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Today we take a look at watercolor papers. The matching paper is essential for any artist and even more so for a watercolor painter. I deliberately write “matching paper” and not the best one, because only when you take a brush and paint in your hand will it become clear how well you understand each other. There are many types of paper for watercolors on the market, whether it is cellulose or cotton paper, but today I would like to highlight the papers from the Italian company Fabriano, which I probably have the most experience with, and the most they suit me for many reasons.



Discover the Perfect Watercolor Paper

Fabriano has watercolor papers in various sizes, or surface – roughness and thicknesses, most often 200 g, 300 g and 640 g. These are some of the best known and best watercolor papers on the market, proving that they have been popular with artists for over 750 years, even outside of Europe. In general, not only by Fabriano, the surface of the paper is described as Hot Press (completely smooth), Cold Press (fine granular structure), Rough (stronger granular structure), plus Fabriano also has Torchon – it states extra rough, but the roughness goes rather than up to of greater grouping of roughness with greater area between. Here I don’t know if you understand this description, it requires a dose of imagination or to buy. And the last type is called Smooth (sometimes Fine), which is a pet for cuddling. It is a paper with a very fine grained structure and a special satin-like surface.


1. Choosing the Right Paper Color

What makes Fabriano so attractive to me is, among other things, its color. Fabriano produces papers in white and bright white, which is the perfect color for watercolor. If you put Fabriano’s bright white next to regular white office paper, Fabriano looks less prominent and not as bright, but regular white Fabriano paper looks more as sandy beige than white next to it. I don’t buy regular white anymore, because it dampens the colors of light and transparent watercolor. With darker, saturated colors, the problem is not so pronounced, but bright white is simply bright white.



2. The Right Weight Matters

The thickness of the paper affects its ability to absorb water and handle various watercolor painting techniques. 300 g paper is ideal and is also what I use the most. The thickness of 600 g is already quite thick, there is no need to stretch it on the frame, but it can be more difficult to work with, especially in large format. There are papers on the market made from both 100% cotton and cellulose or a mix of both. Cotton paper is generally considered better quality and more durable than cellulose paper, but both can be suitable, it’s always a matter of your preference.


3. Cellulose paper

Cellulose paper is significantly cheaper, less durable than cotton paper and is usually suitable for beginners. As beginner, I started with cheap cellulose from CANSON Montval Aquarelle. Although you could say it’s a lower grade paper, you can see in the picture how it can create beautiful, fine details and patterns in the labrador’s coat. PIC 2 I’ve tried a thousand times to achieve the same effect on cotton and I am not able to do so, and supposedly only cellulose allows it. If anyone succeeds, please let me know what paper you used. However, Fabriano in the cellulose-cotton mix is very pleasant and after being stretched on the blind frame, work with it is predictable. After experience, I would recommend it to beginners, as it has the benefits of both materials and the transition to 100% cotton, when suddenly everything is different and watercolor does not do what we have learned so far, is not such a dramatic burden for weaker individuals.



4. Cotton paper

Cotton paper is ideal for anyone who wants their work to be durable, manufacturers usually quote 100 years, we’ll see. The cotton paper is said to be strong and flexible, which I agree with, and ensures that it doesn’t wave if artist use a lot of water, which I totally disagree with. If I’m working with a size of say A5 – B5 it’s OK, the paper doesn’t wave and if it does, as soon as it dries it is in its original shape. With larger formats, some kind of waveing always occurs and I don’t feel very comfortable with that, so I prefer to stretch the paper on a blind frame. The smallest size of the blind frame I use is 30×30 cm, I no longer deal with smaller ones.

The stretching of the paper on the blind frame takes place as follows link to a separate post.


5. What I personally do not use

I personally do not use glued blocks of paper, especially those glued on all 4 sides. They look good, they hold well, they are actually a kind of solid board, but I feel that the bottom paper partially absorbs the water and the subsequent drying of the top paper on which I paint is longer. If I’m at home and can use a hairdryer, so it probably doesn’t matter, but outdoors it’s a problem. I prefer to buy large formats of individual sheets, usually 56×76 cm, and I cut them to the required size. I stretch the paintings that are going to hang on the wall (mainly the ones for sale), but for small sketches and plein-air I just tape the edges of the paper on the board or carry a sewing block – at the moment I use 100% cotton cold press A4 size from Hahnemühle and satisfaction so far.




What kinds of watercolor papers does Fabriano keep in a stock?

The Fabriano company produces several types of paper, each under its own brand, so everyone can choose.

A simple overview:Fabriano Torchon – it is a mix of paper containing 25% cotton in a weight of 300 g, as far as I know, I have not seen individual papers in Czechia, which should have a size of 70×100 cm, here available are just blocks in many formats;

Fabriano 5 – 50% cotton in 130 g, 160 g, 210 g, 300 g and 350 g with Hot Press, Cold Press and Smooth (Fine) finishes;

Esportazione – handmade paper PIC 3 in 100% cotton and weighing 200 g, 315 g and 600 g, I haven’t seen it on the Czech market yet, so I’m just playing with the idea of ordering it;

Fabriano Artistico in roughness HP, CP, SP and Rough I currently use SP the most, it is easy stretch it well on a blind frame, HP is ideal for flowers PIC 4, but I must say that even Rough has a special charm for a fast landscape. PIC 5 This paper is made from 100% cotton which gives it excellent quality and durability. Its high quality ensures that the colors will remain beautiful and vibrant for many years. The paper is completely acid-free and pH balanced, which ensures that the paper does not yellow or lose its durability. And what is essential, it is very widespread in our shops and therefore commonly available, not only physically, but also in terms of price. I buy a 56×76 cm sheet for around 6 USD/5EUR/23 NIS, which is a lot of joy that won’t ruin me.


What experience do you have? Thanks for reading and I hope this little Fabriano excursion has helped you to go better through your online shopping choices.

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