New Winsor & Newton Watercolor Paper Part 3: Professional Hot Press

April 23, 2018
Pentel Brush pen and watercolor sketch made from a Sktchy app photo during my April 7, 2018 demo using Winsor & Newton HOT PRESS Watercolor paper and Schmincke Pan Watercolors.

This is the third and final part of my three part series on the new watercolor paper lines from Winsor & Newton: Professional, which is their wood-free fine-art line; and Classic which is their wood-pulp (but acid free) paper. See part one in the series here.

Note that this is the NEW Winsor & Newton watercolor paper. I have been using Winsor & Newton 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper for years to bind into my journals and sketchbooks and if you see anything on this blog that is posted before my April 4, 2018 post announcing my demo date at Wet Paint then the paper you’re looking at is the OLD paper and it is no longer available. Anything I said about that OLD Winsor & Newton paper is NOT TRANSFERABLE to this new paper. And remember the new paper has a vegetable/starch sizing.

Before my April 7, 2018 painting demo at Wet Paint I tried the cold press version of the Professional line of this paper. I also tried the cold press version of the Classic line of this paper. But I didn’t have samples of the hot press version of the Professional line to pretest.

Hot press paper is my preference.

I like to be drippy. I like to paint on Plate Bristol! (Remember this is the person who loves painting on Hahnemühle’s Nostalgie!)

I asked if I could use a piece of the hot press Professional line in my demo and sure enough Wet Paint had a piece there for me when I arrived.

Detail of today’s sketch. One of the things that is nice about having some “cold press” texture even on a hot press paper, is that it does give some broken character to your brush pen lines, and when you use colors like the Azure Blue from Schmincke that I mixed with Quin Magenta in the shirt—you get some lovely granulation. If you want a smoother paper to draw and paint on yet still get granulation that’s an argument for you to try this paper. 

I looked at it and looked at it and told the coordinator, “Well we have to cut a piece of hot press paper because all I have here is cold press.”

She looked at it, we looked at it together, then she went to get the labeled sample they have and brought it over and we looked at it and compared it.

OK let me just cut to the chase. Remember I told you that both lines of paper (Professional and Classic) have a marked difference in surface texture between the front and back of the sheet? Well that’s also true on the hot press paper. That makes it unsuitable for me to even try to bind it.

But what is most striking about this hot press Professional line is that the paper is very textured for a hot press paper. (It’s more textured than the Fabriano Soft Press if you’re familiar with that and wondering.)

So I was looking at pieces of paper expecting a smooth surface and seeing so much texture that I though it was just another piece of cold press. Hence all the comparisons of different samples.

And if you are like me and enjoy a good hot-press watercolor paper surface this is NOT the paper for you.

Simply click on any image in this post and it will enlarge in the light table feature and you can circle through the images. Even without going to the detail image you can see how textured this hot press paper is.

If you like cold press papers and think this looks fine, then I would just ask you “Then why are you looking at using a hot press sheet? Use a cold press one.”

The Demo and a Little Bit About How This Paper Holds Up

We had a little bit of a late start on the day as the other group cleared away. I began by showing examples I’d painted and talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the paper. Then I realized I have 25 minutes to do a painting. (Of course I kept talking while I painted.)

What I can say is that this paper takes the brush pen much better than the cold press paper in the Professional line. While this hot press paper also has what I would call a cold press texture, and that texture breaks up the pen line, the texture of this hot press paper is not as pronounced so the resultant brush pen line is more pleasing to my eye.

I next jumped into the painting. (I don’t give the sketch anytime to dry and as I’ve already mentioned earlier in this series I find that the brush pen ink dries quickly on this paper and I didn’t notice any ink bleeding into my washes. The only exception to this is the ear, where I added wet washes several times and even blotted up some paint. The ink there was so abused that some did leak into the paint.

I worked with an inexpensive 1-inch flat brush such as you might use to apply gesso to paper. WHY? Well in the past year I have been using flats more and more instead of my rounds, and even my filberts. I find it’s more interesting to get the angles out of a flat brush, and a one-inch flat makes quick work of areas that need to be covered. (I don’t mind a little mess either.)

I would say that my use of that brush did startle quite a number of people. But probably not as much as my happy attitude when things didn’t go as planned. It’s really not possible for me to be grumpy when I’m sketching!

Since this was my first time working on this paper I was a little surprised at how different the water drying time was. So I put that down to environment. I just must have a drier house. This lag time and the need to finish in 25 minutes meant we did end up going over a few minutes, while I waited for things to dry, however I kept talking.

The paper didn’t dry fast enough for me to finish and put in the pupils so attendees who read this post are only now seeing how I resolved the pupils in the eyes. I had originally placed them with a mixed neutral of blue and orange paint, but they weren’t working so I lifted them out and the paper didn’t dry enough for me to have a second go.

Here’s another detail of today’s sketch so you can see the paper and stroke texture.

In general I found this paper more fragile than its cold-press cousin (Professional Cold Press) because it wouldn’t take new work over lifted areas easily.

One of the things I noticed about my reference (which was one of the muse photos from the great app Sktchy) was that he had some gray in the beard, but the remaining color suggested to me that he once had red hair. Right or not, I went with that idea  as I rendered the hair and beard, in the lighting conditions contained in the photo. I’m most pleased with the use of greens and reds in the beard.

