Great Paper News: Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper Is Available in Sheets

January 23, 2012

Details on a new paper from Strathmore.


Above: Sketch of a pet store Budgie from a photo (if you know of a pet store open that late in the Twin Cities let me know; I'll go over there and sketch instead). Pentel Pocket brush pen with gouache washes, in an 8 x 9-3/8 inch handbound book I made with sheets of today's paper.

On January 14, 2012 I posted about my New Year's Day trip to Como Zoo and the new sketchbook in which I was working. The paper I used for this journal has now been released so I can write about it: Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media Paper.

(Please note the 500 series in the name. In a previous post about Strathmore papers a reader wrote in that she didn't understand Strathmore's use of 300 and 400 and 500 in their names. Each denotes a different product line. All 500 series papers from Strathmore are their top of the line, artist quality papers. You've read about my love affair with their 500 series Bristol. Well their 500 Series Mixed Media Paper is a new favorite paper of mine. But I do not care at all for their 300 and 400 Series Mixed Media Paper, so do not get confused. Do not think you are using the same paper I'm writing about unless you are using the 500 series Mixed Media Paper.)

Many of you may have already been using the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper. It is the paper they use in their Mixed Media journal in their visual journal series. I used it for my many of my class samples when I did an online class for Strathmore in 2011.

I first wrote about the Strathmore Visual Journals and the Mixed Media paper they contained on June 24, 2011. You can read my initial thoughts there. Basically my thoughts have remained unchanged (with a few updates I'll get to in a moment).

I was already in contact with Strathmore at that time for other reasons and I began to relentlessly pester my contact to bring this paper out in full sheets (something in the 22 x 30 inch range or larger) so that I could make my own books with it. While I think their journal with this paper is wonderful, it is a wire-bound journal and we all know I'd rather have a casebound book to more easily work across the spread.

Update May 21, 2013—Strathmore has released great hardbound journals containing this paper. Read my review here.

If, like me, you have enjoyed this paper in the journals and would like to make your own books out of it be aware that now you can. Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper is available in sheets and boards. 

It is 100 percent cotton, acid free, lignin free, and archival.

I received sheets of this paper last summer. Because of other committments I was only able to tear it down into signatures before life took me in another direction. But I knew the moment that I tore the paper down and folded it that it was going to become a favorite. Bookbinders will find it easy to fold and tear. The folds will be clean and crisp. There is no cracking when folded with the grain so you can go boldly forth with your binding plans. Also as a 90 lb. paper you'll be able to fit more pages in a slimmer spine. Making a casebound book with this paper is a delight—it holds glue joins between the signatures even with intense usage. (I have been using my test volume since January 1 and have more to say about this below.)

As I wrote in my earlier post about the qualities of this paper, it takes mixed media well and has a good opacity for a 90 lb. sheet. I love using my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in my visual journal. On this paper not only does it move in an enjoyable manner, the brush pen's heavy ink line is not as visible as it is on some other thin sheets, when you turn the page.

As a 90 lb. sheet I should also point out it is hefty enough to take collage and not feel wimpy in any respect. I just finished collaging all sorts of birthday photos and cards onto pages and the paper totally holds its own.

I should note, in the "revised" opinions portion of this post that what I have found in using this paper more extensively is that sometimes the inks of my PPBP and even my Staedtler Pigment Liner do not dry as quickly as they do on some of the papers I use. So while I can say there is typically no bleeding of my waterproof inks on this paper, upon ocassion I work so quickly with my brush pen (or other pen) and jump so eagerly to applying washes of watercolor or gouache, that I have experienced some minimal bleeding in areas of high ink coverage. This is taken care of with just a little more patience. If you are concerned at all about this I suggest that you pause for a moment after you sketch, wet your watercolors then, not earlier, and then test first in an area where you'll be painting a darker color. I don't do any of that, perferring to just have at it. I'm willing to live with the little bit of ink bleeding I might encouter in my impatience—note that it is greater when brushing over large PPBP strokes where lots of ink was laid down, which is to be expected.

