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Though it can’t quite be called rough, cold press paper has a surface texture with more tooth than its counterpart, hot press paper. It is also more porous, more absorbent, and easier to erase and rework. You can achieve refined textures with your paint, and washes are easier to control. There is no single paper that will work best for everyone, but our guide covers a range of qualities and prices for both beginners and seasoned painters. Here are the best ones in our book.
1. Arches Watercolor Paper Block
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional watercolor painter, Arches papers offer the best surface to work with. These are expensive sheets, but they are worth every penny for their durability, consistency, and sophistication. The paper has a surface with subtle grain that helps to anchor pigments and capture details, and it holds water well with no puddling. Colors look alive on these clean sheets, which come adhered in block form so you don’t have to stretch them before use.
2. Speedball Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper
A more cost-effective alternative to Arches, Fluid’s cold press paper is perfect for using on a regular basis without sacrificing too much quality. Paint flows easily on these 100 percent cotton sheets, which are reliably absorbent whether you’re painting with watercolor or gouache. They have slightly less tooth than the Arches, but they are almost comparable in their resilience, able to accept heavy washes with minimal buckling and to handle scrubbing and reworking without pilling.
3. UCreate Watercolor Paper
If all you need is a straightforward sheet of paper that can handle water, look no farther than UCreate’s product, which is sold in a pack of 50 sheets. Made of wood pulp, these are heavy-duty, 140-pound sheets that can stand up to rough brushstrokes and liberal washes without ripping or leaking. Even when saturated with watercolor, they dry with little warping. While not the best for working artists, these are just the ticket for kids’ activities and casual classroom use.
4. Canson Montval Watercolor Paper Pad
Canson’s paper is not only a great everyday paper but also a good option for the beginning painter. Made of a cotton-blend pulp, its surface is not as luxurious as a competitor like Arches, but it can still handle and showcase paint very well and is much more forgiving. You can scrape, scrub, and erase repeatedly without causing abrasions to its surface, which features a subtle grain that helps to evenly disperse pigments.
5. Indigo Artpapers Cotton Cold-Pressed Handmade Paper
This handcrafted paper may not be something you reach for every day, but it’s a unique option for special projects. Composed of 100 percent cotton rag, each sheet is made in India through a completely natural, chemical-free process. The results are very durable and feature a subtle grainy texture. Note that the consistency of the surface is irregular, which can make for a fun and interesting painting experience, and the edges are deckled to provide an ornamental effect.