Best Watercolor Papers | For Beginners & Professionals


As a watercolor artist, the paper you choose can significantly impact the final outcome of your artwork. The right watercolor paper enhances color vibrancy, prevents warping, and allows for a variety of techniques.

The best watercolor paper is the Arches Watercolor Pad, which stands out for its professional-grade quality, 100% cotton composition, and suitability for various techniques. It offers an excellent balance of durability, texture, and performance for both beginners and professionals. The Arches Watercolor Block is another great option.

This article aims to help you find the best watercolor paper tailored to your needs, ensuring that your creative vision is fully realized. We’ve reviewed and compared top watercolor paper products on the market, so you can make an informed decision and elevate your artistic creations to new heights.

Best Watercolor Papers

Compare Top Papers for Watercolor

Watercolor PaperOverall ScoreBottom LinePrice
Arches Watercolor Block
Arches Watercolor Block
90For professionals and serious hobbyistsCheck Out On Amazon
Canson XL Series Watercolor Pad
Canson XL Series
82 Budget Buy
A reliable and cost-effective choice
Check Out On Amazon
_Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Pad
Strathmore 400
86Known for durability and performanceCheck Out On Amazon
_Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pad
Arches Watercolor Pad
92 Top Pick
Superior quality and performance
Check Out On Amazon
Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper
Fabriano Artistico
80 High End
Acid-free and versatile
Check Out On Amazon
Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad
Bee Paper Company
76Good performance for its price rangeCheck Out On Amazon

Detailed Analysis of the Best Watercolor Papers

1. Arches Watercolor Block

Review - Arches Watercolor Block

Overall Score: 90

Advantages:

  • High-quality, 100% cotton composition
  • Acid-free for longevity and color preservation
  • Available in three textures and two weights
  • Compatible with a wide range of watercolor techniques
  • Professional-grade paper used by renowned artists

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than other watercolor paper options
  • May be too pricey for beginners or casual artists

The Arches Watercolor Block is an outstanding choice for artists seeking premium quality paper that can handle various watercolor techniques.

Its durability, absorbency, and versatility make it a top pick for professionals and serious hobbyists.

Quality

Arches Watercolor Blocks are known for their high-quality, 100% cotton composition. This professional-grade paper is acid-free, ensuring longevity and preventing color fading.

Made using traditional cylinder molds, the Arches paper offers excellent consistency and durability for watercolor artists.

Texture

Arches watercolor paper comes in three different textures: hot-pressed, cold-pressed, and rough. Hot-pressed paper offers a smooth surface, perfect for fine details and intricate work.

Cold-pressed paper, also known as NOT paper, has a medium texture suitable for a wide range of techniques. Rough paper has a heavily textured surface, ideal for creating expressive, textured effects.

Weight

This watercolor paper is available in 140lb (300gsm) and 300lb (640gsm) weights, providing options for different preferences and painting techniques.

The 140lb weight is suitable for most artists, but if you prefer using heavy washes or want to avoid stretching the paper, the 300lb weight is an excellent choice.

Compatibility with various watercolor techniques

Arches watercolor paper is highly versatile and can handle various techniques, including wet-on-wet, dry brush, and glazing.

Its absorbent surface allows the paint to flow beautifully, while its durability prevents it from deteriorating even when subjected to multiple layers and washes.

This paper’s quality makes it a favorite among professional artists and beginners alike.

Price

Arches Watercolor Blocks can be relatively expensive compared to other watercolor papers, but their high quality and performance justify the price.

For those who are serious about their art, investing in Arches paper is a wise decision that will pay off in the form of improved results and satisfaction.

2. Canson XL Series Watercolor Pad

Review - Canson XL Series Watercolor Pad
Budget Buy

Overall Score: 82

Advantages:

  • Affordable and budget-friendly
  • Acid-free, ensuring longevity and color preservation
  • Suitable for both beginners and intermediate artists
  • Micro-perforated sheets for easy removal
  • Cold-pressed texture versatile for different techniques

Disadvantages:

  • Not 100% cotton (cellulose-based)
  • May not handle heavy washes as well as 100% cotton papers
  • Less suitable for professional or advanced artists

The Canson XL Series Watercolor Pad offers an affordable and budget-friendly option for watercolor artists.

This pad is especially popular among beginners and intermediate artists looking for a reliable and cost-effective choice for their watercolor projects.