If my seemingly cavalier discussion of bleeding inks confuses you please read my post: "It's Not Waterproof until It's Waterproof."

In the above budgie sketch the background looks a bit streaky. I need, in deference to the paper, to point out that the visible strokes were intentional. I have found that if I want to lay in a nice "watercolor" type wash on this paper I can do so, I'm just not doing much of that these days, preferring to smash around the page with my too big filbert leaving tell-tale strokes. So while this is not the same paper as a traditional watercolor paper you will find that it will enable you to work with watercolor well. (And, since many watercolor papers have so much sizing that ink on them floats "forever" [to the impatient artist] you may find this paper more suited to your working style.)

There are additional characteristics of this paper which make me very fond of it as a visual journaling paper. Foremost is the strength of the sheet. I have not experienced any bleeding through the sheet to the other side. I've used this paper feverishly with tons of water, inks, paints, scrubbing and reapplication and I've yet to break through. I've also not had any pilling of the paper as I apply multiple washes, wet into wet, and rub about more than a "watercolorist" would.

Here's the bad news: While these sheets have been officially available since January 16 it will take a little bit of time for them to arrive in stores. Stores have to decide to carry it, order it, and of course it has to be shipped. (Which reminds me, now that I have successfully pestered Strathmore for this paper in sheet form I need to pester my favorite local independent art supply store, Wet Paint, to stock it!)

I suggest that you get one of the Mixed Media Journals that contains this 500 Series Mixed Media paper and test it for yourself so that you know whether or not you're going to like the paper. Then starting in February you can begin asking your paper supplier when they will carry this paper in sheets. Be sure to always call it Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper to avoid confusion with the other grades of mixed media paper Strathmore produces (neither of which I like at all).  

If I am reading the pricing sheet I received from Strathmore correctly it looks like the paper will be $3.99 per sheet, which is in the same price range as some watercolor sheets of the same size. (22 x 30 inches)

I know that I will be using it in future bookbinding and journaling classes because I know its versatility will suit a variety of students and a range of media and application methods.

I bound this paper finally into a book in December of 2011. (It's the orange decorative paper with blue splotches.) I thought the paper had been released in sheets during the fall (because once I had learned it was going to be and had some test sheets I stopped pestering Strathmore), so I couldn't wait to start the new year with a journal of my own binding and this paper. I will have several more posts over the next couple of weeks that will show you other page spreads and experiments from this journal, on this paper. As of the writing of this post I have 10 spreads left in the journal so it won't last much longer. I'll go off into another journal with a different paper, because I like to switch things up. I already know, however, that I'm going to be coming back to this paper frequently for my visual journal binding needs.

Grain Direction: The grain of this paper goes parallel with the 22 inch side of the paper, so plan accordingly. (22 x 30 inches)

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review, nor any review of any Strathmore papers, nor was one requested of me. This summer I did receive my original 17 sheets for binding experiments after incessant pestering for the sheet to be made available. That paper was not purchased. But I paid for it many times over by not being able to talk about it right away (OK, I'm just kidding about that, I did want to talk about it right away, but it wasn't a hardship not to because I knew the paper was coming out soon.) Strathmore also knew, based on my past comments about the 300 and 400 series Mixed Media Samples that they sent me, that I was not pleased with those papers and would say so. At any rate, the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper is available in sheets now. Try the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper if you enjoy binding your own journals with paper that can take a variety of media really, really well and hold up to the creative chances you like to take. Or don't try it and continue to enjoy the pilling, bleed through, buckling, and other poor performance characteristics you get from so many other papers.

Update 3.2.12 for Twin Cities People: Wet Paint has the paper and it's on sale through April 30, 2012 for 35 percent off.

  1. Reply

    Thanks, Roz.

  2. Reply

    Thank you Mimi, for writing in, I am glad you found this post helpful.

    • PeggySu
    • January 23, 2012

    I agree! At least my Visual Journal with this paper takes just about anything. And now that I learned from your Strathmore video how to use the UHU “rubs-on-purple” Glue Stick correctly, my collaged pieces stay down and don’t buckle on this surface.

