I've been looking around for some paper for watercolour painting. Watercolour paper can be over double the price of sketch paper.

What makes watercolour paper better? Should I invest the money, and buy the watercolour paper, or save my money and take a chance on the cheaper option?

  • 4
    While this may seem like opinion, when it comes to these types of paper there are clear differences in their composition and how they interact with the paint being asked.
    – user24
    May 10, 2016 at 7:10
  • If someone has a reason they think this should be closed writing a comment with justification would be preferable.
    – Matt
    May 10, 2016 at 12:51

4 Answers 4


Watercolor paper is, normally, quite a bit heavier and made from cotton. Basic watercolor paper, 140lb, is okay for practice and will tend to buckle unless stretched. The expensive 300lb paper is where professionals tend to land. In any case, the paint pools and absorbs differently than normal paper, and gives you options around blending, washes, etc. that you can't otherwise get.

Traditional paper, made from wood fibers, is much thinner and absorbs the pigment faster, will generally buckle and warp rapidly and is much more likely to rip and tear when wet. It's just not designed for that.

In any event, sheet watercolor paper can be had and you can always cut it into smaller sizes for practice, which is pretty common anyways. The cheaper option will only frustrate and disappoint, it's already a challenging medium, don't make it hard on yourself.


That really depends on the paper itself. Usually, sketch paper will be too thin for watercolors to come out in a satisfactory manner. That being said, it all depends on what your final outcome is. Where the piece will be displayed, and what effects you are trying to get.


Depends: are you sketching (with pencils, presumably), or are you painting with watercolors? :)

If you're sketching/drawing with pencils and other dry media, the sketching paper is probably to be preferred, because the vast majority of what is available as "watercolor paper" is cold-press, i.e. pebbly/rough surfaced.

If you're painting with watercolors, unless you're using a particularly dry technique, the sketch paper will probably simply fall apart on you. You need to use a paper that is designed to withstand watercolor techniques such as washes and blending, which pretty much means using the heaviest-weight watercolor paper you can afford, or using a lighter weight and investing in the equipment to stretch it as it dries. Either way, though, a paper that tears when wet will not cut it.

And if you're doing neither sketching nor watercolors, but, say, pen and ink drawings, neither sketch paper nor watercolor paper will be particularly satisfactory. Moral of the story: match the paper to the material/technique.

  • A high tooth support is generally valuable in just about any medium. Dec 8, 2016 at 17:26
  • @JAMalcolmson - not any... try using a quill pen on rough plate water color paper.
    – rebusB
    May 9, 2020 at 14:00

If you want the best results in your paintings, you also need to find the best watercolor paper brand. This way, you will not only have a perfect texture but also incredible results.

There are various factors that you need to keep in mind when you try to find the best one. The material, quality, texture, roughness of the watercolor paper matters a lot. Moreover, if you plan on selling your paintings, the finished painting has to be impressive.

  • 1
    This doesn't add anything to the existing answers, and is very superficial. The 'best' brand doesn't automatically give you 'perfect texture' or 'incredible results', that's what technique, skill, experience, adaptability, etc. are for. And these 'various factors' should be kept in mind, but can you expand on how that is important? And what are you trying to achieve with the last sentence? It is completely random and subjective.
    – Joachim
    Nov 27, 2019 at 12:28

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