Choosing a Water Colour Surface

When you use water-based media, achieving amazing results relies almost as much on the paper surface as on the quality of the colour used to create artwork. Water colour paper must provide a suitable surface for painting according to three key factors: 

1. Absorbency

An ideal amount of absorbency (or, sizing) allows colour to sit on the surface of paper rather than sink into the paper itself. The right amount of absorbency facilitates reflection of the maximum amount of light, making the colours of your artwork look all the more vivid.

2. Colour

White papers produce the brightest images, whilst coloured papers are used for opaque or juxtaposition techniques. Consider what type of effect you are trying to achieve and how bright you would like your art to appear when choosing the colour of your surface.  

3. Stability

To ensure your work will stand the test of time, you will need a stable surface upon which to work. Long term stability comes from papers being acid-free [pH neutral]. Water colour paper is recommended to support a wide variety of techniques and to keep paper and art intact for a long period of time.

Winsor & Newton Water Colour Marker Paper Pad and Artists' Water Colour Paper Pad

Once you have settled on your surface of choice, remember that you can prepare your paper prior to painting via stretching. This is an important exercise which can provide you with a perfectly flat surface regardless of how much water you use on the paper. It will also prevent cockling, or the formation of wrinkles and ridges that are difficult to remove once water has touched the surface.

Be mindful of the above factors when choosing your paper, and read our article on how to stretch water colour paper before commencing work to get your surface perform to the best of its ability.

For more Tips and Techniques, read our library of helpful articles online. 

COMMENTS ON Choosing a Water Colour Surface

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  • Jim Cordle
    1502 DAYS AGO

    Jim Cordle

    How do half pans relate to tube sizes in terms of the amount of paint you may use? I am trying to make a determination concerning whether I want to use half pans of tubes. I am mostly a sketcher using 6X9 sketch books. Thank you....

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