Watercolour Paper - What you need to know

There are three methods for manufacturing artist papers:



 Mould Made


 Fourdrinier Machine Made

High quality artist papers are made on a mould machine, which provides all the appeal of hand-made paper, but without the inevitable variations from sheet to sheet. The beauty of this method of manufacture is the exceptional surface stability found on these papers.


Watercolour papers are made from two basic types of material:




Cellulose pulp
(chemically created from wood)

The highest quality sheets contain cotton, which offers very good stability and archival properties. Some artist papers contain a mixture of the two (e.g. 50% Cotton), providing a compromise between quality and economy.


There are three main surface textures to watercolour papers:

Hot Pressed

(also referred to as smooth/satine/silk/HP)

This is the smoothest paper suitable for high detail work.

Cold Pressed

(also referred to as NOT/Fin/CP)

This surface is slightly textured surface and popular because it is suitable for most types of work.


(also referred to as Torchon)

Exactly what its name suggests, suitable for landscapes, seascapes etc.; where a heavily textured paper enhances the final piece of work.

Can I use both sides of the paper?

All paper is made with differences between the two sides. With mould made artist papers the sides are called the 'felt side' and the 'mould side'. The felt side is the one that touches the woollen felts first during manufacturer and the 'mould side' is the side that touches the wire mesh around the cylinder called a mould. Both sides of the paper can be used for painting, but the 'felt side' is often considered to be superior. It is difficult to tell the differences between the two sides - you need to look very carefully at the paper to try to see the lines left by the fine wire mesh of the mould.

A guide to Soaking and Stretching

Soaking and stretching is recommended when lighter weight papers are used with a quantity of water (e.g. 150g/m², 190g/m², 300g/m²), because the paper will move and buckle/cockle.

Why does the paper move?

When applying water to paper it moves and buckles (known as cockling by papermakers) because the application of moisture to the sheet will cause one side to expand slightly. However, the other side remains dry, and due to the sizing contained within the sheet, does not expand. To counteract this expansion on the wetted side, the paper does the only thing it can and bows and buckles. This is very unsightly for the finished painting and difficult to work with because the paint will pool in the waves of the paper.

How to soak and stretch watercolour paper

1) Immerse the sheet of paper under running water from a tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, taking care not to touch the area you intend to paint as the paper is fragile when wet and finger marks will show up in the wash.

2) Place the soaked sheet on a sturdy board.

3) Wet some gummed tape (do not soak) and place around all four edges of the paper.

4) Blot any excess water with a clean paper towel, and leave to dry on a slight tilt.

5) Leave the paper to dry overnight. When dry the paper will be stretched tightly on the board and when water is added with paint the paper will not move.

watercolour picturesmall


When soaking the paper it is very important NOT to accidentally contaminate the paper with residue detergents found in areas like baths or kitchen sinks. These detergents attack the sizing causing the paper to become very absorbent and unusable.

With thanks to


Our Products

We import a wide range of Watercolour papers, in sheets rolls and blocks. Please see the full details below, if you would like to know if a range is available at your local retailer, give us a call on 0207 407 6474 and we will be happy to help.

View Catalogue Watercolour Sections:

In this section

See details of the new Canson Heritage watercolour range.

Arches Aquarelle Sheets, Blocks and Rolls, Arches Aquarelle Glued Pads, Canson Heritage, Moulin Du Roy Sheets, Blocks and Rolls, Moulin Du Roy Pads, Canson Montval Spiral Pads, Canson Montval Glued Pads, Clairefontaine Fontaine Blocks, Clairefontaine Voyage Watercolour Books, Fabriano Watercolour Books, Fabriano Artistico Blocks, Fabriano Artistico Spiral Pads, Fabriano Watercolour Postcard Pads, Fabriano Watercolour Blocks, Fabriano Watercolour Glued Pads, Fabriano Watercolour Spiral Pads, Fabriano Watercolour Fat Pads, Fabriano Classico 5 Fat Pads, Botanical Ultra Smooth Fat Pads, Botanical Ultra Smooth Glued Pads, Magnani 1404 Circular Blocks, Bockingford Blocks, Bockingford Glued Pads, Bockingford Spiral Pads, Bockingford Fat Pads, Bockingford Rainbow Glued Pads, Bockingford Mixed Glued Pads, Saunders Waterford Blocks, Saunders Waterford Fat Pads, Waterford Watercolour Books, Millford Sheets