Category Archives: parkers

testing watercolour papers

I draw daily using watercolour pencils in a Moleskine watercolour (13 x 19 cm) sketchbook, which I love and will continue to use.
But sometimes I want to do a more “finished” drawing  on a single A4 or A3 sheet.  I have been trying to find the equivalent of my Moleskine textured paper in this format, as Moleskine do not make their own paper and cannot be bought in sheets.
Recently I have been also using a pad of Arches Smooth 300gsm , was getting increasingly frustrated with the interaction of my watercolour pencil, water and the paper . I was finding that the pencil pigment on the  Arches gets “furry” or “fuzzy” as I pull the colour across the paper with water. This is the only way I can describe it.
In reality the difference is so subtle it is probably something that no one else would notice. So this is a very subjective review, as I am looking for something that suits me. But I thought I would share my experience.
I asked advice on Facebook groups and also looked online.  I received a number of number of suggestions which I took to my local art shop Parkers in Sydney .  After half an hour with a very patient assistant, I walked away with six sheets of paper (they did not have some of suggested brands : Aquabee, Holbein  Rhodia & Levenger) . Even when I was in the shop I could see and feel the difference between the papers, although after a while they all started to look the same and I was a little overwhelmed, so I made my purchases and went home.
Of course when I got home I sketched my newly purchased papers
there are subtle differences in the colour of the papers

UPDATE 2015 – I found the perfect paper – .It is called University paper. I believe it is produced by St Cuthberts Mill in the UK . Available at Deans Art in Melbourne ! In sheets.  210 gsm

I have never tested papers before, so it was all experimental.   I cut the paper into 13 x 19 cm rectangles (size of the Moleskine) .  I had only recently discovered that papers have a front and back side to them, so I have one for each.
I decided to test the colours and shapes that I have been drawing recently . Ivory Black – a colour I use in feathers and Magenta for macarons. I did a scribble of colour and then spread it out with a paintbrush. I wrote my thoughts down immediately on the paper before moving onto the next one.  Some were quite similar, but there was a difference.
Unfortunately the scans of the completed tests shows no difference between them. It looks like the same test fourteen times. so I won’t put them up online, but I will describe my immediate reactions and thoughts.

I have listed them from the best match to the least

The winner  is ….

         Lana 300 gsm Hot Press
FRONT – has more texture than back
BACK  – smoother than front. Not furry at all spreads well
I then drew a whole egg, feather and macaron, just to double check. It feels good!
                   Here are the other papers I tested and my thoughts.


Fabriano Soft Press 300 gsm

BACK not furry & spreads well, but settles furry. Paper has a bit of texture , not good for fine lines of pencil only
FRONT Paper fells thick not furry

Canson Montval 300 gsm

FRONT Textured paper
BACK not furry at all. Too much texture on paper

Arches Smooth 300 gsm

BACK furry
FRONT  furry

Bristol Board
Whoosh – glides off the page too smooth. Can’t get really dark lines
Fabriano Hot Press 300 gsm
FRONT Pigment does not spread well , stops and starts shows edges. A little more furry
BACK a little furry pigment does not spread well. stops and starts shows edges spread across spreads too much pigment
Saunders Waterford 300 gsm HotPress
FRONT furry . takes pencil well on its own. Not so good with dark colours. Front more furry than Back
BACK a little furry

if anyone has any other thoughts or suggestions please let me know. I now just have to learn how to cut sheets into even papers….

My different styles of sketching

Today, Saturday, I did four drawings, each in a different style. I thought that this would be an opportunity to write about it.

I draw with watercolour pencil and also use a Lamy Safari Joy ink pen. Depending on the day, how I feel, I use them in  different ways. Sometimes in combination and sometimes on their own. Some are quick sketches in minutes capturing a moment, others are completed over a few nights, as a study. 

A quick unplanned sketch of some  buskers Winterbourne in the Pitt Street Mall. I found a place out of the crowd, leaning up against a wall, and decided what to include. I started with the main guitarist, then the second one really got into it and so I quickly sketched him.  I then added the onlookers.

Lunch –  sushi at David Jones . Sushi is such a sketchable subject, so I chose my lunch subjects for their aesthetic value. And sushi doesn’t get cold as you sketch , and you can have multiple plates to choose from . This was drawn and coloured on the page in watercolour pencil and then I used waterbrush to spread the colour, then added some more pencil lines. I ate the avocado sushi and then drew the second  sushi and then ate it !

The next sketch was when I arrived very early for my hairdressers appointment. I found a place in the sun, leant up against a wall and spend about half an hour on this.  I drew in the lines of the buildings, either in their colour (such as Burnt Yellow Ochre for the cliff) , or Paynes grey . I then took colour off the tip of the pencil with the waterbrush and adding it to the page. Then I added the final lines of street lights and poles.

and finally a more studied drawing of some watercolour paper that I bought . I spent half an hour with the helpful (and patient) staff at Parkers Art Supplies in Sydney looking at a number of papers. I bought five.  I am going to use them to test as I am looking for a comparative paper block or sheets of my wonderful Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. I am still going to continue using my journals but am drawing some more “finished” subjects on loose sheets. I will be writing a separate blog post on this.