Watercolor Paper, Blocks, & Pads

Blick offers a wide range of watercolor paper, including individual sheets, pads, sketchbooks, watercolor blocks, watercolor panels, watercolor boards, and even elegant watercolor cards for creating one-of-a-kind hand-painted greetings — and we go to great lengths to ensure that every watercolor paper order reaches you in the best possible condition. The type of watercolor paper you choose will ultimately determine the quality of the paintings you produce. There are two main grades of watercolor paper — artist grade and student grade.

Artist Grade Watercolor Paper, sometimes known as archival paper, is acid-free and will protect your art from becoming yellow and brittle over time. For professional watercolor works, an acid-free, 100% cotton rag paper is preferred, as it will last virtually forever.

Student Grade Watercolor Paper is designed to have a texture and feel similar to artist grade paper, but they are not made of archival grade materials. Although they are acid buffered, the buffering will eventually be used up, depending on air quality, and the paper will begin to discolor and deteriorate. If you’re just starting out, it’s good to keep in mind that even though most student grade watercolor paper may feel and look like professional watercolor paper, the artwork you create on them won’t last as long. Professional artists may find the quality acceptable for practicing and refining their work, but they won’t want to use them for finished work that might end up in a gallery, museum, home, or office setting.

Watercolor Tape-Bound Pads feature either archival or acid-free paper. Archival watercolor papers are made with a fiber source, such as 100% cotton rag, that will last for centuries without conservation. Acid-free papers, based on cellulose fiber, will eventually yellow as their buffering is exhausted, depending on atmospheric conditions where they are stored and displayed. Although conservation is possible, their lifespan without conservation should be measured in decades, not centuries.

The choice of paper weight and finish are also important things to consider.

Lastly Watercolor Stretching Boards are useful when painting on watercolor paper sheets. The board is used to stretch sheets of watercolor paper before painting in order to prevent the paper from buckling and forming ridges when wet.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What surfaces are suitable for watercolor painting?

    The most common is watercolor paper, but other surfaces such as vellum, parchment, clay mineral panels, sumi rice paper, or thin fabrics such as silk can be used.

  • Why do artists "stretch" watercolor paper?

    Watercolor paper generally has to be stretched before use. This is especially true of lighter weight paper, which will otherwise buckle after absorbing water. Watercolor painting boards are helpful tools for stretching your paper. They provide a hard surface on which to mount the paper in preparation for painting. After wetting and then stretching the paper, allow it to completely dry before painting to prevent it from rippling.

    You can paint directly onto paper without stretching it, but it would be better to try this using a heavy paper that can absorb a fairly large amount of water without wrinkling.

  • Why use a professional-grade watercolor paper?

    Stronger and more enduring, professional-grade papers are acid- and lignin-free and made of cotton fiber rather than cellulose. With proper treatment, a painting on high-quality professional paper can last hundreds of years. The paper's texture and surface is brought out by the transparency of watercolor paints — one of the desirable qualities of a fine watercolor painting.

  • Why use a special watercolor paper rather than ordinary paper?

    Watercolor paper is specially made to be resilient and to absorb water evenly and slowly. Because watercolors are transparent, the surface takes on enhanced importance. Watercolor paper comes in many weights in smooth (hot press) and textured (cold press) surfaces. The type and amount of sizing in the paper controls water absorption and paint flow.

  • What’s the difference between hot press and cold press watercolor paper? And what does it mean when a watercolor paper is sized?

    Hot press watercolor paper has a smooth surface, while cold press watercolor paper has a slightly raised, bumpy surface. Rough watercolor paper has a surface that has even more texture. A "not" watercolor sheet is “not hot press,” and the term is often used instead of cold press. The decision comes down to which surface you prefer for the type of watercolor painting you practice. Sizing is often added to make a watercolor paper more water-resistant, keep it from absorbing too much moisture or pigment, and maintain the brilliance of watercolor paints or inks. Internal sizing is added while the paper pulp is still in a liquid state, while external sizing is applied to the surface of the paper after the sheet is formed and dried. Some papers are both internally and surface-sized.