The Best Cold Pressed Watercolor Papers

As a watercolorist, I've bought and tested countless brands over the years, and there are a few that simply stand out either in quality, cost, or a mixture of both. Here are some of my favorite cold-pressed watercolor blocks and watercolor-friendly sketchbooks I've tried.

1. Arches Watercolor Paper Block

In terms of quality, no other brand outshines Arches for cold pressed watercolor blocks. The coarseness of the papers absorb water and pigment more beautifully than any other brand that I've tested over the years. With quality, comes cost, however. Arches is notoriously among the most expensive watercolor papers I've invested in. At 140 lb paper weight (most papers start at 90 lb, this paper is already a star, but you can opt for 300 lb for extra thickness and durability

Because of the quality and cost, I only use Arches watercolor papers for my commission work or full-scale projects, to provide the best possible paintings for my clients.

2. Legion Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press Watercolor Block

For less serious projects, I tend to turn to the Legion Stonehenge Aqua Watercolor block time and time again. I can depend on this brand to provide exceptional pigment and water absorption without having to shell out the extra cash for Arches.

Example painting from Legion Stonehenge Aqua Watercolor Block

According to the Legion's website, "Aqua Stonehenge is as finely crafted as it is affordable. Performing way beyond its price point, it has been tested to its limits and as it turns out, it has no limits". I can attest from my experience with their watercolor blocks that this statement is 100% true!

3. Strathmore Watercolor Art Journal

If you're looking for a watercolor sketchbook for on-the-go painting, or want to keep your paintings bound, Strathmore's watercolor art journal is my first choice! I've only dealt with their softcover journal, which comes in two sizes: 5.5" x 8" or 7.75" x 9.75".

Strathmore Watercolor Journal Example

The softcover cover leaves more to be desired, but the paper inside is a quality material (also 140lb!). I tend to forgive the cover quality since I mainly use this watercolor journal for random doodling and testing of new techniques, paint brands, and mixed mediums. To sum it up, it gets the job done, and I don't feel terrible about wasting paper in this journal.

There are so many other brands to consider, but these have been my champion papers for years. What brands do you love?

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Best Watercolor Paper to Try & Buy

April 06, 2022 — Kim Nguyen

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