Winsor & Newton 90 lb. Watercolor Paper

July 9, 2010

Some thoughts on this paper from Cathy (Kate) Johnson.
I've been looking at different watercolor papers for bookbinding. I have used Fabriano Artistico Hot Press (and before that Fabriano Uno Soft Press; and before that, frankly I'd have to look up what it was called, but I've been pretty loyal to Fabriano) since the early 1990s.

In the past couple of years, however, there have been changes. I can live with the changes, but coupled with the added difficulty of locating a vendor for the 90 lb. weight that I prefer to bind, it's definitely time to look around and see what else is available.

The local art supply store, Wet Paint, had some Winsor & Newton 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper in stock. I wanted a paper I could get locally. (Sadly I bought the last of it and while they will order it for you if you ask for 25 sheets or more, it isn't something they are going to carry.)

I bound the Winsor & Newton up into books, and because the paper had been dinged in shipping to the store I couldn't sell the books I bound with it. I still wanted feedback about the paper, so I sent a journal from this batch to Cathy (Kate) Johnson, author of numerous books on painting and sketching, and one of my favorite watercolor artists. (This is one of the benefits of the internet—I met Kate through a list on the internet—someone whose work I'd always admired, and we started corresponding.)

I don't have a link to any images that Kate made in this sample journal, but she did get back to me with some thoughts on the paper which she graciously said I could share on my blog. I thought it would be helpful for you to hear her comments because she can really put a watercolor paper through its paces. You can find Kate's blog in my blog roll, or you can use the link to her home page in the previous paragraph to explore a variety of connections and selections she has on line.

Normally, when making her own books Kate uses Fabriano Artistico Hot Press 140 lb. watercolor paper. Sometimes she will make books out of Arches Hot Press, but she doesn't like it as well. That will give you a base line for comparison if you have used those papers.

Her initial response was about the Winsor & Newton paper was:

"I’ve tried ink (nice), pencil (nice), colored pencil (nice!), and watercolor so far…not as crazy about the watercolor, at this point, isn’t that ironic?  It’s WATERCOLOR PAPER!
It is lighter weight than I generally use in my journals, and it does buckle a bit even at this size, but what is odd is that it almost seems to bleed through the page—if not the color then the dampness, which then very slightly changes the texture of the underside.  It’s early days yet…11 pages in.  I’m really enjoying experimenting with it!  I’m thinking I might not use a liquid medium on both sides of a sheet, perhaps."

When I asked her more about the bleeding through she was experiencing, she was quick to point out to me that it was "not really the color, at this point, but I haven't used staining colors much…"

Her experience as a watercolorist, using many different types of paper over time, led her to have concerns about this paper in the 90 lb. weight.

"Where I did a splotch of color on one side, I usually have a raised, slightly different texture area on the other…it’s not enough, really, to affect the washes on the new page, at least not noticeably, just interesting."

She really didn't like the "overly assertive raised logo," and even tried to moisten it and burnish down!

(There is a highly embossed logo that is about 1.5 inches long and about 1/4 inch wide as well as a watermark logo that is about 1.75 inches long and .75 inches wide, running next to the paper name also as watermark. I left these distinctive features in the journals because it would help me identify the paper if I forgot to label one of the journals—but if you want to use this paper for your own binding you could always minimize their occurrence by how you tear down your paper, thus leaving them out of the book.)

I recommend that you go and see the types of lovely paintings Kate makes in her journals (and outside of her journals). See how she uses watercolor paper and keep it in mind when you are considering using this paper for watercolor journals.

And remember, she was please with how the paper took colored pencil (she used an exclamation mark).

To date, I've only used one journal with this paper and as often happens, the media meant to be used on this paper didn't get used much during the keeping of the particular journal. In other words, I didn't do much watercolor in the journal at all.

I did end up using a lot of Stabilo Tones, first dry, then wet, and then rubbed on dry. You can see the toucan paintings, a turkey portrait, and some finches from this journal with Winsor & Newton 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper on my blog.

These images don't represent traditional watercolor approaches, but I found that the paper held up to the abuse of the Stabilo Tones. I liked the lighter weight paper because it allowed me to bind more pages in the same spine width, thus ending up with a journal that wasn't bulkier, but would last longer. The trade off on buckling pages was worth it to me. I might feel differently, however, if every page is dealt with in watercolor!

I have another of these journals on hand that I've been saving to work in, with just that in mind. Of course, as soon as I crack it open I know I'll be off taking notes at a meeting and the paints will stay in the pack.

I have thanked Kate privately, but I want to point out that it is always helpful to get feedback on paper qualities from someone who has mastery over a medium. They will see and discover qualities in a paper that you may not discern. It can help you make choices and decisions about where you want to go with your papers. If your focus is watercolor, keep Kate's words in mind when deciding
whether or not to use this paper.

If you're looking for a lighter weight paper (i.e., you don't like binding 140 lb. papers) that will take mixed media, hold collage OK (it's a bit light here) you might want to look at this paper closer. Sadly I don't have a local source for it or an internet source for that matter, so you'll have to google!

Know that it folds crisply and well, without the horrible cracking I find with many heavily sized sheets. It is also easy to tear down. It binds up well (the glue seams on my sample held up throughout the heavy use of the book).

I think I'll have to make a Winsor & Newton 2.0 version with 140 lb. hot press paper!

    • GrannyKass
    • July 9, 2010

    I got to have one of these! ! ! Oh, please, Oh, please let buy one for you at least to cover your cost – even with the ruined crimped paper from the vendor. Even one of the little ones would do. . .

    I made myself some spiral bound sketch books about three or four years ago with the Winsor Newton 140# paper and they are gone now and I have no way to do it in my current location. Plus I end up writing more than I paint these days and I have never tried the 90lb paper. Email me!

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