View Full Version : Recommending 300 lb paper for the beginner

06-14-2013, 07:24 PM
Honestly, I have tried watercolours before, about 5 times using 140 lb paper. Every time when I made a mistake, I could not scrub the paper as it would tear and when I used frisket it would tear the paper! Well, I finally decided to buy 300 lb paper which I think should be highly recommended to beginners. I made a mistake, no problem, I scrubbed at it, and you can't even tell! Why don't all books, teachers recommend the 300 lb paper right away for the beginner?

Chris in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada

Avena Cash
06-14-2013, 07:55 PM
I think this is just the surface not the weight, but the difference between 100% cotton rag paper and lower quality papers is huge so if you got a better paper when you got the heavier weight that would do it.

A 300 lb paper would wrinkle a lot less with lots of water if unstretched so that's an advantage. But in the same line of paper the surface should behave the same in either weight.

06-14-2013, 07:58 PM
I have been using 140lb paper for years, Arches, and not had the problems you are experiencing. What brand are you using, and how firmly are you scrubbing?

06-15-2013, 03:22 AM
300 lb paper's not recommended as much as 140 lb for a few reasons, I think the big one is that it's a lot more expensive than 140 lb. It also is more absorbent than 140 lb so it handles differently. As for handling scrubbing, a hard paper like Arches should hold up to scrubbing even at 140 lb weight.

06-15-2013, 05:05 AM
I have used 140 lb artist quality paper like Arches, Fabriano, Jack Richeson, etc. for many years and have had very few problems lifting paints, scrubbing, using masking fluid, etc.

I won a sheet of Arches 300 lb paper once and was excited about finally getting to try it out. To my surprise, I found that I disliked painting on it. :eek: It felt like I was painting on blotting paper. I went back to my 140 lb paper happily.

However, I have recently discovered 200 lb paper! As Goldilocks said about the porridge, it is just right! A bit heavier than 140 lb., but not as absorbent as 300 lb so your paints don't soak in like a sponge. :D


06-15-2013, 08:02 AM
I love 300lb paper and have a couple of sheets just waiting for the right subject.........but you have to be aware that it handles much much differently from 140 or my normal 180lb NOT...... If you are wanting to float paints into a wet in wet scene it is difficult, as Sylvia says above ...it can act like blotting paper.

My last two paintings, using this paper, both ended up having a long soak in the sink to try and get rid of concentrations of colour where I didn't want it!


06-15-2013, 08:42 AM
Hi Chris... this is going to sound flippant, but stop making those mistakes! Scrubbed paper always looks abraded and overworked regardless of the paper's weight.

Plan your composition and work out your palette colour. Begin with a good drawing... it's the foundation of your painting.

A long time ago, I set a *no-scrub* rule for myself and it's one of the best things I did to grow my art. It forces me to plan carefully and to change directions if I do make a mistake.

300 lb. paper is not my favourite. I was given three sheets of it and after using one, the other two are still unpainted. My paper of choice is Arches 140# rough. At the Cultural Centre where I teach, we use Saunders Waterford 200# cp. Like Sylvia mentioned, it's a good compromise.

But, after all is said and done, choice of paper is personal. What works for you may not work for someone else. I'm glad you've found something you like, so keep painting!

virgil carter
06-15-2013, 08:55 AM
Chris, you have received some excellent advice here. Artist-grade, all cotton fiber paper may be the most important ingredient for successful watercolor. Opinions differ, but I think it is. Stick to only artist-grade paper.

Surface texture varies and every painter has their individual favorite surface, with cold press (NOT) being a good surface for early painters to explore.

I've painted on 300 pound paper for over 20 years and prefer it, but as has been said, there is much in favor of other weights. One learns, over time, which weight is appealing and supportive of the way one paints.

Speaking of the way one paints, I agree with Char: strive to avoid fussing and scrubbing (if that's what you are doing). Lay in your color passages simply and quickly, and then--get out! Let your paints mix and move on the paper! Controlling mixes and passages is through learning about the paint-water ratio, paper saturation and tilting the paper.

If you want some special effects, i.e., lifting or soft edges, try using a tissue or even your finger. I'd suggest avoiding masking fluid and frisket as well, but everyone has their own preferred approaches.

Good luck with your explorations.

Sling paint!

06-15-2013, 12:39 PM
Wenn man lange genug schruppt, kann auch ein 300 lb Papier Gucklöcher
bekommen. Ich habe mir angewöhnt, Aquarellpapier ausschließlich zum
Malen zu verwenden - sogar mit einem Gewicht von nur 90 lb.

If you roughing process long enough, even a 300 lb paper can peepholes
get. I have trained myself to use only watercolor paper to paint - even with
a weight of only 90 lb.


