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What you should know about watercolor paper

Welcome along to a new blog post with a focus on watercolor paper. This particular article itself was released at the beginning of March 2022 with early access granted to the Kiwi Colour Club forum members.

What you should know is that this article was written in mind for the 'Granulation on my Mind' Kiwi Colour Club with an aim to provide information regarding how paper can make a substantial difference to the way granulating paints behave but it also highlights the way all watercolor paints behave in an environment where they are better supported.

When I first began using granulating paint two years ago, I felt disheartened that it did not look like everyone else's or the picture from the website. I shared this with a fellow painter and she explained that there is a technique in achieving the visual result that I was not seeing. I couldn't believe it! Here is this fabulous product with no explanation for how to unlock its brilliant potential!

I am here to share with you everything I know about this so that you can enjoy your watercolor paints as much as you like!

So, lets break it right down to the basics!

First off, let's talk about paper!

Watercolor paper is unique in its ability to handle watercolor paint. It has a special job and that job is to absorb the water + paint. Essentially, the thicker the grams worth of paper, the better it will absorb the paint.

Let’s apply that logic to granulating paints too – the thicker the paper, the more noticeable the results. Let’s also note here that the quality of the paint is crucial too. Granulation is best achieved with artist grade pigments. This means that student grade or lake based (plant or dye) are not ideal for achieving granulated effects because they lack the density (weight) to behave like a granulating paint. This does not deem it poor quality, but it just means that it will not have the ability to granulate unless paired with another granulating pigment itself. This particular effect that occurs is called Flocculation which I will talk about in the next article coming soon.

So, essentially, you cannot achieve a granulated effect with all paints. They need to be made with specific ingredients not generally rendered by student grade or lake-based pigments.

Righto! Paper.

The rule of thumb is, the thicker the better, and more noticeable the result for granulating paint.

Granulating paints and their respective pigment particles are denser (heavier) and coarser. Due to this, they will sink and settle into the dimpled texture of the watercolor paper itself. This is what you can see as the paint dries in an uneven layer. It is much more noticeable on cold pressed or rough paper because it is less smooth than say, hot pressed. It may be possible to see granulation on hot pressed paper but it will be a less dramatic effect.

Another important factor is whether the paper is sized. This simply means that the way the paper is treated during the process of being made can affect the way watercolor paint is absorbed. Simply put, sized watercolor paper is what you want when working with granulated paint. Un-sized is similar to that of a paper towel. It will not control the way the watercolor paint is absorbed. Sized paper is when some form of material (usually gelatin) is added during or after the process of paper making that controls the way the watercolor is absorbed into the paper.

So, below I have included some fabulous YouTube videos and articles to get you started. Cold pressed is a great place to start. 100% cotton Cold pressed and acid free. Rough is generally more expensive but renders such beautiful results.

Please feel free to link me more fabulous articles on paper with a focus on quality.

The key take-away here is that I want you to be able to enjoy your watercolor paints to their fullest potential by using the appropriate tools, i.e. paper!

When I first started to use watercolor paints, I always went for the cheapest paper that was often smooth and non absorbent. Paper is absolutely crucial in getting beautiful results from your paint babies.

Below is a video that I compiled from videos that were kindly donated by Laurens from @dirtyblueshop. These videos include sized paper and un-sized paper.

The two paints used are Potters Pink and Black Iron Oxide.

The sized paper is Hahnemuhle, 300 grams cotton cold pressed.

The un-sized is from a local paper mill in the Netherlands.

The last image is Stonehenge Aqua Hot Pressed Legion Paper

Potters Pink. Left is Sized. Right is Un-Sized.

Iron Oxide Black. Left is Sized. Right is Un-Sized.

Legion Hot Press - Black Iron Oxide (L) Potters Pink (R)

I hope you found this article informative and helpful. I wanted to start off with paper as the focus first so that you can apply the information you've learnt into your watercolor practice sooner.

The next article will be released soon with information pertaining specifically to granulation and how this event occurs.

Kiwi love to you all,


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