    Do you have a favorite pen for writing directly on the white vellum surface? I’m talking about a lot of writing (journaling) — not just a few words.

    • Dana
    • January 23, 2012

    I’ve been using Strathmore’s MM journal since fall and have only had one ink bleed though… it was a tester and I was heavy handed with it. I puddled some Higgins Black Magic and blew it around with a straw. Never again! When I tried the same technique with my bottled Sumi ink I had no bleed through at all. My two usual pen inks are Noodler’s Lexington Gray and Platinum Carbon Black and I have had no trouble with either of them.

    Just one question… does the grain run with the long or short side? I loved your “Project Friday” and I’m getting up the courage to bind my own and I’m (not so) patiently waiting for the paper tearing post. But… please don’t rush on my account. Let that hand of yours heal Roz… that’s one valuable appendage!

    PeggySu… if you’re talking about the S 500 MM Journal paper (I’m new to this so “vellum surface” means nothing to me.) I’ve written full pages with my Lamy fountain pen and the inks above.

  3. Reply

    PeggySu, I’m so glad that you are having good luck with the UHU glue stick following my approach.

    I do have a favorite pen on this paper, and frankly most papers because if this pen doesn’t feel right on a given paper I tend not to use the paper much: Staedtler Pigment Liner.

    I also really like the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist’s Calligraphy pen on a lot of papers and it is especially good on this paper. I haven’t tried the other Pitt pens on this paper but would assume that all the pens in that line, from the brush tip to the finer writing tips, are using the same black ink formulation, so I would think the writing tips in that line would be worth a look.

    I also like writing with the Nexus pen and it works well on this paper.

  4. Reply

    Dana, I don’t know what the formulation for Higgins Black Magic is that would have caused it, though I imagine a puddling of any ink might do the same. (I have a scrap of the paper here, a page I cut out of the book to make room for collage and I think I’ll puddle a bit of FW on it and see what happens.)

    I use Platinum Carbon Black on this paper as well, with no problem. I don’t use any Noodler’s inks in my journals though so I’m glad you’re having success with Lexington Gray. Dick uses it in his writing journals and I think I’ll have to borrow some and try it on this paper. I’ve always had trouble with the Lexington Gray on the various watercolor papers I make journals from (the sizing floats the ink too long for me), but it would be nice to have another option.

    As to the grain of the paper I was sent preproduction paper and I’m not sure what they trimmed it down from so I didn’t add that information in my post. What was true of what I used might not be what they finally set up for production, so I’ll ask to verify and get back to you.

    Vellum surface is a paper description term that is used in a bunch of different ways by different manufacturers to describe different characteristics of various paper lines. It is a latinized version of a French work for calfskin that was used as “paper.” I could go on and on, but in the instance where Strathmore uses it to describe the surface of their papers (they use it on the Bristols as well) it means more or less lightly textured, not plate, not smooth.

    This paper is however, comparatively smooth. The slight toothiness of the surface makes it useful for drawing with dry media as well as not so textured that writing with a pen on it is unpleasant, difficult, or disruptive of the pen line.

    My hand has made some recovery though it is not without problems. I have been told to cut back, which is a difficult thing to do.

  5. Reply

    Hi roz,

    I was encouraged by your post on the strathmore 500 series paper. I exclusively bind my sketch journals with Fabriano Artistico paper but every once and awhile I notice that my waterproof ink slough off when I lay down the watercolor. I always thought it was the ink but I didn’t know it had anything to do with the sizing of the paper. Anyway I’ve been collecting free paper samples from Dick Blick and passed over the Starthmore 500 because the surface felt too manufactured- didn’t have that familiar feel like the Fabriano or Arches paper. Would the strathmore perform better than the Fabriano and Arches when using ink and watercolor? What is your all time favorite paper to use? (ones that are in production still, I see you get quite emotional over discontinued papers as well, 🙂 )

  6. Reply

    Steve, make sure you had a sample of the 500 series Mixed media. I don’t think that the surface of that paper feels too manufactured myself. But their 300 and 400 series of that paper both have that feel for me.

    I do get quite exercised over discontinued papers. I miss them!

    I write about a lot of my favorites here

    I can’t really give you a definitive answer on whether the Strathmore 500 series paper will perform better than the Fabriano or the Arches because

    1. I don’t use Arches watercolor papers in my journals as they all crack, even when folded with the grain, because of all the sizing in them. So I only use them flat for regular watercolors and for those I don’t use pen and ink so…

    2. Everyone works a little differently. It matters a lot if you let your ink drawing sit for even a couple minutes for some papers, and if you can be that patient than one can have a great experience on that paper and if not you can’t, as far as bleeding goes.

    3. I no longer use Fabriano watercolor paper for my journals because they changed the grain direction on the sheets. See my page about it here

    That means that in order to get the more squarish books I want I have to waste more paper than I like to.

    I’m using a lot of Winsor and Newton watercolor paper (90 lb.) when I can get it. And I’ve recently made some books out of ThSaunders Waterford, 90 lb. but I haven’t don’t extensive tests on that yet so I can’t tell you if it would be better for how you work. I will probably use one of those books either as my next journal (in a couple days, or as the journal after that, so sometime at the end of February or beginning of March, so you’ll hear about it then).

    If you work as a traditional watercolorist I think you’re best off working with a watercolor paper and finding one which will work well with your method and not float your ink. Depends on your ink, your coverage, etc. to some extent too. So you’ll need to test a couple for yourself before you buy a bunch of anything.

    If you’re working in more a mixed media type of way, then I think the Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media is going to give you more versatility. But keep in mind, as I wrote in my post, even on that paper I’ll get some ink lines bleeding if I move in to work too quickly—with some pens.

    I’m going to focus on using my Faber-Castel Pens for the next few pages to wrap up the journal and I think they will dry more quickly.

    Also, if you’re not doing traditional watercolor work, any of the printmaking papers will be better for ink work you immediately wash over because they don’t have the same sizing watercolor paper does. They are made to absorb inks into their surface not float paint like watercolor paper. So great for your ink, but your painting technique will have to adapt.

    My all time favorite papers have all been discontinued and I don’t have a replacement yet—which is why I’ve been testing the ThSaunders, the Winsor and Newton, and now the Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media.

    I’ve already had one heartbreak last year, with the Stonehenge Kraft colored paper because it has a fantastic surface for the work I do, but it fold and disintegrates, not just cracks, and is unsuitable for binding. So it goes. Finding the perfect paper is like finding shoes that fit!

    Good luck with your experiments.

  7. Reply

    Thank you for the detailed response. I always wanted to experiment on new paper but had a bad experience with the Fabriano Rosapina paper- a printmaking paper as well but it cracks along the folding edge as well and even delaminates from the PVA glue on the spine- it has a gorgeous surface though- not great for bookbinding. So after that experiment I was careful as I didn’t want to waste any more efforts (nothing wasted I guess as I was able to know not what to use). I will look into each of the papers you’ve suggested. I ordered some Suanders watercolor paper samples a couple of days ago- I’ll experiment a little on that as well.

    I may be looking a the wrong Strathmore paper- I think the one I have is the Stathmore 500 Imperial watercolor paper. Maybe the Mixed media has a better surface.

    I wouldn’t call myself a traditional watercolorist other than the fact that I use that as my primary medium – in coordination with carbon black ink and the Pitt artist pens as they are the most waterproof inks I’ve found. I like your approach – it fits my approach as well. Glad to have re-found your blog- I like the new format better.

    My best…

  8. Reply

    Steve, Rosapina is a paper of heartbreak for me as well. I’ve made a couple books out of it and it does indeed crack and delaminate as you report. The surface, however is wonderful for sketching on and even doing watercolor washes.

    The papers I recommend on my list will state if there is any cracking or other issues with them. No paper is perfect. But some we can put up with certain things because of other things the paper brings to us.

