Don’t skimp with cheap watercolor paper

When to use cheap watercolor paper

In the very beginning, I knew that I would paint ten throwaway paintings. When I say throwaway, I mean it literally. They sucked, and ended up in the garbage. So no, you’ll never see them. They’re in a landfill somewhere.

I bought ten sheets of cheap watercolor paper. It didn’t matter since I didn’t know the difference between cheap watercolor paper and the good stuff anyways.

Well, that ten turned into thirty. However, of the next twenty, some of them were actually good enough to give to friends. But none of those first thirty paintings are in the Opium Tales art store. I wasn’t quite ready yet.

Your first ten paintings

For your first ten paintings, you’re more than likely learning and/or experimenting. You already know they’re not going to be good.

You have to start somewhere. This is by no means meant to be an insult! Do you think Leonardo da Vinci’s very first painting was the Mona Lisa?

I wasn’t doing multiple washes and multiple layerings. I wasn’t doing any of the advanced techniques I do today. There was very little color blending.

I made a lot of mistakes. At first, I used way too much paint. At other times, I used way too much water.

The skin coloring especially was off. Later of course, I got really good at skin coloring. But back then, I painted both Allie and Roxy quite poorly.

When you get better

When you get better, you’re simply going to have to buy better paper. You’re going to be doing advanced stuff like painting multiple washes, wet on wet blending, and other advanced techniques. You’ll push the limits of the paper.

Today, I generally paint on either Arches paper or Blick watercolor blocks. Personally, I love both of them.

You’ll have a preference for paper. That’s personal. It may be completely different than mine and there’s nothing wrong with that. You and I are different people with different tastes.

But, you can’t use the cheap stuff any more. This is a perfect example. When not using a block, I have to tape the paper down or else it will buckle something terrible. I use a lot of water. I push the paper to her limits.

cheap watercolor paper may tear
Notice the tearing?

You can see in the image that the cheap paper actually tore. This is just plain masking tape. With Arches, you’re not going to have that problem. This is only a problem with cheap watercolor paper.

Two more problems with cheap watercolor paper

One, it puddles. The absolute last thing you want (besides a tear) is a puddle. Great way to ruin a painting. Good paper absorbs.

Of course you can still puddle if you’re using way too much water, but I can assure you after you finish your throwaway ten, you’ll learn control your water better so you won’t have puddling problems.

The cheap stuff will have much shorter limits than the good stuff though. That’s what I’m getting at.

And the second problem, I can’t tell if it’s the paper itself or the paint, but there were little crumbles in my water when I’d paint. I’m not a scientist and I don’t have a microscope, so I can’t actually tell what those crumbles are. I can’t tell if they’re the paint crumbling or the paper. Regardless, they’re pretty gross and not something you want in your painting.

I never had a problem with quality watercolor paper like Arches or Blick blocks. (Note that a lot of fans of Blick blocks actually think it’s a way more expensive paper that Blick gets as a discount since they buy such large quantities. Costco does the same thing with Scotch. If you drink Scotch, try the Costco branded Scotch. It’s actually something pretty good).

Archival quality

If you become a serious artist, you need archival quality. That means that the paper if properly taken care of will live hundreds of years after you pass on from this world. This is your legacy we’re talking about. You’re going to want archival quality paper.

Arches is archival quality. Since this is my name we’re talking about, I’m taking this seriously. I want my art to last hundreds of years after my death.

So don’t be cheap when it comes to paper, my friends. Yes, in the very beginning, buy the cheap crap. But when you actually have your legacy on the line, be sure it’s archival quality paper.

Categorized as Watercolor

By Roman

Pinup Artist. Composer. Writer.

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