06-15-2013, 05:12 PM
Hi Everybody, Thank you for all of your opinions. What I learned from you is to buy Artist Grade watercolour paper, and to be honest, I didn't, so I will try 140 lb. Also I will try to refrain from scrubbing if I make a mistake and maybe work around it, or try to incorporate a different element into the painting. I am as I said absolutely a newbie so thank you all again for your valued experience.

Chris fro New Westminster, BC, Canada

M.L. Schaefer
06-15-2013, 05:27 PM
I very much agree with Char and Virgil about the masking. I use masking fluid sparingly. I too use 300 lb., and my next favorite, probably interchangeable is 200 lb. But, here is the thing, and I just noticed this when I masked out a couple larger objects, if you pull off the masking, do NOT start pulling from one side and straight up trying to pull it off all at once that way...it puts much tension on the paper surface and will roughen it up. Use your finger or some other gentler way to roll off the masking. Of course, with Arches, nothing damages that it seems, but a softer paper will leave you with the slightest bit of roughening. It's more noticeable on my Hot Press when I run my fingers across it, especially since I do Miniatures and wish for the cleanest application possible. Just something to consider.

:heart: Margarete

06-15-2013, 10:40 PM
Chris, welcome to the Watercolor Forum; we are glad that you have joined in on our adventure called Watercolor!! Some good suggestions ^^^ from some very talented artists!!

Masking (frisket) is one of those great tools that we use on our paintings from time to time. One caution before using it is to make sure your Watercolor paper is bone dry before applying it!! If it has moisture in the paper, the masking probably will not remove cleanly like it is supposed to. Also, do not shake the bottle before using it because the bubbles will transfer to your paper and leave openings for the paint to invade.

Have fun!!

Katherine :music: :music:

06-16-2013, 08:05 PM
Thanks Margarete and Katherine for your input!

06-17-2013, 06:26 AM
Hi Chris,

Not only is by far better to buy Artist Grade Watercolour Paper, you should do the same with your paints and brushes. When I initially started to do Watercolours, I got all the cheaper more affordable stuff, but learnt very quickly that I wasn't achieving anywhere near the results I had imagined I would get. Hence the change over to the Artist Grade Materials, I immeadiately bought Artist Grade when I went into using Soft Pastels.

Having good quality tools for whatever you do will give you by far better quality results. As is often said, "You get what you pay for".

Take Care, and Welcome to Pallette Talk.

06-17-2013, 08:32 AM
A tip about scrubbing. Unlike Char, I do scrub out areas occasionally. My instructor showed us how to use a moistened natural sponge to gently scrub the dried paint. Then blot with a tissue or paper towel. Repeat if necessary. The natural sponge doesn't abrade the surface of the paper the way other types of objects do. ;)


06-17-2013, 08:49 AM
Syl... you're *lifting*... :) for me, scrubbing means using a stiff brush or tool of some kind that will abrade the paper! It's that rough treatment that forever changes how the paper looks and how your paint lays on it after the fact.

I like to lift colour for highlights, as an example... that action gently removes the surface pigment that makes for a very natural looking gradation.

If someone has scrubbed and the paper is left with little fuzzy bits when dried, I recommend using a brown paper bag to *sand* off the roughness. By placing a small piece of brown paper over your finger, sand in a circular motion and the fuzzies will lift away quickly. Then, using the back of a stainless steel spoon, burnish the area. It will look smooth. It won't take paint like the unabraded paper any more, but it will not have that *scrubbed* look, either.

Lawrence Fox
06-17-2013, 01:12 PM

I know it sounds funny, but my paintings took a quantum leap forward when I switched from student paper to professional grade.

Saint Ragdoll
06-17-2013, 02:54 PM
I agree with Sylvia, if you absolutely have to scrub, then use the gentlest method, just wetting the area, letting it get throughly moist then dab with a clean paper towel or tissue, using a sea sponge to "scrub" or stroke the area, again dabbing with clean paper towel.
My personal experience has been that the brushes sold as "scrubbers" are too harsh, I have always had problems with the paper after using them. Before the " scrubber" brushes were marketed many watercolorists used a hogs bristle flat brush that is made for oil painters, and scrubbed with that. I also use a watercolor synthetic flat brush,as a scrubber, some are quite stiff!!

And before scrubbing at all make sure you arent trying to remove a "staining" paint!!!! As a newbie, you may not be aware that some paints lift very easily and others you wouldnt be able to lift unless you totally destroyed the paper!

You could paint each of the colors you are using on a piece of artist grade watercolor paper, let it dry and try to lift it, scrub a bit of it....you'll learn something about what your paints will do....

Best of luck!
Saint Ragdoll

06-20-2013, 08:28 AM
Hi Chris... this is going to sound flippant, but stop making those mistakes! Scrubbed paper always looks abraded and overworked regardless of the paper's weight.

I could not agree more! It's one of the biggest things I have learned that has helped my painting. My motto now is "A mistake left alone almost always looks better than a mistake "fixed"." :wave: