This is the most important of all your watercolour materials. If you need to save money do not cut back on the quality of your watercolour paper.
The best papers on the market are 100% cotton (or cotton rag)
Yes, they are more expensive but 100% cotton paper makes an unbelievable difference to your work. The reason most people give up on watercolour is because they have used inferiour quality paper. I have been painting in watercolour for many years and I am still unable to get good results on cheap paper. Don't do it!
Any brand of watercolour paper that is 100% cotton will be good. However, my personal choices are Saunders Waterford and Arches. You can see these in the illustration above.
Watercolour paper can be purchased in various surfaces and weights. Don't purchase anything thinner than 140lb/300gsm
200lb/425gsm or 300lb/640gsm are my preferences. They don't need stretching before you use them. Stretching is a process where the paper is soaked in water, then secured on all four sides to a board using gummed brown tape. The paper is very flat and tight when dry. However, using heavier paper does away with all that. I have never stretched paper in 30 years!
The different types of paper surface are:
- HP (hot pressed) This is a smooth surface, used for detailed paintings, calligraphy, pen and wash
- NOT/CP (cold pressed) This has a slightly textured surface and is used by the majority of artists
Rough or Extra Rough Much heavier feel to the surface, great for dry brush work and showing texture
If you are new to watercolour painting, I suggest you start with NOT (cold pressed) paper
It is much cheaper to buy your paper in individual sheets and cut them down. You can buy sheets in full imperial size.