Why did no one tell me about quality cotton watercolor paper?

Why?! So many why’s…..

I know this does not make sense and might come without context. As an artist that has been doing digital painting since 2002 – it was only in 2020 that I was able to touch a real medium like colored pencils without a life threatening allergic 😷 reaction.

So I did not know much about watercolor paper.

I stared using colored pencils in 2020.

I moved into watercolor in 2021. I fell in love with a mixed media paper I was using for colored pencils and tried it for watercolor.
It seemed to work fine.

I did not know any better. *Shakes Head* 😂

In the last month my partner who is also and artist, tried to (AGAIN) suggest to me to use real cotton paper and not paper with wood pulp (although it was quality and archival).

I said fine because I was in an experimental phase, I just learned I could use wax pastels without a reaction!

Another medium win!

I was feeling so thankful and having so much fun – so I took the leap with the paper.

For the love 😲 of a adorable baby goat 🐐, why did he not tell me sooner (yet, he did and I ignored him).

I had no idea every painting I was creating on wood pulp paper – I was literally fighting with the watercolor and the paper  to get it to do want I want.

I was pretty sure I sucked (needed more practice as we all do) after watching others paint so effortlessly.

Watercolor on fine art HP 300 lb cotton paper – is mind blowing.

The layers and painting come together like butter (don’t get butter on your paper).

The overall texture and final surface is gorgeous and supersedes wood pulp paper. 🥹 It’s gorgeous

Yes, I am late to the party. 🎉

Holy cow, it made me love painting a million times more!
Only cotton HP 300 lb watercolor paper from this day forward.

What is does 90, 140 or 300 lb paper mean?

Available in 90 lb, 140 lb, and 300 lb weights. The weight of the paper affects its thickness and durability. 90 lb paper is thin and lightweight, while 300 lb paper is thick and heavy duty.

Heavier weights of paper are thicker and more durable, while thinner weights of paper are thinner and more delicate. The weight of the paper also affects how paint and water absorb into it.


What does HP/CP (Hot Press / Cold Press / Rough) mean?

When painting in watercolor, consider the type of paper you are using. There are three kinds—hot press, cold press, and rough—each with a different surface texture.

Hot Press

Hot press paper has a smooth surface and is the most versatile of the three types. It is great for detailed work, as well as for reproducing fine art. Hot press paper is also the most commonly used paper for printmaking. The surface of hot press paper is the smoothest of the three types and will produce a more detailed and finished painting.

Cold Press

Cold press paper has a slightly textured surface that provides a little more tooth, or resistance, than hot press paper. It is great for use with watercolor paints, as the texture of the paper helps to hold the paint on the surface. It is great for landscapes and portraits. Cold press paper is most often used by watercolorists.


Rough paper has the most texture of the three types and is great for creating a more impressionistic look. The rough surface holds more paint and creates a more varied texture. The paper is good for abstract paintings and sketching.

What I loved…

So I tried a good amount of paper and really found that 300 lb HP (Hot Press) worked best for me since I am so hard on paper and like fine detail. I also use various mediums.

The original paper I work with for mixed media was Canson Archival Plein Air Mixed Media Board. which I still love, just not for watercolors.

It has been my go to for years now. It was the paper I used with colored pencil and like I mentioned above, I just kept using it when I started with watercolor out of familiarity.

Most people like 140 lb, I just can’t do it. When looking for 300 lb HP cotton paper I found it was not easy since it is the least used paper weight and texture for watercolorists.

I am hard on paper.

I found the transition to be a little challenging based on what I used to paint on. Again, I am hard on paper, this is why I like that Canson board. I could throw it across the room (not that I throw my work around for fun) and not worry about it.

Bump it. Drop it on the floor. It was still perfect. Very sturdy.

I am so clumsy because of EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) which you can read about in this blog: EDS (Ehlers-Danlos) Weeble Wobble Edition Brought To You By Hasbro

In my first week of painting on 300 lb hot press, I already dented a painting pretty quickly when I picked it up to move it and I bumped into something. The corner got pretty crushed.

What I tried…

Below are the papers that I tried and what I liked and did not like about them. Again, this is just my personal opinion based on my own style of art, the amount and types of mediums that I use as well the the texture of papers that I like to work on.

Stonehenge 140 lb HP: Did not like not the watercolor laid on the paper. Could be also that is was only 140 lb. 

Hahnemuhle 140 lb Rough: I did dig this paper, I got it in an art journal size and have had a lot of fun with it.

Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper 300 Lb Hot Press: I really did love this paper. Not my favorite, but was pretty awesome!

Arches 140 lb HP: Great paper, just not thick enough for me.

Arches 300 lb HP: This is in my top two. The paper is beautiful, thick and the watercolor really lays how I want it. It makes painting so much easier. Amazing paper.

Saunders Waterford 300 lb HP: This is the other one that is in my top 2. This brand is a lot harder to get, but it is beautiful and perfect paper.


Whatever paper works best for you will be based on what you are needing, the type of surface that you like and the thickness that you need. Perhaps you are not as clumsy as me, so 140 lb paper might be all you need.

The only thing in all of this that I will encourage is to always get COTTON paper for watercolor. Wood pulp paper does not cut it. Take it from me who painstakingly painted on paper and fought it the whole way not knowing that not using cotton was actually the issue.



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