Stonehenge Aqua Review Part 2—Ink on the Cold Press Surface and Binding

March 1, 2019

This is part two of a multi-part review of Stonehenge Aqua (hot and cold press) 140 lb. watercolor papers. Please see part one (which contains a recommendation summary) at this link.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB on Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press.

While I may have started as a child with color pencils I quickly transitioned to pen and ink. As a result of that I’ve worked in pen and ink most of my personal life (for fun) and my professional life (OK also for fun) in pen and ink.

I love pen and ink.

It is rare to find a cold press watercolor paper that loves the pens I use.

Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press Watercolor paper is such a paper. (I’ll have something to say about pen and ink on the hot press version of this paper in a future post.)

I get giddy every time I look at this first sketch in today’s post. It makes me smile because I remember how fun it was to draw each line and dot of that face.

The Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB has a soft, solid fiber tip. This means it has a little give. But the cold press texture of this paper is so smooth that it doesn’t skip. You can intentionally make it glide over the surface with less pressure and achieve a subtle, slightly broken line for shaded areas (see the shadow areas of the eyes and the ear). 

Pentel Brush Pen on Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press.

The most important thing I look for in a paper for ink sketching is sizing that holds the line sharp and doesn’t let the ink appear “fuzzy.” This paper will do that. 

As a hot-press girl I admit it’s a little disconcerting to work on a cold press paper and love it, but I believe we have to keep ourselves open to new experiences.

The back side of this sheet is even smoother/flatter so you’ll be able to work easily on that side as well.

Downsides to Working on this Paper with Pen and Ink

Another Sakura Professional Brush Pen FB sketch on the Cold Press version of Stonehenge Aqua.

Downsides to pen and ink work on this paper include the brush drag—the larger your ink brush the draggier  the pen response will be. As you can see in the quick brush pen sketch of Gert in this post the subtle cold press texture breaks up the pen line in a fun way. The paper is a little bit draggy as I’ve mentioned so many times in the previous part of this series, and this part of the review, but it’s doable.

Another downside to this paper is that the bold brush pen lines tend to rub off more than on other papers I use. The page spread above shows my rubber chicken puppet Gert. Now a year past its creation date there is a lot of ink rub off from the text appearing to the left of Gert on to the lefthand page of that spread, muddying up Gert’s portrait. (This isn’t shown on the scan because the scan was made on the creation date.)

If you’re not binding this paper into books like I do this won’t be an issue for you. 

I do, however, recommend that you store loose sheet sketches made on this paper interleaved with glassine. This will prevent rub off from one sketch transferring to the back of a sketch above it.

See text for details.

In the portrait of the man with the full beard you’ll see some other downside issues with this paper. In areas where you need to put a lot of ink down the paper becomes quickly saturated and the texture becomes a bit fuzzy. I find that I can’t work as quickly on this paper as I do on other watercolor papers. Waiting for the ink and paper to completely dry in these areas helps a little, but for heavy blacks you’ll need to plan carefully and make every stroke count. I’ve been spoilt by other papers. 

If you look at the beard detail image with letter callouts you’ll see what I mean, especially around the collar at A and C. There working too quickly for the ink to dry, the paper gets quickly overworked and odd flat textures begin to emerge as the surface is worn. This is not the paper for reworking.

At point B you’ll see the draggy texture you can achieve for lighter values. It’s a pleasant texture. However at D you’ll see how, once the surface has been worked the paper will gobble up ink with successive layers (even after drying between applications).

Testing Pens on Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press

I also tested various fountain pen tips and dip pen tips with similar results. They also all feel very stiff on this paper, but that’s typical for paper that’s been sized for watercolor.

Tombow’s Fudenosuke Brush Pen tends to lay down too much ink  and overwhelm the paper, while Faber-Castell’s Pitt Calligraphy pen lays down just the right amount of ink on this paper. The Pilot Lettering Pen also works well on this paper if you’re going for a bold line.

I found the Sakura Sensei too absorbent on this paper, and yet oddly scratchy. Despite all that, I used it to create two of my favorite pieces on this paper.

One final positive with this paper and ink—even though it’s a cold press paper, it’s smooth enough that I had no difficulty writing small lines of text using a .1 Staedtler Pigment Liner.

Binding Books Using this Paper

My experiments with sheet paper always include binding tests. If a paper is lightweight enough to fold (and 140 lb. watercolor paper falls in that range) then I buy sheets, tear the paper down, and make one or more case-bound books with the paper.

For Stonehenge Aqua I made a book using the cold press version and one using the hot press version. They were the first two visual journals of 2018. I filled them up from January 1 through February 11, 2018.

Using a paper daily over such a stretch of time means that I get to have an intense and continuous introduction to the paper. My tests get carried out in “normal” work conditions, instead of in special experiments set up with an agenda.

In this way I discover what I like about a paper in all situations that I find myself in. By the time I finish testing journals I know not only whether I like a specific paper or not, but I also know whether or not it is a paper that works well for binding.

Stonehenge Aqua in either the cold or hot press versions doesn’t hold up to binding into a text block construction.

The paper folds and tears easily. There is minimal cracking when folding with the grain. It’s easy to punch and sew.

Detail of the glue join pulling apart.

The problem with the paper is that in a text block construction when you sew your signatures together before casing them in you need to reinforce the spine. There are many ways to do this. Most approaches involve the use of some glue. For me I use PVA. The goal is to create a connection point along the spine of the book where each signature elbows the next. I call these the glue joins. 

In a book that doesn’t have a reinforced spine, when you open and close the book at these points (the last page of the previous signature and the first page of the next signature) you can see all the way through the spine of the text block into the case. This means that it’s the sewing that holds the signatures together, along with the tapes (if you use tapes). But it also means there’s a lot of gapping between your stitches, And where there is gapping there is the possibility for shifting and that instability, over the course of a book’s use, can loosen the sewing and degrade the structural integrity of your book.

The surface of Stonehenge Aqua (in either cold or hot press) isn’t compatible with holding the glue join. The glue simply pulls away.

In the last image of this post I have included a photo of a page spread open at the last page of one signature and the first page of the next. I have grayed out everything but the gutter to focus your attention on the gutter line. There you will see at points A and B, that the glue is pulling apart. The paper gets all fuzzy from the pulled fibers. 

I do not recommend this book for any traditional binding methods that require glue reinforcement at these structural points.

If, however, you are interested in making books such as coptic stitch books which have open spines; like to make sewn on the spine structures where the signatures aren’t sewn to each other in a text block but are sewn directly to a spine board; enjoy making pamphlets, Japanese Double Pamphlets, or 4-needle constructions; or you sew on tapes without making glue joins and actually like that (I don’t see why, but that’s up to you), then this paper would be suitable for those listed structures.

I’ll leave you to your testing to determine first if it’s a paper you enjoy working on.

I think it will be rare that I purchase this paper going forward, but if I do, I will be making it into sewn on the spine structures only.

Coming Up

In the next part of this review series on Stonehenge Aqua I’ll cover working with color pencil.


    • Pat
    • March 1, 2019

    What’s the difference between a double pamphlet and a japanese double pamphlet?

    Also, super lovely drawings!

    1. Reply

      Pat, in my review I mention “pamphlets and Japanese Double Pamphlets” as different types of constructions. A pamphlet is typically a single signature structure that is held together, text paper and cover, by some sort of running stitch at the spine.

      A Japanese Double Pamphlet is a construction of two signatures sewn together with one cover (again all at the same time, one sewing).

      I learned this structure decades ago from a traditional book binder who always called it a Japanese Double Pamphlet, because it came out of the Japanese bookbinding tradition. Since learning it I have seen other bookbinders also refer to this structure as a Japanese Double Pamphlet.

      It’s the only double pamphlet structure I make so I always refer to it as the Japanese Double Pamphlet (JDP) in keeping with that tradition.

      If there is another way to make double pamphlets, or other binders are simply referring to the JDP as a double pamphlet I’m not aware of this. I would not be able, in that case, to speak about the differences between a JDP and a DP. It would seem it might just be a nomenclature difference, or if structural, something I haven’t been aware of.

      If you have a link to a “double pamphlet” that shows the cover, spine, and the center of the book send me that link and I will look at it and probably be able (with that information) to tell you if it is the same structure as what I (and other traditional binders) call the Japanese Double Pamphlet.

      If you already have working knowledge of a pamphlet called the “double pamphlet” you can sign up for my FREE pamphlet making class and watch Part 6 which is a bonus lesson on making the Japanese Double Pamphlet. Then you’ll know first hand if what I call traditionally the “Japanese Double Pamphlet” is what you have seen referred to as the “double pamphlet.”

      You can register for that free class here

      Hope that helps. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Tina Koyama
    • March 2, 2019

    Oh, will be very interested in hearing the hot press story! After years (my whole 7-year sketching life) of using mostly cold press, I have just lately been experimenting with hot press — mainly because I’m wondering if it will better serve more of my media needs. I love the texture of cold press with watercolor pencils and brush pens (two of my most-often-used media), but not with graphite or ballpoint (two lesser-used but still beloved media). I would really like to find one paper that can be used satisfactorily with all of these media. I’m sure there will be a compromise somewhere, but I’m fine with that (even the Canson cold press I’m using now requires compromise). As always, your thorough testing is much appreciated.

    1. Reply

      Tina, this is actually the first cold press paper in a long time that I’ve enjoyed writing on with a fine tipped pen so I was very surprised. The HP is good, but it has other issues and when that portion of the review comes out you’ll have more info. I still prefer working with Fabriano Artistico Hot Press, Fluid 100 Hot Press, and am still experimenting with the Canson Heritage HP and some Hahnemühle watercolor papers that are HP, and I prefer them all to the Stonehenge Aqua.

      As you point out there is always a compromise somewhere. I think you might want to try the Canson Heritage Hot Press as I have found it pretty good for color pencil as well as pen. I haven’t done any ball point on it, but I don’t use a lot of ball point. I realized after years away from bp that gel pens are not bps even when they have balls or something like that. (A bp artist pointed this out to me.) So I am not in a solid position to recommend paper for bp.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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