I purchased the Hahnemühle Selection pack, which contains one page each of 12 kinds of watercolor paper. This is not every paper that this company offers (notably missing are some of their experimental papers like ‘Agave’ that I was most interested in trying); but it covers a lot of their range and introduced me to a lot of papers I didn’t know about!
Here are my opinions, admittedly formed after trying only one 7”x10” page of each type of paper.
I used them in my regular rotation, so I usually painted something fairly typical for me (i.e. loose landscape with a fair amount of water from a tutorial), but I did not go super-scientific and paint the same thing on each one.
You’ll see these same paintings in other posts.
#1: Mould-Made Cold Press 200gsm
Pros: Nice texture. Dried surprisingly flat. Able to take a heavy wash with no lasting damage to the paper. Dried quickly (a pro or a con). I’m overall happy with my result.
Cons: Curled and formed puddles when painting heavy sky washes. Didn’t offer as much time as I would have liked to make blends. Tore and frayed when removing tape.
Overall: Lighter-weight than I’m comfortable with for everyday, though it could make a nice travel sketchbook if weight is at a premium and quick drying is desired. (I’m not sure if this is the paper they do use for their sketchbook – it’s 200gsm but is called “fine grained.”)
#2: Mould-Made Rough Press 200gsm
Pros: This is my first experience with rough press, and I liked it a lot for loose landscapes. Somehow, both textured and straight lines are easier to do. Heavy washes didn’t do lasting damage to the paper.
Cons: More dry brush effect than I was expecting. Paper is thin and curled a lot in process while doing heavy washes. Dried a bit quicker than I would have liked for making large consistent washes.
Overall: 200gsm remains too light for my studio work, but a possibility for travel. I liked the rough press for this style.
#3: Mould-Made Cold Press 300gsm
Pros: I much prefer this weight to the 200gsm; a lot less buckling.
Cons: Dried a bit more quickly than I would have liked for blends. Tore when removing the tape.
Overall: I like 300gsm weight for everyday use, but this is not my favorite 300gsm paper I’ve ever tried. I’d say that when it comes to cellulose (not cotton) 300gsm cold press papers, I prefer Canson XL (which is also cheaper, at least where I live).
#4: Mould-Made Rough Press 300gsm
Pros: Much less buckling than 200gsm. Rough press shows texture gorgeously, especially when used with granulating paints; the light side of the dune is a combination of lightly granulating Monte Amiata Natural Sienna and heavily granulating Transparent Brown Oxide, and it looks really sandy.
Cons: Dried a bit quicker than I would have liked for smooth gradients (you can see how I struggled to blend the glazes on the dark side). Curled somewhat.
Overall: Again, I feel enthused about rough press in general, but I think I may be able to do better.
#5: “Turner” (cold press 300gsm 100% cotton rag)
Pros: Slower-drying than the cellulose papers; I felt comfortable with this amount of drying time for blends and wet-on-wet glazes. Minimal buckling. The texture is pretty, and makes some nongranulating paints look granulating (which could be a pro or a con); that’s not French Ultramarine in the upper part of the sky there, it’s Indanthrone Blue!
Cons: Paper began to pill under the stress of multiple wet washes and paper towel lifting (as in the mist). That’s not just texture, it’s actually paper damage.
Overall: The drying time worked for me here, but the pilling makes this a mismatch for my water-heavy style.
#6: “Cézanne” (cold press 300gsm 100% cotton rag)
Pros: Plenty of time to work wet washes. No pilling. Took lots of washes like a champ. Minimal buckling.
Cons: Extremely long drying time, like, extremely long. Without a drying tool, I was waiting upwards of 30-40 minutes for a layer to dry before putting on the next one. (I did end up having to do an additional sky layer because I messed up layer #2 by adding it too soon onto layer #1.) Difficult to time wet-on-half-wet controlled softness, because you have to wait so long for it to dry that you end up doing something else.
Overall: I really liked my end result here and while I do like having plenty of time to mix layers, I ultimately think I lack the patience to use this paper every day.
