Slumming with cheap watercolor paper isn’t as sordid as you thought

Figure drawing in watercolor
15-minute poses on cheap watercolor paper

Dear Reader, I originally thought to warn you about using crappy watercolor paper. If you’ve been studying watercolor for long, then I’m sure you’ve heard advice to use quality watercolor paper.

Before I got so snobbish about paper, I actually bought a pad of the cheap stuff. And people have given me pads over the years. So I’ve got quite a bit of it. I’ve never  used much of it because I got all highbrow early on in my watercolor journey. And it is hard to work with; badly sized, this paper sucks in the paint and leaves dull, lifeless washes that look sort of speckley. It buckles as soon as you add water, fights with me like mad racoon, and generally leaves me feeling like this pose.

But I’ve been using this cheap stuff for quick life-drawing warm ups, because then I don’t feel like I’m using up the precious resource of my luscious #300 Arches. And while the buckling, the disappearing paint, and the overall junkiness of this paper really frustrates me, in the end, I put in a lot of brush time on it, and work out a lot of solutions that I remember when I paint using the “good stuff”. So if you limit your painting experience because you’re  afraid to use up your fancy-schmancy, double-sized, extra-heavy oo-la-la papier, grab something cheap at your local art and craft store and get some mileage on your brush.

(Brushes, however? Get the best you can afford.)

8 thoughts on “Slumming with cheap watercolor paper isn’t as sordid as you thought

  1. Yes – I keep all the crappy paper too. It may work for some purpose down the road and not just for watercolor. I remains in a ” special” bin. Nice capture of that pose. I’m currently using newsprint from 1980 that’s brown from age on the edges for life drawing. It was from some artist estate. I pulled it out of my “special” bin recently for these classes because I knew none of it would ever be a masterpiece. So keep the crappy paper for sure. Great point Maggie.

  2. Your blog is great. I love your paintings and this post made me laugh. I bought some expensive paper but I’ve not used it yet! I’m still using the cheap stuff because I don’t wanna waste my good paper with my bad paintings, lol. Should I break out the good stuff, Maggie? hehe thanks as always for your advice and counsel. I really enjoy your updates.

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate your laughter.

      This is what I would do. I’d make some small pieces of the expensive stuff to start—5″ x 7″ because that size will fit in a small mat should you want to display what you make. Then I’d take one piece and just go to town and play with the paint. It will break the ice, and you won’t feel like you’re wasting a whole sheet of paper. Have fune!

Comments are closed.