In March I purchased one of the new Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbooks which contain 100 percent cotton, 120 lb. watercolor paper. I purchased the large portrait size (8.3 x 11.7 inches). I’ll start by saying it’s an expensive book. I paid just under $60 dollars for it (that becomes important later).
You can click on the image and read my notes about how I liked or didn’t like something on this paper. The paper has a slight cold press texture.
Hahnemühle only uses vegetable starch for sizing (no gelatin), so yes of course right away I’m not happy. The brush is draggy on it.
A lot of interruptions came up and I never sat down to do a full portrait or painting on the paper. But students have been asking me about the book so I thought I’d just post these preliminary notes.
Since it’s hard to find gelatin sized watercolor paper these days I have to learn to live with that. Even the glue joins between the signatures delaminating is something that I’ve come to expect with commercially bound journals—they are trying to keep heavy weight paper glued at the stress point, when surface sizing and other factors prevent good glue adhesion…all the while trying to make such a book open flat. It’s like you can have one of 3 things and I’ll leave you all to decide which things you want in a book because it is rather personal.
Readers of the blog know that I’m odor sensitive and the paper in this book has a very subtle odor to me, that actually gives me a headache.
I have a note about this on the page. I first noticed this type of odor when some of the books I was purchasing switched to factories in China. I always thought it had to do with the different fibers used in the paper composition (I’m very sensitive to cardboard manufactured in Asia as well). But now I think at least part of the equation maybe something in the water during the manufacturing process.
If odors don’t bother you this slight odor, regardless of where the paper is made, won’t bother you.
The impregnated cover material also has an odor, but I’m guessing that like the stuff they use on their other books it will air out over time.
You can also see on the page spread notes about the different pens I used and some pencils. The texture is a slight cold press surface, but you won’t have much difficulty writing on it.
I really enjoyed working with a dye-based ink brush pen on this paper, which is a little ironic as that pen’s ink is not archival, and the purpose of cotton paper…well you get the idea. Life is full of contradictions.
For me, given that the paper doesn’t have gelatin sizing and the glue joins don’t hold, and the price is almost $60 for a very slim volume I’d have to really love this paper to buy more of these books. I know I won’t be doing that.
What Will I Use Instead?
I like Hahnemühle’s “student” grade watercolor books OK for quick rough work. I like the Hand•Book journals in both the 90 and 140 lb. weight pages. So there are commercially bound sketchbooks I can use.
If I want 100 percent cotton paper (and am willing to pay for it) then I’ll buy (while I can, i.e., it still exists) gelatin-sized 100 percent cotton paper. And then bind the books myself.
I agree that it’s pricey. I got a Hahnemühle 100% cotton in the small square format, mainly for the format. As a user of mostly watercolor pencils, I don’t really “need” 100% cotton, but I like the tooth on it with pencil. I actually prefer the student grade Hahnemühle, which is “good enough” for the water media I use. I just wish I could get it in the small square format, which is so portable for urban sketching and versatile (I don’t have to commit immediately to landscape or portrait).
Tina I wonder why they don’t make a square version of their student grade watercolor book. I would like one of those as well. They make their toned watercolor books in square format (although I would appreciate it if they would bump the size of the square up a bit!). Those are always my favorite too.