Inexpensive Jack Richeson Paper: Review

July 21, 2012


Above: Carmen, the black and copper long-haired Dachshund I met last Sunday. A graphite stick sketch with gouache (mostly Schmincke—I wanted the orange and had some M. Graham Cadmium Orange on hand.) Read about the paper below.

If you are looking for a journaling paper, a paper useful for binding into books, this is not that paper. Just thought I would let you know that right up front. Sometimes we need sheet papers too, right?

Update July 21, 2012 6:30 p.m. I was just folding another sheet and maybe it's all the humidity or maybe I'm more careful, but at least with the grain it folds nicely, so yes, I will probably try to bind a book out of this paper. (I will probably cut the against grain cuts instead of fold and tear them, just for a neater end page. That's a huge amount of extra effort and I may rethink this (and I like torn edges), but the paper was intriguing folded.

As you know from my posts on Thursday and Friday this week I went to a sketch out at a Minneapolis home where chickens lived in a lovely coop and roamed in the yard. There was also a resident long-haired black Dachshund—the sweet and lovely Carmen.


Left: Detail one from the cheek area—orient yourself with the orange patch of fur. At A you can see the interesting spidery way the wash moved across the page. (Move right from A where blue and purple meet.) At B you can see where a second wash lifted a still too wet earlier wash, but also the wonderful spreading of the orange onto a wet blue background.

I didn't get to sketch Carmen on the day. I was working hard to sketch the chickens, and the lighting was pretty shady so her black coat looked pretty flat. But just before leaving I did stop to take some very blurry photos of the chickens and managed to get a couple fuzzy shots of Carmen too.

I had taken some watercolor paper with me to the sketch out to test, but never got around to it. Wednesday I tested that paper.

I don't really know what to say about this paper—I should have totally hated it, but I think I loved it. And it wasn't just because of the price.

The only name I know for the paper is Jack Richeson Recycled Watercolor paper. That's what I think I saw on the sign at Wet Paint, where I found it. (It is not the regular Richeson paper sold under the Quiller name for instance, but a different paper.)

The 22 x 30 inch paper is cold press. It is made from recycled paper and has little flecks throughout. The over all sheet color is a grayish white. It is acid free. It is also 135 lb. weight, which for me just pushes it over the top for folding and binding into books. (When you try to fold it, if you don't score it first, you get all that creasing right at the fold that happens when you fold a thicker weight paper. I don't like to take time to score before I fold, so I knew going into it I would only be using this paper as a flat sheet.)

There is something about the sheet that reminds me visually, and in the heft, of some of the Indian watercolor paper so popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I always hated working on that paper. It seemed stiff and unforgiving, while also too absorbent. This paper was nothing like that. It also has no odd odors when wet.


Left: Detail of the nose area. At C you can see the edge of the graphite line made by the graphite stick. You can see how there is a cold press pattern to this paper. At D you can see a lovely mottled wash that was made with no lifting and just putting wet into wet, resulting in a very soft and lovely wash.

Why did I buy this paper, especially when I have a bit of a paper moratorium going on right now because I have too many deadlines, too much scheduled, and too much going on in the family?

Well it was only $1.50 per sheet. (The more sheets you buy—in 25 sheet increments—the less you pay per sheet. If you buy 100 sheets the paper costs only 99 cents per sheet.) I've been looking for an inexpensive watercolor paper to take to life drawing when I start back up in the fall. It seemed like something to check out. 

I tore a sheet down (I bought 5 sheets to test) into quarters, 11 x 15 inches each. That's the size piece I did the above painting on. I wanted to work with a graphite stick for my underdrawing. I had a 6B and 4B from two different companies and used them both. You can just see some graphite exposing the pattern of the surface texture (which is pretty non-mechanical) at the top of the dog's muzzle.