#7: “Leonardo” (rough press 600gsm 100% cotton rag)
Again, I cut this one and did two paintings on it.
Pros: Super-thick cardstock-weight paper that lays absolutely flat no matter how much wash you throw at it. Drying time is long enough to work and rework but not so long that you have to wait around forever. Nice rough texture that looks natural and creates lovely shapes.
Cons: So rough that shadows appear when photographing. I think the texture is more obvious in the photos than in real life.
Overall: I really enjoyed the experience of working on this paper. I think it looks better in real life than photographs, but I don’t hate the texture in the photos.
#8: “Cornwall” cold press (450gsm cellulose)
Pros: Good weight! I thought I was working on 600gsm the whole time because it remained so flat. Even after I untaped the painting and held it up, it was totally stiff like a card. I liked the paper texture experientially; it was fun to paint on.
Cons: Dried a more quickly than I would like (I painted a line of water across the page to paint misty trees into and it dried when I was about a third of the way across). My main issue is that I don’t like the way the texture looks when photographed (I think it looks better in person).
Overall: I enjoyed using this paper, but I strongly dislike the way the texture looks photographed.
#9: “Cornwall” rough press (450gsm cellulose)
Pros: Took a lot of wash and a lot of layers, with minimal buckling. (It seemed less card-like than the previous 450gsm I tried, though. Maybe I used more water this time?) Easy to peel off tape. Cool patterns in wet-on-wet. Interesting texture from the paper.
Cons: Too much texture from the paper for me! I especially find it distracting that it’s so vertical, and although it’s kind of cool in a way, it’s not what I want every day.
Overall: Interesting “special effects” paper but not what I want every day.
#10: “Brittania” rough press (300gsm cellulose)
Pros: The visible cross-hatched texture is sort of nice, I guess? It’s a judgement call.
Cons: Damaged by too much washing and paper towel lifting. You can see black spots in the sun, that’s bits of paper pilling off. Admittedly I did several layers due to my own mistakes, but still. Doesn’t hold up to water as well as I’d hope for this weight.
Also I’m not sure if this was the paper, but it seemed like my dry layers bled and smeared a lot more than I expected. Normally if I get a bit of water near a dry layer it doesn’t move (unless I scrub at it), but on this paper the paint seemed to behave like gouache and simply rewet. I was not expecting that and did not like it at all. (You would think that would make it easier to lift as well, but nooooo.)
Also has a lot of visible texture that I don’t like for all the time, so it’s kind of the worst of all worlds.
Overall: I hate it and can find no redeeming qualities.
#11: “Torchon” (275gsm cellulose)
Pros: Texturally, I much prefer the more natural-looking texture of this one. It’s still rough but just looks sort of wavy instead of cross-hatched.
Cons: Moderate buckling; not horrible, but not great. A lot of paper tearing when I removed the tape.
Overall: Not one of my favorites.
#12: “Burgund” cold press (250gsm cellulose)
Another one where I cut it up and did two paintings.
Pros: Lovely cold press texture that behaves and photographs well, smooths washes and gradients but allows intentional blooms and variegation.
Cons: Expected level of paper buckling with heavy washes (worse than 300gsm, better than 200gsm). Paper tore when I was removing the tape. (See left side of right painting.) I used gentle washi tape and removed it ever so gingerly, so I don’t know how I’d avoid unexpected tearing.
Overall: I liked the texture, and this paper handles washes well for its weight. The tape was a real issue for me, though; I’d only want to use this paper in a sketchbook or block where I wasn’t using tape.
My favorite papers were:
- Leonardo: Honestly, now that I’ve tried 600gsm paper I think I’m spoiled. You don’t have to worry about it buckling at all. The rough texture is strong but nice.
- Cézanne: Wonderful results from this paper. It took a ton of wash and the colors remained vibrant. I thought it had a super slow drying time, but it might suit you if like to work slow/use a drying tool/don’t mind waiting overnight between layers/live in an arid climate.
The rest of these papers I probably wouldn’t seek out. However, I am inspired to try to compare budget 600gsm vs. super-fancy 300gsm and see which one I like better!