Watercolour papers which I use... Arches Aquarelle, Saunders Waterford and Bockingford

Although I do experiment with other papers (from the large range of Watercolour papers that's available today) when the opportunity arises, I return to the three detailed below, plus as I have little or no working knowledge of others I feel it's not right to pass comment on them.

As each brand of paper has its own character (response to the application of paint, spreading, texture, etc) this has a dramatic effect on the end result, so it’s worth doing some experiments to see how your style/technique of painting is affected by the paper being used.

Arches Aquarelle Paper
Arches Aquarelle is considered one of the finest watercolour papers made today. It is 100% cotton fibre (sometimes known as Rag Paper), acid free, and made for more than a hundred years on a cylinder mould machine by Arjomari of France.

The process, in which the pulp gradually settles and drains onto a slowly rotating screen-covered cylinder, results in a paper that has a uniquely hand-made look and feel. This thick, stable sheet is beautiful, durable and moderately resistant to scrubbing, lifting etc. The Rough and Cold Pressed sheet are gelatine sized, while the Hot Pressed sheets are internally and surface sized.

The sheets are then air dried. Have four deckled edges and before leaving the mill each is hand inspected for strict quality control. The Arches paper is watermarked and also stamped in the corner of each sheet. The paper costs (depending on source) about three times that of the Bockingford. Arches Aquarelle is available in three surface finishes.

Like the other papers suitability for technique etc is the same. HP (Hot Pressed) is better for highly detailed paintings. CP (NOT) is a good all round surface. The Rough is a fantastic surface for looser landscapes and seascapes where the surface really works with the painting.

Saunders Waterford Series Watercolour Paper
Saunders Waterford is the highest quality watercolour paper offered by St Cuthberts Mill. Mould made using 100% cotton and the only paper to be endorsed by the Royal Watercolour Society of England; this is a paper of pure luxury.

Although I have only used this paper for watercolour painting and drawing, other artists use it for Intaglio, Silkscreen and Hand Lithography. The paper (depending on source) is about twice the price of the Bockingford. The paper is a warm white and both internally and surface sized with gelatine and is buffered against atmospheric contamination giving very good archival permanence (neutral pH).

This size strengthens the paper allowing lifting, scrubbing and corrections to be made without damage to the surface. Full size sheets have four natural deckled edges and come with a watermark, plus an embossed mark in the left corner to prove authenticity.

Saunders Waterford is available in three surface finishes. HP (Hot Pressed) which is great for high detail paintings. CP (NOT) is a good intermediate surface, which is great for most types of paintings. The Rough is a fantastic surface for landscapes and seascapes where the surface really works with the painting.

Bockingford Watercolour Paper
Bockingford is one of the world’s most loved watercolour papers, which is only made at St Cuthberts Mill, near Wells, Somerset. It is cylinder mould made using the purest wood pulp to give an archival paper (internally sized with a neutral pH). Used by both professionals and amateur artists, for the papers excellent paint removal properties and for having quite a hard surface which resists scrubbing, scrapping and also takes masking fluid well.

The imperial sheets have straight edges. Within the Bockingford range the 535gm² (250lb) White or 425gm² (200lb) White are the papers that I use on a regular basis. I do prefer the extra weight of the 535gm² (250lb) paper even when compared to the 425gm² (200lb) but both are wonderful to paint on, both having the same slightly textured surface.

I stretch both these papers having cut it to the size required from full sheets.
Depending on your output of paintings art shops (or via the internet) now offer paper in large packs (10 to 100 sheets) at good discount. Don't forget to store the sheets flat and away from damp or temperature change.

The Bockingford Extra Rough surface has been developed in response to artists' demand for an alternative to the CP/Not surface in the Bockingford range. Like all the Bockingford range the Extra Rough is mould made from the purest cellulose fibre. It has an extremely forgiving paint surface allowing frequent changes to work e.g. lifting, scrubbing and masking fluid. It is acid-free and buffered to protect from atmospheric contamination, internally sized, highly light fast and colour stable. Bockingford Watercolour paper is available in 5 weights ranging from 150gm² (72lb) to 535gm² (250lb). In the most popular weight 300gm² (140lb), Bockingford is available in 5 tints (cream, grey, eggshell, blue and oatmeal).