Quality

Canson XL watercolor paper is acid-free, ensuring longevity and color preservation.

While it is not made of 100% cotton (it’s cellulose-based), the paper still offers decent quality for casual artists or those working on practice pieces.

Texture

The paper features a cold-pressed texture, which is versatile and suitable for various watercolor techniques.

This medium texture can handle fine details, as well as textured effects, making it a popular choice for artists experimenting with different styles.

Weight

Canson XL watercolor paper has a weight of 140lb (300gsm), which is adequate for most artists.

However, the paper may not handle heavy washes or wet-on-wet techniques as well as 100% cotton papers with higher weights.

You might need to stretch the paper to avoid buckling or warping if you plan to use a lot of water.

Compatibility with various watercolor techniques

This paper is compatible with a variety of watercolor techniques, including wet-on-wet, dry brush, and glazing.

However, due to its cellulose-based composition, the paper may not absorb water and pigment as well as 100% cotton papers, which can affect the vibrancy and flow of the colors.

Price

One of the significant advantages of the Canson XL Series Watercolor Pad is its affordability.

This watercolor pad offers a budget-friendly option without compromising too much on quality, making it an excellent choice for beginners, hobbyists, or artists looking to practice their skills.

3. Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Pad

Review - Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Pad

Overall Score: 86

Advantages:

  • High-quality, acid-free paper
  • Suitable for intermediate and advanced artists
  • Versatile cold-pressed texture
  • Good value for money
  • Available in various sizes

Disadvantages:

  • Not 100% cotton (cellulose-based)
  • May require stretching to avoid buckling with heavy washes

The Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Pad is a popular choice among intermediate and advanced artists looking for a high-quality yet reasonably priced watercolor paper.

Known for its durability and performance, this watercolor pad offers a great balance between quality and cost.

Quality

Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper is acid-free, ensuring longevity and color preservation.

Although it is not made of 100% cotton (it’s cellulose-based), the paper is of high quality and performs well for various watercolor techniques, making it suitable for more experienced artists.

Texture

This watercolor pad features a versatile cold-pressed texture, which is ideal for a wide range of techniques.

The medium texture can handle both fine details and textured effects, providing artists with flexibility in their painting styles.

Weight

With a weight of 140lb (300gsm), Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper is adequate for most artists.

However, you may need to stretch the paper before using heavy washes or wet-on-wet techniques to avoid buckling or warping.

Compatibility with various watercolor techniques

Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper is compatible with a variety of techniques, including wet-on-wet, dry brush, and glazing.

Its cellulose-based composition is highly absorbent, allowing for vibrant colors and smooth paint flow.

While it may not have the same level of absorbency as 100% cotton papers, its performance is impressive for its price range.

Price

One of the main advantages of the Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Pad is its affordability without compromising quality.

This watercolor pad offers good value for money, making it an excellent choice for intermediate and advanced artists looking for a reliable yet budget-friendly option.

4. Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pad

Review - Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pad
Top Pick

Overall Score: 92

Advantages:

  • Made of 100% cotton, offering superior quality
  • Professional-grade paper suitable for advanced artists
  • Excellent absorbency and color vibrancy
  • Available in various sizes and weights
  • Can handle heavy washes and wet-on-wet techniques

Disadvantages:

  • Higher price point compared to other options
  • May not be suitable for beginners due to cost

The Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pad is a premium choice for artists seeking top-notch watercolor paper.

Renowned for its superior quality and performance, this professional-grade paper is made of 100% cotton and is favored by advanced artists worldwide.

Quality

Arches watercolor paper is known for its exceptional quality, as it is made of 100% cotton.

This composition ensures excellent longevity and color preservation, making it an ideal choice for artists who want their work to stand the test of time.

Texture

This watercolor pad features a cold-pressed texture that offers a balance between smoothness and grain, providing artists with versatility in their painting styles.

The medium texture can handle both fine details and textured effects, accommodating a wide range of techniques.

Weight

Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pad comes in a heavy weight of 140lb (300gsm) or 300lb (640gsm), ensuring that it can handle heavy washes and wet-on-wet techniques without the need for stretching.

The paper’s thickness and sturdiness make it an excellent choice for artists who require more stability in their work.

Compatibility with various watercolor techniques

Arches watercolor paper is highly compatible with a wide range of techniques, including wet-on-wet, dry brush, and glazing.

