Working on Hahnemühle’s Harmony Watercolor Paper

September 7, 2018
The first brush pen sketch I did on this new paper from Hahnemühle.

I’m a hot press paper person. It’s plain and simple. Sure on textured papers if you use the brush pen the line gets all broken up in interesting ways. Great. I love that.

But I love the smooth feel of the brush pen moving along smooth, plate smooth paper more.

Much more.

One of the lovely surprises in trying out the new Hahnemühle Harmony Watercolor Paper is that the brush pen LOVES it. The brush pen glides along and if you’re not careful you might get in the weeds, oh go ahead and just play with it.

The other thing I like about smooth paper is that it takes washes in an obvious way, showing fun edges. The paint in this first image was applied with a large filbert.

In the blow up of the image you’ll see that this paper has a bit of drag to it. Look specifically at the left side of the face, the purple stroke on the cheek near the ear. 

Detail from another brush pen and watercolor portrait. This one uses some more dilute washes that I let puddle all about. My original thought was to then go back in and cover things with gouache, but I liked this so much I stopped here.

I like my paper to be as smooth for paint application as for brush application so this draggy surface for paint took a little bit of getting used to for me.

Disclaimer—one of my favorite papers for brush pen and painting is Hahnemühle’s Nostalgie. It’s not a wet media paper but when have I ever let that stop me?! If you want to work on something that is made for watercolor but likes brush pen the way Nostalgie does, than Harmony is your paper.

If you look at the brush pen lines in either of these first two images in today’s post you will see how crisply the brush pen works on this paper. The edges of the strokes are so crisp they almost hurt my eyes. If you’re using one of the soft-bodied Pentel Brush Pens (both of these were done with the pigment ink version of that pen) and you can pump full volume of ink into the brush, the strokes you get will look every bit as crisp as the lines you’d get doing a vector drawing in Adobe Illustrator. It’s freaky and fun. 

This paper would be excellent for calligraphers working on black ink work that they want to later scan and colorize.

Direct brush painting on this hot press paper with a couple different Alizarin Crimsons (I’d been testing various brands) and some French Ultramarine Blue.

So What about Painting without the Brush Pen on this Paper?

In the “red portrait” above you’ll see me lay in washes of varying dilution, and on the background you’ll also see opaque strokes of watercolor.

Detail showing lift off in the eyeglass frames, under the nose, and in the cheek.

I’d been testing 5 brands of Alizarin Crimson—their permanent versions which are pigment blends. I wanted to see which one was most like what I’d remembered using in the 1980s, and which one I wanted to go forward using. (That’s something for another day.)

I found I could get nice loose strokes as shown in the hair on the right side. See that nice dilute puddle? And I also found that I could get crisp strokes (the thiner red lines).

The detail from this image shows areas where I aggressively lifted color. It wasn’t easy to pick up color from this sheet—but it was easier to lift color off this sheet than the Expressions paper I wrote about last time. Obviously which colors you use are going to influence the ease and difficulty of lift off. Staining pigments will be the most difficult to remove.

In the throat area I was able to create negative lines by letting a clean stroke of water rest on the paper for a moment and then blot it up. (This is due in part to the thickness with which I laid the paint on, as well as the properties of the paper.

I’m pretty hard on papers and I found that for a hot press paper this paper held up to a bit of abuse. I wouldn’t want to push it too far because as with other hot press papers, once you break that illusion of smoothness, well often it’s just better to start with cold press watercolor paper.

If you look at the second detail image from the “red portrait” you will see I created some negative lines by lifting paint. If you like to paint on plate Bristol (and really who doesn’t—Strathmore 500 Series Bristol) you’ll find similarities to working on this paper.

More aggressive lifting at the top of the head and in the hair started to disrupt the paper.

If you do find yourself scrubbing too much you will end up with the effect I got at the top of the head in the hair—visible in the third detail from this image.

Based on that I think it’s best to have a pretty clear plan of where your highlights are and not count on lifting back too extensively. A plan is always a good idea, but sometimes painting on a given paper is so much fun we forget ourselves. I really enjoyed painting on this paper, but going forward I would remind myself to take a breath before diving in.

Some Final Thoughts

Hahnemühle Harmony is a surface sized watercolor paper. The paper content isn’t listed, which of course means it isn’t 100 percent cotton. I know that many people only want to use 100 percent cotton papers for their paintings. Sometimes, however, the characteristics we crave for our work and brush expression can be found on a paper with other fiber content.

Harmony is “acid free, light-resistant and features extreme longevity” according to their blog site. I’m not sure what the longevity estimate is based on and if that means it’s lignin free.

UPDATE: The Hahnemühle rep let me know that ALL Hahnemühle papers are lignin free. That’s great news.

I didn’t try masking fluid on it, but I did find that masking tape could be removed from it safely. I also think the paper color is bright and gives a lovely brilliance to the colors you place on it if you’re working transparently.

Unlike the paper I reviewed in my last post I didn’t do paintings on this paper that consisted of primarily opaque layers. This paper would certainly be suitable for that type of work, however.

I hope the reviews from the past two days help you decide whether or not to try these new papers from Hahnemühle.

Papers are always coming and going. We have to try out a few new papers every so often just so we have replacement papers if our favorite paper is discontinued. Sometimes, however, when we do our tests we find a paper that is perfect for a new technique or approach we want to try. Other times a struggle with a new paper allows us to return with renewed appreciation to an old favorite. You’ll never know until you stretch and try some new papers.

If you would like to try this paper you can go to Hahnemüle’s website and the dealer locator. In the Twin Cities I know that Wet Paint has some in stock. They have the following size blocks (prices in parentheses): 7 x 10 inch ($12.99), 9 x 12 ($15.49), 10 x 14 ($19.50). The blocks have 12 sheets. (Wet Paint doesn’t have the Expression paper I reviewed last time. You’ll have to search around for it.)


    • Joe Domeier
    • September 7, 2018

    Wow! Thanks Roz for this honest review!!

    1. Reply

      Joe, I try!

  1. Reply

    Love your blog, paintings, and reviews. I had a hard time finding a variety of Hahnemuhle Harmony pads, even Wet Paint didn’t have them. Found them on, but I’ve never purchased from them before. Also discovered that Dick Blick is now carrying the Nostalgies (which I adore and will be forever in your debt for posting about them). I like the idea of two places having a stock of them.

    1. Reply

      Tina, so glad you enjoy the blog and reviews. Wet Paint sure does have the Harmony pads. You must have talked to the wrong person. I called them before writing the review this weekend to get pad sizes. (well I suppose they could have sold out in the 5 days after the call.) If people are looking for the Harmony in the Twin Cities they should still definitely call Wet Paint to verify availability.

      Glad you found them somewhere! And it’s always a happy day to get a Nostalgie sketchbook!

      Thanks so much for writing in.

    • Paul
    • September 7, 2018

    Sounds like Harmony is another good paper to add to my list for ink and watercolour wash. Thanks for this Roz! That opening sketch is razor sharp and the smooth colours are so silky, love that fun portrait!

    1. Reply

      If you don’t watch yourself I going to have to issue very strict supply guidelines! I hope you’re just putting all these on a list for the future!

      But YES, they are really fun with the brush pen. I need to go sketch something on a sheet of this right now!

        • Paul
        • September 8, 2018

        Yep, just adding to the list of good papers for now. I probably have a two year supply of paper already on hand!

        1. Reply

          Good. Lots of paper to get through first. Thanks for reassuring me.

  2. Reply

    Roz, I saw this question in your Harmony review so I felt compelled to answer it.
    from above…
    “Harmony is “acid free, light-resistant and features extreme longevity” according to their blog site. I’m not sure what the longevity estimate is based on and if that means it’s lignin free. I’m not going to count on that. (I wasn’t going to write this review until next month and a holiday weekend isn’t the time to try and contact the paper representative and ask. If I find out more I’ll put in an addendum.)”

    The answer is Yes!!!! All Hahnemühle Fine Art Papers are Lignin FREE!!!!

    1. Reply

      Thank you Joe, that’s so great to know! I’m going to edit the post to include this.

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