There are three watercolour paper varieties available that are wise to discuss in this article for artists and aspiring artists to distinguish.
Handmade paper: It is made from 100% cotton and it tends to be very durable. Its surface irregularity is what is most coveted and desirable among some watercolour artists. It is heavier than other watercolour papers hence stretching is not necessary. It is highly durable and can withstand scrubbing or lifting of colours without leaving visible damage.
Mould-made paper: This kind of paper is made through a machine that has a steel vat and a 230 cm circumference by 130 cm width cylinder mould. To make the watercolour paper, place the cylinder into the vat and pump a mixture of pulp and water. A fibrous web then forms on the cylinder mould which is then pressed to various degrees to give a variety of surfaces, while some cylinders have deckled frames for deckled edges. There are also rolls of mould watercolour paper which is often the favourite for many artists because of its consistency and durability matching their beautiful textures.
Machine-made papers: It consists of a forming section, press section, drying section, and lastly the calendar. In the forming section, fibres are filtered out continuously forming thin sheets in a loop from the wet mixture. In the press section, excess water content is removed as much as possible. The drying section has heated cylinders to expose the sheets to more heat until it is only about 6% moisture. Finally, the calendar section is where the sheets are smoothed and it is the least significant process of making watercolour paper.
How to distinguish between watercolour papers
Weight: This is measured in grammes/ sq. meter or lbs/ream. Visit any art supplies shop and you will find watercolour papers sold in different weights, between 90lb to 560lb. A 259lb weight is recommended because it is likely to warp on watercolour if it is not stretched. The heaviest of them all tend to be textured and mostly handmade.
Paper textures: Watercolour paper comes in three distinct textures, although notably, some pads and blocks are not in all the three textures, it is therefore advisable to look through keenly what each range provides.
Hot pressed or not: Artists favour hot pressed especially those who would work delicately to provide subtle details on their art, for instance, botanical artists. Hot pressed watercolour paper has a smooth textured surface because it is pressed between two hot rollers. Artists who would like their pieces of art on a smooth surface go for hot-pressed watercolour paper.
When a watercolour paper is not hot-pressed it simply means that the surface bears some dimples and the watercolour will sink a little bit into texture making it not suitable for more detailed pieces of art. The paper sheets go through cold metal rollers unlike in hot-pressed counterparts.
Rough surface: As the name suggests, it has the roughest texture, the paper is pressed between felt sheets in the drying stage to bear felt texture with heavy ingrain suitable for irregular effects of colour application. If you are an artist interested in more detailed pieces of art, this kind of paper is not for you. It is the best for those interested in bolder and more expressive paintings.
Fabriano Artistico supplies like water colour people are easily available in art supply stores nationwide.