Its 100% cotton composition allows for superior absorbency and color vibrancy, resulting in stunning watercolor effects and smooth paint flow.

Price

The main drawback of the Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pad is its higher price point compared to other options on the market.

While the cost may be prohibitive for some artists, particularly beginners, the paper’s quality and performance make it a worthwhile investment for advanced artists seeking professional-grade materials.

5. Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper

Review - Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper
High End

Overall Score: 80

Advantages:

  • Made of 100% cotton
  • Acid-free and archival quality
  • Suitable for various watercolor techniques
  • Available in different textures (cold-pressed, hot-pressed, and rough)
  • Heavyweight paper (140lb/300gsm)

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than some other options
  • May require stretching for heavy washes
  • Might be less affordable for beginners

Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper is a high-quality watercolor paper made of 100% cotton. It is acid-free, ensuring the longevity of your artwork.

This paper is suitable for various watercolor techniques, offering versatility for artists.

Quality

Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper is made of 100% cotton, ensuring good absorbency and color vibrancy.

It is acid-free and archival quality, making it a reliable choice for artists who want to preserve their artwork for a long time.

Texture

This watercolor paper is available in different textures, including cold-pressed, hot-pressed, and rough. This allows artists to choose the texture that best suits their painting style and preferences.

Weight

Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper is heavyweight (140lb/300gsm), making it suitable for various techniques, including heavy washes and wet-on-wet methods.

However, it may require stretching before applying heavy washes to avoid buckling or warping.

Compatibility with various watercolor techniques

The paper’s variety of textures and its 100% cotton composition make it suitable for a range of watercolor techniques. This versatility allows artists to experiment with different styles on the same paper.

Price

Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper is more expensive than some other options, making it less affordable for beginners.

However, its high quality and versatility make it a worthy investment for artists seeking a professional-grade watercolor paper.

6. Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad

Review - Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad

Overall Score: 76

Advantages:

  • Affordable option for beginners and students
  • Cold-pressed surface suitable for various techniques
  • Acid-free for better color preservation
  • Compatible with other media, such as ink and colored pencils
  • Made in the USA

Disadvantages:

  • Not made of 100% cotton
  • Less absorbent than professional-grade papers
  • May require stretching for heavy washes
  • Not ideal for advanced techniques

The Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad is an affordable option for beginners and students who are looking for a reliable yet budget-friendly watercolor paper.

While not as high-quality as professional-grade papers, it offers good performance for its price range.

Quality

The Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad is not made of 100% cotton, which means it may not be as absorbent as professional-grade papers.

However, it is acid-free, which helps with color preservation and prevents yellowing over time. It’s a good option for beginners and students who are not yet ready to invest in more expensive watercolor paper.

Texture

This watercolor paper pad features a cold-pressed surface, offering a versatile texture suitable for various watercolor techniques.

The paper’s texture can also accommodate other media, such as ink and colored pencils, making it a versatile choice for artists who like to experiment with different materials.

Weight

At 90lb/190gsm, the Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad is lighter than professional-grade watercolor papers.

This lighter weight may require stretching before applying heavy washes to avoid buckling or warping. However, it is still suitable for a range of techniques, especially for beginners and students.

Compatibility with various watercolor techniques

While not ideal for advanced techniques, the Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad is suitable for various techniques, such as wet-on-wet, glazing, and dry brush.

Its cold-pressed texture offers a good balance between absorbance and control, making it a versatile option for artists who want to experiment with different styles.

Price

One of the key advantages of the Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad is its affordability.

It is an excellent option for beginners and students who are not yet ready to invest in professional-grade watercolor paper. The lower price point allows artists to practice and experiment without breaking the bank.

Conclusion

We have reviewed five excellent watercolor paper products, each with its unique features and benefits.

From the professional-grade Arches Watercolor Pad to the budget-friendly Bee Paper Company Watercolor Paper Pad, there’s an option for every artist’s needs and preferences.

When choosing the right watercolor paper, consider factors like quality, texture, weight, and compatibility with your preferred techniques.

Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with different products to find the perfect match for your artistic style.

Remember, the right watercolor paper can significantly impact your artwork and overall painting experience. Happy painting!

Mehak Verma

I love creating both traditional and digital watercolour art. Why? As a kid, transitioning from sketch pens to paint brushes and water soluble colours was a big deal. Hope you find what you're looking for on my website.

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