, the weight of the watercolor paper ranges
from 280 to 640 gsm. To judge whether the paper is good to your application without
even looking at the weight is to hold it on one edge and shake it vigorously. Paper
with less weight will give a rubbery sound when rattled while papers with heavier
grades will tend to give off a more metallic sound. Generally, heavier papers are
excellent for water based applications although it is much more expensive.
Color Most watercolor papers are pure white although sometimes they come with a
slight tinge of beige and sometimes slightly yellowish. There are also watercolor
papers today that are tinted and are available in all colors.
Furnish The furnish of the watercolor paper is determined by the content or material
from which the paper is made. The papers are made of cellulose extracted from plants
notably, wood pulp, linen, and cotton. After extraction, the pulps are wetted,
macerated, chemically treated and filtered and rinsed and poured into paper making
moulds. The watercolor paper making machines are large cylinders fixed with metal
wire screen mesh that gives the paper the texture of a wove. The wire mesh
determines the coarseness or the smoothness of the wove produced.
Size and Dimensions The sizes that are commercially available are:
Emperor sheet (40"x60"), double elephant (30"x40"), full sheets (22"x30"), half
sheets (15"x22") and the quarter sheets (15"x11"). Watercolor paper sizes are also
available as watercolor blocks or pads containing 20 sheets. A watercolor block comes
in different sizes with its dimensions glued on the edges for portability.
Permanence Every paper deteriorates eventually however, the best watercolor paper
are the archival papers. These papers are entirely from 100% cellulose fibers whether
made from linen or cotton. Because of these, papers are free of lignen. Archival
papers will last for more than 100 years without significant deterioration like
discoloration and brittleness.
Finishes When you buy a watercolor paper, the finish is printed on a corner that tells
you it's texture. There are three basic finishes that tells you the texture of the paper.
The HP (hard pressed), the CP (cold pressed) and R for rough. Each texture works for
particular applications. Work with hard pressed papers for smoother applications and
Packaging the packaging of the watercolor paper will give information regarding the
attributes mentioned above, and how those attributes will work for a particular