Easy Watercolor: How to Select Paper for Amazing Effects

Painting the same watercolor flower with playful hand lettering on hot press watercolor paper and plain sketching paper.

If you are new to watercolor, you are probably wondering what kind of paper you should use. After all, you want to get some amazing effects without too much work. The answer is: it depends.

I like smooth, hot-pressed 100% cotton paper. Why? Because adding colored pencils on top of a dry watercolor base works really well on smooth paper. The textured kind is more commonly used, though.

Textured paper is excellent when you use watercolor only; wet paint interacts beautifully with the rough surface. 

Watercolor on sketching paper?

But what if you want to use cheaper paper because you're painting for relaxation only? Just to enjoy and let loose creativity without expecting any kind of artistic result. In that case, you may want to go for ordinary sketching paper. In the video below, I'm painting the same illustration on both watercolor paper and sketching paper. You will see that you can get some pretty nice effects on plain sketching paper too. Another option is to use watercolor paper that is not 100% cotton, it costs a lot less.


How to select paper for your watercolor painting. Video tutorial by Cecilie Okada

In this video tutorial, I'm painting the same illustration first on smooth watercolor paper, then on ordinary sketching paper. The watercolor pigment behaves very differently on each of these two, but both create amazing effects. (No added colored pencils in this tutorial).


Printing out the illustration and preparing for watercolor painting

The line art in the video I have first printed out on a regular laser printer. I can do this because the watercolor paper I'm using is light, only 190g. After mounting the printed illustration on a wooden board with watercolor tape, I brushed off excess powder from the laser toner and started painting.

The sketching paper I mounted with sellotape only and I mounted it dry. Since I didn't paint the background, the paper would not get too wet and the bulks would smooth out when dry because of the tape.

The watercolor paper, however, I wet under running water first. When half dry I stretched it and mounted on wood. 

You can download my illustration for free and print it out on your own printer. Or you can trace it. Then paint it!

Smooth hot pressed watercolor paper vs textured cold pressed paper
Mounting smooth, hot pressed paper
Mounting the wet watercolor paper with paper tape on a wooden board. 

Just for fun- did you notice the word JOY in the illustration? It's my way of being creative with hand lettering, weaving words into illustrations. Creative drawing without regard for realistic rendering can be very relaxing. 

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