painting on papyrus
Rice paper is used as the substrate for this contemporary, traditionally-styled landscape painting.

Watercolor paper (or watercolour paper) is paper or substrate onto which an artist applies watercolor paints, pigments, or dyes.[1] Many types of watercolour papers that are manufactured for the use of watercolors are currently available. Watercolor paper can be made of wood pulp exclusively, or mixed with cotton fibers. Pure cotton watercolor paper is also used by artists, though it typically costs more than pulp-based paper. It is also available as an acid-free medium to help its preservation.[2]

Watercolor paper can be described according to the manufacturing process. It can be hot-pressed, cold-pressed, or rough. A number of companies sell watercolor papers, some of them with a long history of production.[3] Paper traditionally comes in either 90, 140, or 300 lb weights.[2] Prices range from affordable to more expensive and higher quality.[4]


Papyrus was used as a 'paper' onto which the Egyptians applied their water-based paints or pigments.[5] Modern Watercolor brands and countries of manufacture: Winsor & Newton, Saunders & Waterford, Hayle Mill, Whatman and Bockingford Watercolor Paper made in Britain; Bee Paper Company and St. Armand Watercolor Paper, Canada; Velke Losiny Moldau watercolor paper, Czech Republic; Canson, Strathmore, Kilimanjaro, Moulin de Larroque, Lanaquarelle and Arches paper made in France; Zerkall, Hahnemuhle Watercolor Paper made in Germany; Khadi Watercolor Paper handmade in India; Fabriano Watercolor Paper Made in Italy; Legion Yupo, Legion Stonehenge, Jack Richeson, Twin Rocker, Fluid and Sax Watercolor Paper Made in the US.[6]

Details of brands and their manufacture: Saunder & Waterford and Bockingford are made by St. Cuthbert Mill. Kilimanjaro is distributed exclusively in the US by Cheap Joe's and is likely to be of French origin. Khadi and Twin Rocker are exclusively handmade. Hayle Mill and Zerkall are recently defunct. Hayle Mill was the official paper of the Royal Watercolour Society.[7] The Zerkall Mill was destroyed by a flood in Germany in 2021 and because of market forces, will not reopen. Legion imprints Yupo[8] and Stonehenge.[9] Strathmore 300 and 400 are packaged and Branded in the US but are a product of France; the French mill is unknown. The Czech town and Mill of Velke Losiny make Moldau watercolor paper, much of which is handmade.[10] Fluid and Fluid 100 are a product line produced by a subsidiary of Speedball, USA. St. Armand produces handmade Dominion watercolor paper in all the usual modern textures and in 150, 200 and 300 lb weights.[11] Most watercolor paper manufacturers produce several qualities of paper for Student and Professional use; these manufacturers include St.Cuthbert Mill, Canson, Strathmore, Hahnemuhle, Fabriano and Speedball/Fluid.[12]

Fabriano began production of paper in 1264. It was used by Michelangelo during the Renaissance. Today, after 750 years of production, it is used in the Euro currency. Fabriano watercolor paper is used by Artists world wide.[13]

Arches began production of watercolor paper around 1620. It provided most of the paper used in France during the 1700s. In addition to watercolor paper, Arches also produced paper that was used in documents and paper that was used as currency during the revolution in France. Arches joined other paper manufacturers in the 1950s to form Arjomari Prioux (which later merged with Arjowiggins).[14]

Woven paper was used in print publication in the late 1760s because it was found to be smoother. The watercolor paper at this time was used by artists because it allowed the application of paint without the unevenness of molded paper. James Whatman created a paper specifically for use with water colors by the 1780s. He used gelatin as a sizing that created a protective coating that reduced damage to the paper by repeated wetting, drying and reworking.[15]

See also



  1. ^ Terry, George. Pigments, Paint and Painting: A practical book for practical men. Good Press. p. 1. The term "colour" is inappropriately given by common usage to material substances which convey a sense of colour to the human eye, but is properly restricted to that sense itself. The material colour should be called "pigment" or "dyestuff" in the raw state, and paint when compounded with other substances for application in the form of a coating.
  2. ^ a b Vloothuis, Johannes (2017-07-14). "Understanding the Different Grades of Watercolor Paper". Artists Network. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  3. ^ MacEvoy, Bruce (August 1, 2015). "Light and the eye". Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  4. ^ "The Best Watercolor Pads for Artists' Painting Projects". ARTnews. 2022-05-10. Retrieved 2022-05-20.
  5. ^ "Ancient Egyptians used water-soluble translucent paints to decorate papyrus scrolls. They used such earth pigments as ochres and siennas, as well as minerals like reds, cinnabar, blue azure, green malachite, and so on, with gum arabic and egg white. Technically, these water-soluble colors were watercolors. Because of the dry environment and the secluded locations where these artworks were discovered, many of these artworks have lasted to the current day with colors as vibrant as when they were produced." London, Vladimir. The Book on Watercolor (p. 19).
  6. ^ "Handprint :guide to watercolor papers". Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  7. ^ "Hayle Mill in Kent, England was purchased by John Green in 1815. The Green family produced papers there continuously until the mill closed in 1987. These papers were used by English and continental watercolour artists from J.M.W. Turner onwards. For many contemporary artists, the increasingly rare remaining stocks of Hayle Mill papers, are considered the last genuine contact with the papermaking craft of many decades ago. The J. Green & Sons RWS Watercolour paper was for many years the official paper of the Royal Watercolour Society. From 1895 to 1962, in response to continued market pressures on the quality of watercolour papers, the mill made papers only of cotton rag, gelatin, alum, rosin and soap, watermarked as the "official paper of the Royal Watercolour Society."". Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  8. ^ "Painting or drawing on the ultra-smooth surface of YUPO® is different than regular watercolor or drawing paper, and will require some adjustments by the artist. The surface may be wiped clean to restore the original white of the sheet, making it an excellent surface for beginners. YUPO® is also a very exciting substrate for more advanced and experimental artists. Its creative possibilities and suitable applications are infinite". Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  9. ^ "Stonehenge Aqua". Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  10. ^ "Velke Losiny, home of this jewel of European hand papermaking, has survived not only the ravages of wars but also the infamous medieval witch trials when 56 people, including the paper mill owner's wife, Barbara, were burned at the stake there.Today the Velke Losiny mill has reemerged from behind the Iron Curtain with a wealth of tradition, unmatched production capacity and dedicated people. Being a papermaker in the village is a lifetime career traditionally handed down through generations. Long fiber cotton fortified with linen ensures crispness, strength and dimensional stability. The purity of raw materials and a calcium buffer result in a stable chemical balance free of acid that enables these papers to stay intact for centuries". Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  11. ^ "St. Armand handmade watercolor papers". Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  12. ^ "Handprint :guide to watercolor papers". Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  13. ^ "fabriano : fabrianoboutique". Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  14. ^ "Handprint : arches". Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  15. ^ Barker, Elizabeth E. (October 2004). "Watercolor Painting in Britain, 1750–1850 See works of art". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  16. ^ "fabriano : fabrianoboutique". Retrieved 2022-09-15.