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Paper Matters: Is There A Right Paper?

November 18, 2019
Brush pen, watercolor, and acrylic marker on Nideggen Paper. Click to view an enlargement and see the wavy laid pattern in the paper.

For artists making works on paper media selection and method of application of course both matter, but too often artists forget that paper matters too.

Have you been seduced by an art supply catalog into purchasing a substandard, non-artist grade paper? I see it all the time in my student’s questions. They’ve spent money on getting the best brushes and the best quality paint and then they wonder why their work isn’t improving. 

They aren’t using a useful paper.

Notice I didn’t say “the right paper.”

I don’t believe there is a “right paper.” But I do believe there is the best paper for whatever media and approach you want to use. 

And I believe that because of all the factors that go into the creation of a painting or illustration even if two artists are using the same tools and media the best paper might be different for each of them.

Why? Because of how they use their materials, and because of the end result they are aiming for.

Sometimes the simple act of using more water or less water can make the world of difference. And it might be more humid or dry where you are working—let’s not get started on the differences between using one brush compared to another.

Though I will say I think everyone should work with real brushes (not waterbrushes) whenever they can, to understand how to handle water when working with water media.

Everywhere on my blog I write about the need to experiment. Don’t hide your head in the sand, or cover your ears when people talk or write about papers. Listen. Go out and buy some samples, test them and make some decisions about what you like.

You’re missing some serious fun.

Look, I paint on some seriously not-for-art papers. And I paint on some not for wet-media papers. I paint on printmaking papers like the Nideggen shown in today’s post. 

I have fun with it all because I take a different approach based on the paper I’m using. And I enjoy the characteristics of the paper I’m working with at the moment and adapt.

People say you can’t use watercolor on toned paper—I do it all the time (as in the portrait shown today).

People say there is one watercolor paper you need to work on. 

People say a lot of things.

Why should we let ourselves be limited by what people say when we have the ability to test things out for ourselves?

Go do some testing today!

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