I had some very blurry photos of Carmen that I threw up on the computer screen. I sat back and did a very limited sketch with those graphite sticks. Really just the outline shapes and nothing more. (I didn't take a photo of the drawing—you can see a couple uncovered lines at the throat, but there weren't many lines over all.)

A Note on Ink: From holding the paper and seeing the texture I would have thought it not good for ink the way I like to work—with a thin nibbed pen or a brush pen. The paper actually takes ink well, holding a crisp line even from a thin Staedtler Pigment Liner. And the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen gives a lovely black line (the ink doesn't sink down into the paper), which is broken up by the texture of the paper if you only apply light pressure with the pen.

I haven't sketched on the paper and then watercolored so I have only my quick wash test—after only a few seconds of drying I applied a wet brush and scrubbed. I had to scrub a bit to get the Staedtler ink to start to lightly lift up. A little less rubbing for the PPBP. So there is definitely enough sizing on the paper keeping the ink up on the surface, and for some perhaps too much—keeping the ink from drying immediately.

But I don't like my washes to be muddied with ink and I didn't find this objectionable in the least. It may be that there will be deposits of ink as one draws on this sheet, that will release more ink into the pen because they haven't had a chance to dry yet, but I'm willing to risk it as I'm looking mostly for a paper to draw on with dry media and then paint on in life drawing.

Acrylic ink is always a good option if you're trying to get away from these issues. I did a quick (same short time constraints before wetting) test and there was only a hint of bleeding—that could be taken care of by simply allowing for more than 10 seconds of drying time.

Next I took a 2-inch flat and sloshed some color around the page over the drawing. I rubbed the wet washes away with a paper towel. Then I started building up washes in various areas using a no. 10 round, and sometimes a 1/2-inch filbert.

I think I've already mentioned this—I shouldn't like this paper. It is cold press and I don't much like cold press papers. Also it seems very soft and absorbent, and I like my washes to float on the paper. Well these washes did float, and you could work wet-in-wet without seeming to worry the paper into pilling (though I didn't really scrub hard anywhere). But the washes also sunk into the paper in ways I wasn't expecting.

In the detail photos you'll see other points of interest about adding color washes to this paper. 

The most interesting thing about this paper is that when I stroked a wet wash with my finger—because a lot of times when I work with gouache I put paint on and then smooth or blur it with my finger—it felt fabulous. 

Now that's "fabulous" to me—you might just hate it. However, for me when I smoothed the paint with my finger the paint did exactly what I wanted it to do. The lower rim of the eye is an example here, and some areas of the eye, though some of that was painted over to get a darker color so it isn't visible any longer. Which leads me to another point: the paper took more work than I thought it should just from the look and feel of the sheet.

Which just reinforces my belief that you have to try something out to see if it works for the way you like to work.

Since this paper makes me feel very odd—I enjoyed working with it but it seemed not at all to my taste on so many levels—I would normally do many more paintings on it before discussing it on my blog. However, looking ahead in the next couple of weeks there is no more experimentation time. I wanted to write about this paper now because it is an inexpensive solution for taking a watercolor paper to life drawingeven if that's all you do with it.

I did check with Wet Paint while writing this post. I was told that they are carrying the paper now to test the interest in it and popularity. They will be able to get it again when their current stock runs out, if they decide to carry it as a regular paper. They have no way of knowing what price they will get it for when and if they reorder. You can use that information to decide whether or not you want to try it.

So that's what I can tell you. If you use Arches I don't think you'll like this paper. Arches is a harder and has even more sizing. If you use Lanaquarelle you probably wouldn't like the Richeson either because Lana is softer than this paper, spongier, less resilient. People who use pretty much any other watercolor paper will probably all find something interesting in it—at least when they need an inexpensive sheet.

If you want to find a watercolor sheet this expensive you'll have to turn to student grade papers. I've tried a lot of those and they cost more than this sheet and deliver nothing. (And most of the student grade papers aren't acid free either.)

