Colour water

Why using 100% cotton watercolor paper is better than normal paper


Best watercolor paper is versatile, strong and enhances the appearance of your watercolor painting artwork. In this context we are looking at two varieties of watercolor papers, the 100% cotton watercolor paper and the normal paper.


What Is Watercolor Paper?

When is comes to arts, watercolor painting is not done on just any surface you come across; it’s done on a substrate known as watercolor paper, which is manufactured from cotton or a blend of cotton and wood pulp.

Moreover, the 100% pure cotton varieties are a bit more expensive than the normal blended varieties, they’re the best as they absorb the paint efficiently and hold the artwork more beautifully.

Nevertheless, we wouldn’t be helping you understand what 100% cotton watercolor paper is without telling you what differentiates it from normal paper, would we?

Here are a few ways in which 100% cotton watercolor paper differs from normal paper.


The buildup of both papers (knowing the difference)

Here’s a brief description of the differences for your guidance.

  • 100% cotton watercolor paper: This watercolour paper is made of 100% cotton and is very durable. 100% cotton paper is generally considered the best quality. It is made from cotton linters which may have been taken from cotton rags. 100% cotton is usually high-end, artist-grade paper. It’s much stronger, absorbs water nicely, and can handle water loading and a variety of techniques easily. Your paintings simply look a lot better! It’s also acid-free, which means it will not yellow over time.

On the other side, it’s more expensive and often creates mental block for beginners who don’t want to “ruin” pricey paper. Due to its high durability, it can tolerate scrubbing and lifting of color from its surface without indicating visible destruction or damage. This is what makes more unique than the normal paper.

  • Normal paper: Normal paper are made using a flat machine that comprises of various sections, which includes the forming section (where a slurry of fibres is filtered out on a continual loop to create slim ‘ sheets’ of the wet mixture), the press section (where the sheets are pressed to evacuate as much of the water content as possible), the drying section (where the sheets are then snaked through a number of heated cylinders in order to eliminate more of the moisture) and the calendar section (where the watercolor paper is smoothed into flat sheets). This process of making this normal paper is least sensitive to the qualities of the materials used, and tends to be less favoured by artists. Artists would avoid using normal paper as it will not be stable and long lasting. However, they do produce the normal paper always, but the 100% cotton watercolor paper is best in use.


Why are 100% cotton watercolor papers so desirable?

100% Cotton paper are the most durable paper and are made up of either linters or rags. Linters are fine fibers left on the seed of a cotton plant after the ginning process. Do you realize that rags are cotton clippings from textile mills?

The value of cotton lies in the structure of the fibers which are long, hollow, and tube-like. They are one of the strongest, yet softest fibers available.

When cotton fibers are beaten to a pulp, they tend to fray and create hundreds of tiny fibrils. When matted together with water, they interlock creating a uniform surface with great strength and flexibility.

100% Cotton paper are known for their purity, durability and permanence, making them very desirable for artists who want to create a fine art piece that will last long.


Paper Weight and Surface Textures

The Weight of the watercolor paper

Watercolor paper weight is either measured in grammes per square metre or by lbs per ream. Most paper suppliers sells paper of a variety of weights, from 90lb – 560lb. We recommend stretching paper that is lighter than 250lb in weight as it is more likely to warp when watercolor is applied to its surface if not stretched. The very heaviest weights tend to be 100% cotton watercolor paper that have texture.



Watercolour Paper Textures

Watercolour paper is obtainable in 3 textures, although some may not favour the desire of some artists, nevertheless it is worth having a look through what is obtainable in each range.

  • Hot Pressed paper: It is the least textured surface, and is completely smooth. Hot Pressed paper tends to be favoured by artists that like to work delicately and with a lot of subtle detail.
  • Rough surface paper: As the name implies, rough surface paper is the roughest texture paper obtainable. This paper surface is not recommended for painters interested in detailed work and is more suited to bolder, more expressive painting skills.
  • Cold Pressed paper: It is the most popular surface with a slight tooth to it, for watercolour painters as it allows for a little texture in your work, as the paint will sink a little into the dimples on the surface of the paper. It is thought to be the easiest watercolour paper surface to work on.


Watercolor paper sizing

Watercolor paper is traditionally sized with gelatin so that the watercolour paint does not sink straight into the paper, especially the 100% cotton watercolor paper. The gelatin provides a little resistance and forces the paint to sit on the surface of the 100% cotton watercolor paper and only partially sink into the paper, unlike the normal paper.  

Watercolor paper can be sized with gelatin internally or externally. Internal sizing is when the gelatin is added to the water and pulp mixture before the paper has been made, and external sizing is when the sheets of paper once made are soaked in a gelatin bath. Internal sizing ensures that the paper does not become more absorbent even after scratching or scrubbing the surface of it.

Many high quality paper like the 100% cotton paper, are both externally and internally sized. If the sizing on a paper has been too heavily applied then it can easily be removed by soaking the paper in a bath, then extracting and sponging the excess water off before leaving it to dry. From there, you will know if a paper has excessive sizing and if the paper is resisting the paint more than it should.


