I personally prefer hot press watercolor paper.
Why? Because the bread and butter of my art are not the colors. It’s the drawing under the colors. Hot press watercolor paper is the most smooth, and the easiest to draw on.
If you’re wondering the difference between the two papers, cold press paper has a bumpier texture. Cold press is better than hot press paper if your watercolor bread and butter are washes.
However, I paint my skin tones seven times wet on wet on hot press paper.
Hot press paper rules for drawings
For practice sketching, I just use plain, cheap copy paper. Since I’m not going to do anything with those sketches anyways, I don’t care. They’re for practice, and if they turn out really good, I’ll give them to a friend. But when it’s time to actually paint, I’m using either Arches’ or Blick Premier’s hot press watercolor paper (usually watercolor blocks).
Note the most important thing here – it comes down to style. If you’re a pure painter, you’ll more than likely prefer cold press paper. Cold press paper is more popular. You’ll notice this when you go into any art store and actually count how much cold press is available vs how much hot press is available.
I’m not a pure painter. I do fantasy pinups. Stylistically, hot press serves me better.
Not that that’s all I’ll ever use. Sometimes, I’ll paint on wood or clay. But when it comes to paper, I’m using hot press.
For my style, the drawing is my bread and butter. I’ll still need to do seven layers of wet on wet to make her skin smooth and lovely. But both Blick Premier and Arches hot press paper can take that much water, no problem.
Negatives of hot press paper
It takes longer to dry
Hot press takes longer to dry than cold press paper. I’m not a blow dryer guy. I simply go and do something else in between layers.
For cold press, I can usually start painting again in a half an hour. For hot press, I’ll wait at least 45-60 minutes between layers.
Washes are different
This isn’t necessarily a negative. Although since most watercolor artists start off with cold press paper, they’re thrown off by how hot press acts differently.
The colors on hot press wash off faster after multiple washes. Cold press papers tend to “keep” the colors more than hot press. This is neither here nor there. It’s just something to be aware of. (And once again, comes down to personal preference).
That’s one reason why some folks with start off with cold press, try hot press, then move immediately back to cold press. They don’t like how hot press doesn’t keep the colors as well.
As with anything, you get used to how things work with the method you use the most. That includes the tools. You get comfortable with the tools you use the most.
I’m now more comfortable with hot press. I’ve adjusted accordingly, despite actually starting with cheap cold press paper.
Try them both
I strongly suggest that you try them both and see which one you like better. You may completely disagree with me. Which is fine. You be you. You and I may have completely different styles, or may need different aspects from the paper. That’s part of art.
Try having a conversation with ten different people about what is the best car and you may get eight, nine, or ten different responses. Same thing.
You’ll find that artists rarely agree on anything.
Once again, try them both! See which one you prefer. There are no wrong answers here. Only personal preferences.