The grayish white tone isn't off putting. It just isn't bright white or cream like so many other watercolor papers on the market today. If you like any of those white papers then you might have to get accustomed to this white, but I don't think it would be a painful adjustment.

I had an amazing amount of fun making the painting shown in this post. My brain kept talking to myself: "Wow, now the paint is doing this," "Hey, look what just happened there," "Oops now won't it let me smooth a wash" (too wet), "Look how it takes pressure from my finger"—you get the idea. 

Most of the time when I have that type of dialog with my brain it's usually about disappointment. "Well that's not going to work long term. Darn."

If someone told me, "Roz this is the only watercolor paper you can have for the rest of your life" I'd be annoyed because I like variety, but I wouldn't be upset. That's what surprises me. I could make it work. I could still have fun; especially if I could keep getting it at this relatively low cost.

If you're going to order paper and want to try something different—take a paper vacation as it were—you might want to give this paper a try, especially if you're looking for an inexpensive sheet to take to life drawing.

And no, I'm not an employee of Wet Paint—I benefit in no way if you buy this paper. (Well I suppose they might keep buying it and I would benefit from that because I would be able to go in and buy it too.) I'm just someone who is looking for an inexpensive watercolor paper to take to life drawing. I found it. 

    • Carol
    • July 21, 2012

    I really love the painting of Carmen – very nice! And I’m going to have to try that paper, although I’m sure my “mileage may vary” … 🙂

    • Catherine Hubbard
    • July 24, 2012

    Thank you so much for this lovely, painterly image and your illustrated description of what it is like to paint on this paper. I, too, have been looking for a guilt-free but acceptable-quality watercolor paper to take to figure drawing sessions and generally have a good time with. This sounds perfect, and I have just ordered a bunch for myself. Kate at Wet Paint says that they will send part from the batch they have now and more from another batch they expect in a few weeks. I hope the new batch performs the same way or better.

    I am surprised that a recycled paper behaves so well. Usually I would expect recycling to shorten the paper fibers, resulting in exaggerated buckling. As you know, that’s typically one of the problems with inexpensive student papers (along with unevenness, weird wetting and mechanical texture). Clearly this paper is something different. I’m really looking forward to exploring it and psyching myself into painting up a storm.

    Thank you again!

  1. Reply

    Catherine, this paper is thicker than most student watercolor papers. It’s actually harder to tear than most 140 lb. watercolor papers. Perhaps the thickness helps with the anti-buckling. I really didn’t have much trouble with the paper buckling much and I really threw a lot of water at it for the first washes. I hope you enjoy it. I think you’ll find it particularly good for your figure drawing sessions.

    • India
    • October 4, 2012

    I have been experimented with printing on this paper … watercolor paper can sometimes be a good option for letterpress printing jobs (especially if watercolor is later added by hand, or if the paper is toned with watercolor before printing).
    I find that, dry, this paper prints a lot like the ubiquitous lettra … which has its merits. But I often find that I struggle with salty prints on lettra, almost having to over-ink the press to get a decent print, and I would say the same of the Richeson recycled (when printed dry). But Richeson recycled is versatile in that it can be printed damp with good results, and I find it produces an especially crisp line.
    The slight pattern on the Richeson is much less noticeable when covered in text. It’s great to offer a recycled paper option that I enjoy working on, and to offer printing on watercolor paper at a lower price point. I also like that this is a fairly bright white for recycled paper.
    The cherry on top is that the paper does not have a deckle! Which makes it easy to cut with a guillotine (instead of having to tear down by hand, like with most watercolor options).
    So, that’s the two cents from the press … maybe I should actually try painting on this paper now!

  2. Reply

    India, thank you so much for sharing your print making findings from using this paper. I’m glad that it worked out damp so well. I hope you’ll bring some to the Collective so we can take a peek! I hope your comments encourage other folks to do their own printing experiments. And I also hope you get a chance to paint on the paper and see how that works for you. I’m still having great fun with the paper, painting on it.

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