I have been researching about the types of paper that are well suited for watercolor pencils. But so far, I've come across hot, cold, and rough pressed paper. I'm not entirely sure if these are the only options and how they're different from each other.

What are some factors to consider when choosing paper? With some paper I've used the paper wet and when I draw over it with a watercolor pencil it pills severely (or would that happen with any watercolor paper?). I would rather not have that quality in a paper.

Is there paper that provides tooth for detail, but that also accepts water and layers of color well enough to not pill? What are my options?

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One of the first things you’ll want to remember is that you should always be using archival quality acid-free paper. Also, the heavier the paper, the less the paper will wrinkle when wet. In fact, after about 2mm of thickness one will generally be speaking of board, not paper.

Hot pressed papers (and boards) are smoother than cold pressed, and although there are many pulp options, you should really consider 100% cotton rag. Don’t try and be a hero saving the environment - use virgin non-recycled materials.

Many artists attach their watercolor paper to a wooden board with masking tape along all the edges. This prevents the paper from curling too much, however I never liked the fact that the tape generally rips off the top surface of the paper. That’s why I spread acid-free bookbinder’s PVA glue across the back of 350g cold-pressed paper and bond to the smooth side of a sheet of Masonite (HDF) reinforced with a wooden struts, all of which is later used as a backing plate to attach the frame.

My advice specifically for your use case is to use the pencils only when the paper is dry - otherwise you really run the risk of damaging the surface. That and to start using a brush.


If you're getting your paper very wet (wc pencil artists often use only small amounts of water), you probably do want to use actual wc paper. Quality does make a difference. If you find your paper is pilling up, consider a better quality of paper. I use Arches, but there are several other high-quality options. You may have to buy it on-line as hot press can be difficult to find. Shop around; it's expensive, but absolutely worth it. For pencils, I think you'll be happier with a hot-pressed surface, but by all means experiment and see what you like.

An easy way to keep small to medium-sized paintings from rippling up too much when wet is to use masking tape to tape the top page of a wc pad to the rest of the pad. Just run it all along the edges and fold it down over the edges of the pad. Burnish it down with a plastic spoon or similar non-reactive tool (some cheaper metal spoons will mark the paper). When you peel the tape off, be sure to keep the tape you're holding low and close to the paper and peel away from the edge of the pad. With a high quality paper, this should not damage DRY paper.

If you don't use loads of water, then consider trying Stonehenge, which is a favorite with colored pencil artists. You can tape it down as above or tape it do a rigid surface of your choice. Use painters blue or green tape or else if you want to use plain masking tape, "de-tack" it a bit by sticking it to your clothing a couple of times before taping down your paper.

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