Watercolor Q & A

Watercolor Q & A with Catherine Anderson

In this Watercolor Q & A, Catherine Anderson answers your questions about painting with watercolors. Currently the questions revolve around watercolor paper, how to store it properly, and how its weight and texture can affect your painting. Do you have a question that isn’t addressed here? Submit your question to Catherine using the contact form below and we will add it to her watercolor q & a page!

How do I store my watercolor paper?

I always order a package of 10 sheets of watercolor paper at a time.  I also keep the paper in the box and just leave the paper in the plastic wrap, open one end and pull one sheet out at a time.  Keep your watercolor paper protected.  All sorts of things can happen to your paper if left exposed.  Bad things.  If you only have a couple of sheets, store them flat to keep the paper flat.

Do not set anything heavy on your watercolor paper that would cause it to crease or become embossed. Furthermore, do not stack anything on top of it.  For example, a stack of books is enough weight to crease your paper. In addition, a spiral pad with weight on it will emboss your painting for sure. So be mindful of your paper.

Another point: When I have finished a painting and it’s dry, I cover it with tissue paper and put it in my cachet portfolio.  The portfolios pictured below are called Earthbound Portfolios. They look cool because of their earthy color, however, I recommend the black vinyl Hardboard Classic because it’s easier to carry.  It has more texture than the Earthbound Portfolios.  You can’t seem to get a grip on the Earthbound ones since they’re smooth and slip out of your hand.  Portfolios come in many sizes and are reasonably priced.  Most art stores online and off carry these.

You need something sturdy that will protect your artwork.  The portfolio I use has strong ties on all three sides and flaps inside to protect artwork.  Therefore, you can tuck your full-size sheets under the flaps to keep any dirt from getting in to them.  In addition, if you have small paintings, the flaps will protect them so they do not slip out of the sides of your portfolio.

Watercolor Q & A : Cachet Portfolios for Story WC paper

Cachet Portfolios for watercolor paper

That’s it for now.  I hope this discussion of how to store your watercolor paper helped to answer your question.

Catherine Anderson © 2013-2016

Why is your watercolor paper so important?

I really came to understand the importance of my watercolor paper when I was painting for my biggest gallery show ever so long ago.  The paintings were almost complete. Yet, when I added another glaze to the painting, black spots started to appear at the top of the paper. This happened on all the paintings!

It was mold.  Because the spots didn’t appear till much later, I learned too late that I gotten a bad batch of paper.  This had never happened to me before.  Fortunately, the paper distributor was not far away.  I phoned the company with my sad story and the distributor overnighted 10 sheets in a pack.  I spent days drawing new paintings on the new paper. Because it did not take the paint evenly when I put my first glaze on, this definitely indicated a sizing problem. If there is no sizing on the paper, you can’t control your paint. The paint absorbs into the paper like an ink blotter would absorb ink. It’s a very difficult surface to paint on because you can’t move the paint around – it’s absorbed into your paper much too quickly! Due to this problem, my paper was spotty and darker where there was no sizing.  Worst of all, the paper starting bubbling up when I put a glaze on one of the sheets.  Consequently, it honestly looked like cottage cheese!  That was crazy.

The distributor sent another 10 sheets, however time was running out now and I had no time to deal with another bad batch of watercolor paper.  What were the odds of getting three bad batches of paper in a row? As a result, I started future-tripping and freaking out…Will I have to switch to another paper manufacturer?  I couldn’t imagine doing that.  This was my paper that I had come to know and love.  The paper I had been using for years. I couldn’t switch papers now! On and on I went.  You know that panicky feeling?

The third batch they shipped ended up being fine. Of course, I didn’t get to try it until after the show. Therefore I had to rescue the paintings with the mold and the bad sizing by cropping about 4 inches (10.2cm) off the top. I had to go for it at that point.  What did I have to lose?  So I had smaller paintings.  At least I made it work.

Your paper is everything.  If you run out of a tube of paint, you can mix and make the color.  If you can’t find your favorite sable brush, you can always find another favorite brush.  However, if something happens to your paper it could be disastrous, and there may be little you can do about it. You’ll have to get very creative to try and fix it.  Your paper is critical!

If you do get a bad batch of paper, there is a Batch Number on the plastic bag that the 10 sheets of watercolor paper usually come in. First of all, report what happened and give the Batch Number to the company you bought it from. With this information they can send an alert to pull that particular batch off the shelves.  And they will replace it for you.  If you buy a couple of sheets at a time, you probably live near an art store. Take the bad paper in to them and they’ll replace it. 

More to come…I hope this helped answer your watercolor questions.

Catherine Anderson © 2013-2016

What is cold pressed, hot pressed and rough watercolor paper?

I have painted on different watercolor paper surfaces — cold pressed, hot pressed and rough — to show you how the paint reacts on each one. Read on for images of these examples and a discussion of each type of paper.

Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper

Cold pressed watercolor paper is a little smoother than rough, but it does have a bit of “tooth”, i.e., texture in the paper.  Cold pressed paper is the most commonly used among watercolor artists.  Can you see the little bit of texture in the paper?

Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper

Hot pressed watercolor paper is a very smooth paper.  It seems like you ironed out all the texture with a hot iron.  It’s a bit tricky to work with because when you paint on the smooth surface of hot pressed watercolor paper the paint reacts differently than on other papers. Due to its smooth texture, the paint tends to puddle, which is what I love about it. It’s full of surprises.  Wonderful surprises!  It just takes some practice to work with this paper because it is so slick.

Watercolor Q & A : hot pressed cropped watercolor paper

Rough Watercolor Paper

In contrast, rough watercolor paper is the most textured watercolor paper there is.  It seems to soak up the paint more, leaving your colors on the light side.  No big deal.  Just adjust the amount of paint to make the color the way you want it.  You will get to know your paper and how much paint it will take to suit your style of painting after a while. Rough watercolor paper is great if you want to put lots of texture in your painting. Can you see more texture in this paper?

Watercolor Q & A : Rough cropped watercolor paper

More to come…I hope this helped to answer your question!

Catherine Anderson @ 2013-2016

What weight of watercolor paper would you recommend?

I recommend beginning with a sheet of 140 lb. cold pressed paper and see how you like it. Then you can trim the sheet down to any size you want. Spiral pads of 140 lb. paper are available in just about any size you want.  If your paper starts buckling when you’re painting, it’s because you’re using too much water for the weight of the paper.  140 lb. is a thinner watercolor paper, and the most commonly used paper by watercolorists.

I know you can flatten it out when dry by putting a piece of paper on the watercolor and then weight…like a stack of books.  It seems like a good solution — it’ll be flat in the morning, but it may still buckle.  Can you tell that I don’t like painting on paper that buckles?

Due to this difficulty, I have always used 300 lb. sheets of paper because I use a lot of water when I paint. 300 lb. watercolor paper never buckles because it’s much heavier watercolor paper. To be sure, it will cost a few dollars more, but it’s worth every penny to me.  It can be very frustrating for a beginner when your paper begins buckling.  Why start fighting with your paper when there are so many other things to be thinking about?  Who wants to be fighting with anything when you’re in your creative space, right? So try them both!  What have you got to lose?  Having the best tools is critical.

More to come…I hope this helped answer your question!

Catherine Anderson @ 2013-2016

Do you have a question about watercolors? Send Catherine a message so she can answer your question here on her Watercolor Q & A page!

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