Monday, June 12, 2017

Watercolor Essentials: Part 4, Paper

And here we are at the #1 watercolor essential. After teaching students year after year, I've concluded that the most important supply to have, the one that will make or break a painting, is...quality paper!

You can get away with student-grade paints, brushes, and palettes for the first few classes but not paper. A poor-quality paper will not absorb paint; it will blotch and puddle making it incredibly frustrating for students and instructor alike. Cheaper papers also tend to be a lighter weight; anything less than 140# will buckle and bow, creating a difficult painting surface that pools the paint. Scrubbing will usually disintegrate the surface.

I use a cold press paper, either 300# or 260# in Arches, Waterford, and Killimanjaro. Lately, I've been experimenting with the new, high-end Canson L'Aquarelle, a beautiful paper that feels like velvet. I don't stretch or tape my paper down and I paint all the way to the edge. If my paper is a little bowed when I'm finished painting, I simply wet the back of the painting with clean water and lay the painting between two pieces of cardboard and under a stack of books. By morning, it is flat and ready to frame.

Students starting out should try as many brands and surfaces as they can to see what feels right for them. There's rough, cold press (semi-rough), and hot press (smooth). There's bristol board with a variety of textures and the quirkiest paper of all, Yupo, which isn't a natural paper but a synthetic polypropylene. It pools and resists the paint, but that's part if it's charm, once you know how to use it.

Once a student finds a paper that works for their purposes, it's a good idea to use that same brand over and over to learn the properties of the paper, such as, how quickly the paint absorbs, how or if the paint lifts, and how much scrubbing can it handle.

I hope this series has helped make your supply selections a little easier. Have fun!

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