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Watercolour Surfaces

  • Description

When starting out in watercolours you may find the different types of watercolour papers and the various terminology confusing. We have selected some of the most popular papers for beginners below, they are all good quality - but more economical when you are just starting out. Our practice paper is an excellent starting point, the paper will allow you to paint freely and try things out, without worrying about the cost of each sheet! We also have some starter packs of paper, which allow you to try out a number of different types of watercolour papers, without committing to buying a whole pack of one type.

For more information on choosing watercolour paper, read our blog.

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What does HP, NOT and Rough mean?

These terms refer to the surface texture of the paper.
HP stands for Hot Pressed and is the smoothest watercolour paper available. It is good for painting fine details. 
NOT or 'Cold Pressed' paper has a medium surface texture and is suitable for a whole range of techniques.
Rough paper has the most textured surface which allows the pigment to sit in the pits of the paper and is a good choice for loose or expressionist styles.

The type of surface you choose to paint on will depend mostly on personal preference and the types of techniques you wish to employ in your paintings, but a NOT surface is a favourite for beginners.

What do 100% rag/cotton and wood pulp mean?

In general, watercolour papers are made from one of two materials; cotton or wood pulp. 100% cotton papers are professional quality, and are considered to offer the very best painting surface. Cotton gives incomparable stability and ensures that you work will stand the test of time. Wood pulp (also known as woodfree) paper is made using a chemically treated pulp with lignin removed. This paper is an inexpensive alternative to cotton paper and is a good choice for amateurs and beginners.

What are the different Weights of watercolour paper?

Paper is usually measured in pounds lb or grams per squre metre (gsm). The heavier the weight of the paper, the wetter it can get without the paper buckling. However, heavy weight paper is much more expensive than lighter weight paper.  Generally, paper under 200lb will require stretching to prefent it from buckling when painting on it. 

Why does watercolour paper move and buckle when I paint on it?

If you haven't stretched your watercolour paper or haven't stretched it effectively, you will notice that the paper buckles (or cockles) with the application of water. This is particularly noticeable in lighter weight papers; weights above 200lb should not need stretching.

If water is applied to un-stretched watercolour paper it will cockle. This is because the water on the paper will cause the paper fibres to expand slightly. Areas that are dry will not expand. The paper moves and buckles to counteract the expansion of the wet areas, causing unsightly wells and troughs in your finished painting. If you continue to paint on the cockled paper you will notice that the paint settles into the wells, leaving uneven washes.

How long should I soak my watercolour paper for when stretching?

The length of time you should soak your watercolour paper will depend on the weight of the paper. We would recommend that 90lb the paper should be left for 3 minutes, 140lb the paper should be left for 8 minutes and for heavy papers like 300lb, the paper should be left for 20 minutes.

What is the difference between a watercolour paper pad and a block?

The main difference between a Watercolour Paper Pad and a Watercolour Paper Block is that a Pad will only be gummed or bound at one edge. A Block, on the other hand, is glued along all four edges; this eliminates the need for stretching your paper if only moderate amounts of water are being used. Using a block should not be considered a substitute for stretching however, as if particularly wet washes are being used the paper will still be likely to cockle.

Which side of my watercolour paper should I paint on?

It is generally accepted that the correct side of the watercolour paper to paint on is the side from which the watermark is legible. For example, if you are using Saunders Waterford paper, the correct side would be the side on which the 'Saunders Waterford' Watermark is displayed the right way round. This side will be the 'Felt Side' and should noticeably have more texture. You will notice that the reverse side will have less texture, as this side will have been in contact with the mesh of the cylinder mould.

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15 products
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Bockingford Blocks

44 reviews


from £11.09

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Paper Pads

7 reviews

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Paper Pads each include 12 sheets of 300gsm (140lb) NOT watercolour paper ideal for students, beginners and hobbyists.

from £5.16

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Postcards

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Postcards includes 15 4" x 6" (10.5cm x 14.8cm) sheets of 140lb (300gsm) NOT surface paper printed on the reverse.


Winsor & Newton Watercolour Paper Jumbo Pad

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Paper Jumbo Pad contains 50 A4 sheets of watercolour paper ideal for students, beginners and hobbyists.


Winsor & Newton Mixed Media Paper Pads

Winsor & Newton Mixed Media Paper Pads contain 30 spiral-bound, 250gsm sheets of paper suitable for mixed media and multi-layered artwork.

from £8.03

Bockingford Watercolour Paper

343 reviews

Acid Free, internally sized, avaiable in a NOT and Extra Rough surface. Very popular.

from £8.56

Mini Watercolour Paper Starter Pack

111 reviews

14 90The mini starter pack comes with a information sheet on watercolour paper terms and usage plus contains the superb selection of 20 top quality watecolour paper.


Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media Sketchbook

6 reviews

This spiral bound sketchbook contains 15 sheets of 265gsm 15 x 25cm paper, suitable for a whole variety of artistic applications.


Langton Watercolour Paper Block

58 reviews

12 sheets of Acid free Langton 140lb (300gsm) water colour paper. Very popular for watercolour and line and wash.

from £11.62

Ken Bromley Practice Paper Pack

197 reviews

Pack of Fabriano 280gsm watercolour paper available in a variety of pack sizes.

from £10.30

Watercolour Paper Starter Pack

21 reviews

This pack contains 11 different 140lb papers.
Available in 11"x15" (1/4 Imperial)


Bockingford HP Watercolour Paper Pads

28 reviews

This is an inexpensive alternative to Artist 100% Rag water colour paper which is most popular with students and amateurs.

from £5.79

Bockingford NOT Watercolour Paper Pads

55 reviews

This is an inexpensive alternative to Artist 100% Rag water colour paper which is most popular with students and amateurs.

from £5.79

Bockingford Rough Watercolour Paper Pads

22 reviews

This is an inexpensive alternative to Artist 100% Rag water colour paper which is most popular with students and amateurs.

from £5.79

Canson XL Mixed Media Pads

19 reviews

Attractive textured paper, suitable for acrylic, gouache, drawing, watercolour....

from £7.24
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