Glossary of Terms

This glossary gives definitions and explanations of many terms which you may come across in the item descriptions.

  • 100% rag (watercolour paper)
    This means that the paper is made from 100% cotton, which is higher quality than wood-based papers.
  • 140lb, 300lb, 96gsm, 300gsm etc.
    See paper weight.
  • 2B, 2H, 3B etc.
    see hardness
  • Acid-free
    Acid-free refers to papers without acid in the pulp when manufactured. High acidity papers degrade quickly. Acid free paper is commonly used for fine art prints and limited edition printing, as well as permanent records where contact with paper acidity could harm the documents.
  • Externally sized
    see sizing
  • Ferrule
    The metal band that connects the handle and the bristles of a paint brush.
  • Filbert
    Shape of brush used to create soft edges, blend colors, and has the shape of a flower petal or leaf, between a flat and a round.
  • Gelatine tub sized
    see sizing
  • Gloss
    A shiny, light-reflecting finish.
  • Hardness
    The hardness of a pencil lead. H stands for 'hard', while B stands for 'black'. The number before the H or B denotes the degree of hardness, so a 5H is very hard, while a 5B is very soft. HB is in the middle.
  • High White/Bright White Watercolour Paper
    Being traditionally off-white/creamy in colour, some manufacturers have produced a whiter shade of some of their more popular papers, which can give colours more vibrancy.   These whiter shades can vary in degree and under scrutiny may still appear off white.  This is due to the bleaching agents used differ from one paper to another.

  • H, HB
    see hardness
  • HP
    Hot pressed (HP) watercolor paper is pressed for an extremely smooth work surface. Excellent for mixed ink and watercolor techniques.
  • Hue
    "Hue" means colour and indicates that a modern pigment has been used instead of the traditional one. For example, 'Cadmium Red Pale Hue' in Cotman Water Colour is a 'colour of cadmium red pale'. A hue colour is not necessarily inferior.
  • Imperial
    A traditional English  measurement of paper size, which is equal to 30" x 22".
  • Internally sized
    see sizing
  • Lightfastness
    The ability of paper or colour to resist fading or yellowing when exposed to light.
  • Matt
    A finish with little or no sheen that absorbs light.
  • Mould made
    Mould made papers simulate the handmade process on a mechanised paper machine. These papers can be mistaken for handmade but there are distinct differences. Mould made paper combines the consistent quality of machine made (fourdrinier) papers, but with the individual character of handmade papers. They are of particular interest to artists because of their increased surface strength and beautiful surface texture.
  • NOT (or cold-pressed)
    NOT watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface, somewhere in between rough and hot-pressed paper. It's the paper used most often by watercolor artists.
  • Paper weight 
    The thickness of watercolor paper is indicated by its weight, measured either in grams per square metre (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb). The standard machine weights are 190 gsm (90 lb), 300 gsm (140 lb), 356 gsm (260 lb), and 638 gsm (300 lb). Paper less than 356 gsm (260 lb) should stretched before use, otherwise it's likely to warp.
  • pH neutral
    As with acid-free papers, a paper that is pH neutral will tend not to discolor with age.
  • Primed (canvas)
    Canvas has had a primer applied to it, which prepares the surface for being painted on. Primed canvases do not need to be primed again before use.
  • Rough
    Rough watercolor paper has a prominent tooth, or textured surface. This creates a grainy effect as pools of water collect in the indentations in the paper.
  • Sizing
    Sizing refers to the treatment of paper that gives it resistance to the penetration liquids (particularly water) or vapors. Papers are traditionally sized with gelatine. The amount of sizing determines the amount of color the paper takes into its structure. Heavier sizing allows more color to stay on the surface and allows easier reworking of the paint. Internally sized paper has the sizing added in the vat before the paper is made. Tub sized (or externally sized) papers are soaked in a sizing bath after the paper is made. Tub sized paper is the preferred choice of watercolorists. A paper that is too heavily sized can resist your brush strokes. To remedy this sponge your paper with clear water once or twice. This will eliminate some of the surface sizing and make the surface more receptive. Papers that are stretched lose any excess sizing in the streching process.
  • Traditional White Watercolour Paper
    Traditional white in watercolour paper is a creamy off-white colour, and has been used for hundreds of years and is the go to paper when one thinks of watercolour painting.  It has slightly aged/antique white colour as used by artists such as John Varley and William Turner. 

  • Watermark
    A deliberate design or pattern made in the paper, usually bearing the logo of the manufacturer Used to show that the paper is authentic.