See the full post for details of my paper test.
Left: Another dog practice sketch with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache, on Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor paper. (The shadow area at the left is where the paper bowed up from the scanner. Since it helps you see the pronounced texture of this paper I didn't see the need to rescan.)
Can't people cut their own watercolor paper? Sometimes marketers come up with things that just baffle me, like the new packages of Strathmore 500 Series watercolor paper that are "Ready Cut." For what you might ask? Placement in standardized mats and frames.
But here's the problem I have with that, if you cut the paper to fit a certain frame size then it's too big for the mat, i.e., you'll have to only use a portion of the paper. This isn't a big deal, but the packaging Strathmore uses shows an image painted and ready to plop in a mat window. The relative sizes of both of the images implies the cut paper is suitable for putting in a standard mat size, with enough "lip" to be held in place under the mat. But that's not the case. The sizes are strictly the normal sizes we always see for frames or mats, such as 8 x 10 inches, not 8.25 x 10.25 inches. So I don't see the point.
But maybe I'm just being difficult; and this wouldn't be the first time. At any rate, I saw these packages of 500 Series Strathmore Watercolor paper and because I like most of their 500 series papers and boards I bought a package of ten 8 x 10 inch sheets for $9.99; despite their packaging.
This 140 lb. paper is 100 percent cotton, acid free, and archival. It is supposed to be hot press; it was labeled hot press; there were other packs labeled cold press containing a different paper. Frankly I think that description of this as a hot press paper would only apply on some other planet where the relative gravity was different from our own.
This is clearly a cold press paper.
Strathmore knows how to make hot press papers—look at their 500 series Bristols, or any of their Bristols for that matter.
Now look who's being difficult. Clearly they need to give a bit more thought to their labeling so that it falls in line with what you might find in other high-quality, competing watercolor lines.
How does the paper handle? Well, I'm a hot press girl, so I didn't much like this paper. It is clearly so toothy that it breaks up the Pentel Pocket Brush's line. The good news is that the pen's ink line settles in quickly to the paper and in only a few spots did it bleed when I applied my washes of thinned down gouache.
The color floated for a long time on the paper surface, so if you like that you'll probably like this paper. I think if you're patient and let things dry between layers you could do some fun glazing on this paper. I was a bit bothered by the way the color picked up when I was simply trying to smooth a line of paint (top left ear at the head), but I was at the end of a long painting session with a Niji brush and had switched over to a regular #10 round to paint this. I maybe could have given it a bit more attention. Then again, I prefer papers that aren't so needy.
What I can't get over is that the hot press surface is really more a cold press surface, and that both sides of the sheet have widely varying surfaces (without making the reverse side any more smooth—and that's a trick—the paper almost has a debosed texture on that side). There is also something about the feel of this paper and the uniformity of the texture that seems too machined for me.
Since I can cut my own paper to whatever size I need it, and both surfaces of this paper are not appealing to me (neither being hot press, and both being too uniform) I have no incentive to buy a full size sheet (assuming they come in 22 x 30 inch sheets, I didn't ask). It won't be paper I'll be making books out of any time soon.
In the meantime I'll play with the remaining sheets and see if I can get a handle on the performance of the sizing. But I'll also be placing a paper order for my favorite watercolor sheets, currently TH Saunders and Winsor & Newton; hot press for each of course.