I turned to a #12 round with a great point, for the fine work.

I was disappointed with the way the paint wouldn’t move easily across the page. Later that day at home I got out my current journal, which is made with OLD Winsor & Newton 90 lb. hot press and did some sketches on that very smooth paper. Washes just flowed where I wanted them to go. Both the new texture and the change in sizing are responsible for the different way the new paper works.

At home when the paper was completely dried, one blot to remove those first applied pupils completely disrupted the sizing in the area. I couldn’t lift out highlights in the eye even after the paper had dried again. I had to use a couple touches of white gouache in the iris to finish the eyes.

Would I Use This Hot Press Paper Again?

Never say never, but I can say I hope I never have to use the Winsor & Newton Professional 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper again. For all the reasons mentioned in the previous section above. It’s just not fun for me to paint on it.

If you want a smooth paper for watercolor and mixed media I would suggest that you go with Arches, TH Saunders/Waterford, and Fabriano Artistico. They all sell hot press paper with a smoother, flatter surface. The first two are also gelatin sized.

I would also recommend that you try Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper. There is a very slight texture, but it is smooth for the brush pens and other pens you might use. 

Another alternative when looking for smooth “papers” for pen and watercolor is Canson’s Illustration Artboards (which are available in handy dandy 9 x 12 inch pads).

And of course there is plate Bristol. I can’t find the 5-ply Bristol that I used in the 1980s all the time, but if you hunt for it you can still find Strathmore 500 Series 4-ply Plate Bristol. (I think that Strathmore makes the best Bristol, but other Bristols are great too.)  The 500 Series Bristol is 100 percent cotton fiber and acid-free and a joy to work on. While I prefer the plate Bristol (and I’m writing about smooth surfaces today) people who prefer a bit of texture will like Strathmore’s vellum surface in the same line. It is also excellent for washes, gouache, and of course color pencil!

So if all these other papers and boards disappeared or changed I’d paint on the Winsor & Newton Professional 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper again. Otherwise Winsor & Newton Professional 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper  is not the hot-press watercolor surface that I crave and need for the way I work. 

If you’re interested in the whole issue of smooth painting surfaces please read: What To Do Now That There’s No 5-Ply Plate Bristol?

A Word on Color Palettes and Color Use

I am frequently asked about my color use. Yes, I do see these colors in things. Sometimes I push the colors that I see (as I pushed that redness in today’s beard). But I do see those colors. It’s part of the fun I have in painting.

After my demo a young woman came up to talk to me. She was just starting and she didn’t see all these colors. A friend was sitting nearby and patiently sat while I pointed out some colors in her face to the novice painter. The novice could agree she could see the colors I was pointing out, but only after I pointed them out and named them.

Part of that is practice: looking at colors, breaking colors down into their component parts.

Part of seeing color is understanding color theory (which I see as a lifelong adventure because I’m always discovering new things).

The novice looked at me with a bit of disbelief when I told her it would become easier the more she practiced. 

When she said, “I would have just painted those shadows you pointed out on your friend as gray,” her tone was subdued.

“But that’s exactly right!” I told her, “They are neutralized color, and you just don’t understand enough yet about making neutralized colors for your shadows. You are totally on the right track.”

For her the issue is that she doesn’t understand color enough yet. But she will.

Why am I adding this to the end of the blog post relating to the demo? 

Well after she left and I was packing up I realized I forgot to say one more statement of encouragement. I have a hope that she might be watching the blog to see how I resolved the eyes in my demonstration painting. She’ll see this demo post go up, read it… And even if I don’t reach that woman I hope someone else reads this and hears this from me:

Even if you get the color wrong, it’s OK, as long as you get the value right.

Over time as you experiment more with pigments you’ll be able to match colors on your paper to what you see in front of you, if you want to.

But if you learn to see the relative values of the colors on your subject, and to place pigments with those values in the areas of your subject that have that value, it will READ.

This is another lifelong adventure you can take part in as you do your daily practice.

I hope you all do.

Remember if you don’t hit it dead on today, tomorrow you’re that much closer.






    • Diana Ryman
    • April 23, 2018

    Thanks for this great review. Do you know what the Winsor Newton Professional is sized with? Their site says it is sized internally and externally, but no mention of whether it is gelatin, vegetable or synthetic….

    1. Reply

      Thanks for reading. Yes I know what the W&N Pro is sized with, I mention this in the review—it’s a vegetable/starch. They told me they can’t call it vegan because it is mixed in the same equipment used for a gelatin size for other papers.

      I find it better than most of the vegetable/sized starch papers. As I also mentioned in the review more companies are switching over and there are fewer and fewer gelatin sized papers (I prefer gelatin size in case that wasn’t clear to you, and recommend a couple you might like to try—in either part one or part two). But if you’re looking for a vegan paper this is not it. Hope that helps.

    • Paul
    • April 25, 2018

    Roz FYI, your link on: “What to do now that there’s no 5 ply – Plate Bristol?” works fine (with lots of great suggestions – thanks) BUT the links within that post do not. Can’t link to your examples of illustrations done on the different surfaces mentioned.

    1. Reply

      Paul, thanks for letting me know this. I have web help working on this. It is something that seems to have happened in the blog transfer.

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