Details about this paper in the blog post.
I rarely use watercolor blocks (I don't like how the paper gets a bit flattened). And I really don't use cold press watercolor paper much at all. Despite that, when I saw the Fluid Watercolor Paper Easy-Blocks I couldn't resist—first because of the fun sizes like 12 x 12 or 8 x 20 inches; second because of the price!
I wanted to be sure to tell you about this paper now because through September 30 they are 20 percent off at Wet Paint in their "Back to School Sale."
Wet Paint also has a sample block that you can ask to "test." I got out my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in the store, sketched and added watercolor washes from my small travel palette to try this paper out.
The 12 x 12 inch was $16.49 (15 sheets), so you do the math. That's a lot of paper at a low cost. (Wet Paint will do mail order if you don't live in the Twin Cities, but I see that Cheap Joe's is doing a sale on this paper that's even lower, so that might work for you distant folk.)
Of course, before I posted about the paper I needed to test it out, so here are some things that I found:
1. Easy Block is their way of saying it's only bound on two sides—unlike
the 4 glued edges of traditional blocks. Now for me the Easy Block, at
first is a clear winner as I always manage to tear one side of a
painting when removing it from a traditional block (and I have a thin
letter-opener device to do this with!). But working with the Easy Block
might not be for everyone. The paper, unbound on two edges can bow up
more than a traditional block. Some might find this disconcerting. It
didn't bother me at all, but then I'm comfortable letting the pages of
my journals buckle wildly when I paint on them. For me the drawback of
the Easy Block is that if you are painting all the way to the edge of
the block on the unbound edges you have to be careful not to get paint
on the next sheet in the stack. This can happen because you are running very wet washes all the way to the edge of the block, or because you're having too much fun dancing with the brush (right off the edge of the block).
Just be aware of it. I have to mention this because it's the only
negative I found with the paper.
2. The paper takes a wash just as you would expect a quality watercolor paper to take it. You'll have fun swirling your paint around, blending your washes, or glazing just as you would on other paper. It is not as hard a surface as Arches Watercolor Paper and it is not as soft as Lanaquarelle. It's close in range to Fabriano Artistico—not quite, but close.
3.The paper TAKES A BEATING. I was not expecting much from this paper at all. I frankly bought it mostly because I wanted something to do quick studies on in odd sizes and didn't want to cut down more expensive paper. I started this sample image with the watersoluble colored pencils (simply sketching with the Indigo pencil for the most part, adding some ink brush strokes, and then diving in with Stabilo Tones in wet and dry layers. Even when you bear down on this paper the texture comes through! You can rub the heck out of this paper, even while it's still moist and it doesn't fall apart. The only thing that I was able to do to "hurt" this paper was go back into my background with watersoluble pencil BEFORE it was dry enough to take the pencil readily. You can still see the debossed impression of those pencil strokes, even though I went over them with additional layers of Stabilo Tone—but you'll find that with any paper.
4. About my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen—remember I used it on my in-store test? Well I did that because on many watercolor papers the sizing floats the ink for longer than it takes for me to get down to painting over my sketch with washes. On this paper it dried almost immediately. This is a huge point for me. I don't mind a little bit of bleeding of ink here and there, but I don't want huge, noticeable bleeds messing up my washes. And I'm never going to be happy with a paper that has to be set aside for several minutes so the ink can dry. In my tests I have found that upon occasion a bit of ink will slightly bleed, but that's to be expected, since I don't wait a uniform amount of time after inking. This was the final selling point for me when I bought my pads.
End result—I was pleasantly surprised. I'm actually seeking final art subjects to create on this paper—not just studies.
If you are already a painter who uses blocks you might want to check out these Easy Blocks because of the unusual sizes they will add to your plein air experience. If you're just looking for inexpensive watercolor paper to fiddle around with these might just fit the budget. Have fun.