    If you’ve got Strathmore 500 Imperial Watercolor paper than you have a different paper all together and you need to see out some of the 500 series Mixed Media paper (perhaps by purchasing a small mixed media journal—but be sure you get the JOURNAL and not one of the 300 or 400 series pads that are wire bound and some people might use for journaling. Accept no substitutes!

    I do not care for the Strathmore 500 series Imperial watercolor paper at all. I actually did a review of it on this blog but I can’t find it. THere was a boxer sketch on it and it was precut and I had problems not only with the paper but the packaging. Anyway, I didn’t like that paper and I can understand why you thought it had a machine-y surface.

    THis is the only blog I’ve had so I don’t know what you mean by the new format???

    Maybe you were reading someone else’s blog?

    Or maybe you were at my website, which isn’t a blog, but which has areas of galleries etc.

    Anyway, glad you like the blog.

    Sigh, I have one more little book of Rosapina in the back that I’ve never used because of the problems. SIgh, sigh, sigh. Haven’t thought of it in years.

  9. Reply

    Do you have a entry which lists all of the papers and their qualities? If not, I’ve been reading some of your past posts that have mentioned several papers.

    It must be your website that I was referring to, but it appears you are redirecting your guests to this site since 2008. It has been a long time for me, I guess.

    I found you because of Danny Gregory’s books and website- when I was more active and engaged on the internet- not so much anymore- it takes away from sketching time, so I had to wean myself a little. I’m more selective of who I keep up with. You have dedicated yourself to sharing all of your experience. Thank you for that. It really helps.

  10. Reply

    Steve, in my first response to your first comment the first link is a list of my favorite papers. Otherwise you typically will have to search for a type of paper and see what the search engine shows up.

    Not redirecting, just noting this link to the blog on my opening page because the majority of people who deal with me on the internet are students and people interested in art stuff, not design, those people don’t tend to go to my website as they already know what I do and I don’t update that area on my website much. And since 2008 don’t update my gallery for my journals on my website either because I put that stuff here.

    I’m glad that you are doing more sketching than internet stuff!!!! That’s the balance to achieve. I do little internet stuff myself since I do the blog and that’s time intensive I don’t have much other time—so I like to use all of that that I can for painting.

    Thanks for your thanks, but as I have mentioned on the blog, I’m just bossy.

    • Marianna
    • February 1, 2012


    I recently purchased the Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal. And you are absolutely right on the quality of the paper. It is unlike any other mixed media paper I have ever tried. I agree with your recommendation, and encourage anyone who likes using wet as well as dry techniques in their journals to try it. It is a pleasure to use.

  11. Reply

    Marianna, I’m so glad that you are enjoying this paper too. Thanks for writing in.

  12. Reply

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been using the 300 series sketchbook and a visual journal they sent me. I had no idea the visual journals had the 500 series (I have some of that, too, but samples…was planning on buying the parent sheets!)…and just bought a new 9″x12″ to replace the 300 series sketchbook. Since this info isn’t on the site, I was happy to read that here!

  13. Reply

    Yep Kira, the Mixed Media journal with wirebinding is the 500 series paper. But now you can also have it in a sewn bound book
    Hope you enjoy working on it. I just love this paper.

    • Roz Stendahl
    • October 1, 2014

    Kira, I just heard from someone that the WIREBOUND journals Strathmore makes are now using the 400 series Mixed Media paper. When I wrote to you the message below that was not the case, at least it wasn’t known to me—the books debuted with the 500 series MM paper in them.

    I’ve written to Strathmore to find out what’s going on and whether this is the case. I saw your note in this post because the person asking the question referred me to this post and a couple others. I just wanted to give you a heads up. I will post what I find out when I hear back from Strathmore, but since it is unclear right now I wouldn’t buy more of the wirebound journals with MM paper until we get this sorted.

    Their hardbound and soft bound mixed media journals still hold the 500 series paper. Those are the ones I regularly use and I just got some new ones and they are still 500 series paper.

    I hope this information is helpful to you going forward. If it turns out that they have indeed changed the wirebound journals and filled them with 400 series Mixed Media paper I would not recommend them. I like the 400 series for some things, but not in the same way I LOVE the 500 series paper.

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