What’s the most cost-effective watercolor paper?

It’s really hard to compare watercolor paper on price vs quality. For one thing, the quality is highly subjective. While some factors make watercolor paper more likely to work well with water and to be pleasurable to use (weight, cotton content, sizing), you can’t guarantee that you’ll like a paper or that it will work with your style until you try it out.

It’s even difficult to compare on the basics of how much is costs, since every paper comes in a variety of different sizes and price points. How does $30 for 20 sheets of 9×12 really compare to $20 for 12 sheets of 8×10? It’s a math problem and also a pragmatic problem (which size do I prefer to paint on, or can I more easily cut to a size I prefer to paint on?)

Well: I’ve at least attempted to solve the math part by making a spreadsheet.

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Miscellaneous Watercolor Paper Reviews

While working on my projects of reviewing all the colors in the Jackson’s and St Cuthbert samplers, I also occasionally used other paper. Here are some loose reviews of random other papers I’ve tried in the past year, not in the context of a sampler or set. Fluid Easy Block These are about the cheapest … Read more

Every Paper in the St. Cuthbert’s Paper Mill Sample Pack

The Jackson’s sample pack wasn’t the only one I got in my Jackson’s order back in 2021. I also tried a super-cheap St. Cuthbert Paper Mill sampler, cheap mainly because the size of the paper is really small (7 unequally-sized cuts measuring roughly 5.5″ by 7″ or 8″.) Since this is a size I often paint in anyway, the smallness didn’t bother me, but I did get fewer chances to form an opinion than I would from my own cuts off a larger page. Still, here are my quick thoughts on each paper.

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Every Paper in Jackson’s Cold Press Paper Sampler

In April 2022, I purchased Jackson’s Cold Press Watercolor Sample Pack of 12, which contains 12 11″x15″ quarter-sheets of cold-pressed watercolor paper in a variety of brands and weights. It took me this long to sample them all, but I’m finally able to share my thoughts on every paper in the sample pack! Since I … Read more

Every Paper in the Hahnemühle Selection Sampler

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.

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Legion Sample Size Paper Reviews

Legion Yupo sample size paper, with a #10 Velvetouch brush for size comparison.

Recently, I tried a bunch of itty-bitty 2”x3” sample-size pads to try various Legion watercolor paper options. I was especially interested in Yupo, a “tree-free” type of paper that’s totally different from typical watercolor paper. Here are my impressions.

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Watercolor Paper 101

A big pile of watercolor blocks, sketchbooks, and paper packs.

Good paper can make a huge difference in your quality of life as watercolorist. Paper designed for other media just can’t take the amount of water that watercolor requires. Think about it: water is terrible for paper! Water makes most paper melt, tear, and break down, so you get little fuzzy bits of paper mixed in with your paint. Getting high quality paper can be the simplest path to getting great results from the paints you picked out so carefully.

When I first started shopping for watercolor paper, I was bewildered by all the specs. I’ll break it down so you can figure out what you’re buying and how it will work with your watercolor style.

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