How to Choose a 100% cotton Watercolor Paper

Watercolor papers come in various forms, qualities, surfaces, and weights, all of which answer distinctively to the paint and to different painting methods. To determine which paper is best for your desires, first, it is useful to understand the features of paper and what makes 100% cotton watercolor paper different from each other. Then, it is helpful to experiment with different watercolor papers to see what works best for your painting style and subject matter. There are many excellent watercolor cotton papers on the market, and finding the paper that you like best is as important as finding the paint that you desire best.

  • Quality

Like many art supplies, watercolor papers comes in a variety of qualities, from student grade to artist grade, and the choice of paper for a watercolorist will greatly influence how the paint handles and what kinds of brush marks can be made.

Watercolor paper  can be made by hand, by cylinder-mold machines, or by machine. Watercolor papers made by hand have four natural, or deckle edges, and the fibers are randomly distributed, making the watercolor paper quite strong.

Papers made by mold have two deckle edges. The fibers are also randomly distributed, which makes it strong but not quite as strong as handmade.

Machine-made paper is made on a machine in one steady process, with the fibers all oriented in the same direction. All the edges are cut, although some have artificial deckle edges for a more authentic appearance. Machine-made paper is less costly to manufacture and purchase, but most artist-quality watercolor papers on the market are mold-made rather than machine-made.

Always use the highest quality 100% cotton paper you can afford, the best of which is artist-quality paper. All artist-quality paper is acid-free, 100% cotton. That means that the paper will not turn yellow or damage over time, unlike normal paper.

  • Surface

It is important to put into consideration the surface, the watercolor paper comes in three surfaces as slightly mentioned above; rough, hot-pressed, and cold-pressed

Rough watercolor paper has a prominent tooth or textured surface. This creates a grainy, speckled effect as pools of water collect in the indentations in the paper. It can be difficult to control the brush marks on this paper.

Hot-pressed watercolor paper has a fine-grained, smooth surface, with almost no tooth. Paint dries very quickly on it. This makes it ideal for large, even washes of one or two colors. It is not as good for multiple layers of washes, due to the fact that, there is more paint on the surface and it can get overloaded quickly. It is good for drawing and for pen and ink wash.

Cold-pressed watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface, somewhere in between rough and hot-pressed paper. It is the paper used most often by watercolor artists because it is good for both not only large areas of wash but also as fine detail.

  • Get Your Weight Know-How Up

Most artist begin it beginners or Pro, get a little confused when it comes to the weight of watercolor paper. The thickness of watercolor paper is indicated by its weight, measured either in grams per square meter (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb.). How much paint you'll use (and how much water) influences what weight you'll need. With watercolor paper, the more the weight, the better the quality as more weight reduces buckling and wrinkling. Besides, the weight also infers to the thickness. The more the weight, the more the thickness. Does this make sense to you?


Benefits of using 100% cotton watercolor paper

When you’re looking for the best paper for watercolor, you should definitely consider getting one that is 100% cotton. That's the bottom, if you desire a painting success.

  • As the 100% cotton papers are free from acid, they hold your artwork over the years on end, so you will love that longevity. It also assist the blending in of the paint colors.
  • 100% cotton, which is the material used for this paper, happens to be the best as it is resistant to deterioration and also easy for you to showcase your painting techniques.
  • In a situation where your designs involve lots of paint and water, and you have tried other normal watercolor papers that buckled due to the dampness, then you got to give 100% cotton watercolor paper a shot. The advantage is that the paper doesn’t bleed or pill when coated with water. Right?
  • The 100% cotton paper is fairly rough, and this makes it possible to create artwork with a good degree of texture or what do you think?
  • The paper is made of 100% natural cotton fibers.Therefore, the nice consistency of the texture enables the paper to hold the watercolor beautifully and gives you some time to work the paint so you can blend the colors as you like, unlike the normal paper.
  • Furthermore, it performs beautifully on wet media, withstanding erasing, scraping, and repeated washes. The paper is able to absorb the water efficiently without bleeding or peeling. As the paper is acid-free, it preserves your beautifully artwork for a long time.
  • Due to of the internal and external sizing of the fibers coupled with the fact that the watercolor paper is made from cotton, the colors remain vibrant even after the paint dries up.
  • However, we’re not considering cotton blend. It is 100% cotton without acids. 100% cotton means the absorption rate is at the right level and it also implies longevity.


Choice Tips

Be careful when buying watercolor paper. Art stores actually do sell normal watercolor paper. Unless the product says 100% cotton on the cover, you may end up with the wrong product that will terribly hinder your watercolor success. Choosing which paper to use will come down to trial and error, honestly, for you to find your preferences. Here are a few more tips:

  • Watercolor paper differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, so experiment not only with the different kinds of paper but also with various brands of paper.
  • Watercolor paper is usually white, but it need not be. A variety of cool and warm tints is available and affordable.
  • Use acid-free paper for paintings you wish to keep, as this type will yellow less with age.


Final Thought

We’ve come to the end, and we hope that you have picked out one or two ideas on watercolor papers that work for you.

As you get the best 100% cotton watercolor paper, remember to take into account the factors we talked about in the buying guide ie. the weight, quality, etc. These will help you get what will work excellently for you.