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About Paper


Wildcat Orchid "Graycat" by O.M.Braida©2004



Written & Compiled

BY O. M. BRAIDA©2002-2012


“China is credited with developing the papermaking process inspired from bee nests and created from rags and plant fibers almost two thousand years ago. The Arabs spread the process west to Spain by the 10th century, reached Italy by 13th century, then on to France and to Germany by the 15th century. Watercolor painting originated in the 18th century. Of special note is the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachusetts. They began their prized collection of watercolor paintings in 1930 which includes works by Winslow Homer, Paul Gauguin, and Mary Cassatt, to name a few.” O.M. Braida

 Screen shot 2014-06-28 at 12.48.52 PM

Dear Friends:

Many art pieces are either finalized on paper, or at least concepts are flushed out on paper.  There are many types of paper and the only way to learn what works best for you and your hand, your needs and your style, is to experiment.  Below is just the tip of the ice berg, but at least you will get a nice sampling of the variety of papers available to artists.   Remember, that not all paper has to be purchased in large amounts.  In fact, many manufacturers will either send you samples for free, or sell small sample packages with a variety of papers for you to try.  Legion Paper Company offers many sample packages which are economically priced.   Even the art supply stores like Daniel Smith and Dick Blick will sell sample sets.   Discovery is the joy of experiment!    Happy Summer.  God Bless. OM

I.   Legion Paper – Just one of the many Art Paper Mills of Today

      Here are a few of their Fine Art Papers. Visit their site to learn more.

  1. ARCHES – Made with an understanding passed down through five centuries, Arches papers are a testament to the papermaker’s art. Some of their papers have become household names, including BFK Rives, Arches Cover and Johannot.
  2. FABRIANO – The invention of paper is traditionally attributed to the Chinese, but it was actually the Arabs who, after having learned the rudiments of manufacture and made a few improvements, spread the new product throughout the west. It was a long, arduous process that was completed in the second half of the 13th century in the Italian town of Fabriano. The growing ability of the increasingly numerous and qualified artisans in Fabriano allowed them to make a real leap in terms of quality. Three innovations in particular led to the rise of Fabriano as the cradle of modern papermaking: watermarking, the hammer mill and the use of animal gelatin for surface sizing.
  3. ST. CUTHBERT’S MILL – Surrounded by green fields and quiet country lanes of the English countryside, in the beautiful county of Somerset, the St. Cuthberts Mill has been making paper on the same site since the 1700’s. St Cuthberts Mill is fortunate to have one of the few remaining Cylinder Mould Machines left in the world. It is now over 100 years old, and was originally built in 1907. Their master papermakers are experts in manufacturing high quality mouldmade papers that are archival, and visually very beautiful. This is evident in every sheet of Somerset, Saunders Waterford, and Bockingford. Legion paper is pleased to have worked with Inveresk to develop the expanded line of Somerset printing, digital, watercolor and drawing papers, and is their exclusive distributor in the United States.
  4. ZERKALL – This old and established paper mill dates back to the sixteenth century and produces a very large range – some of the finest quality mouldmade papers in Europe. The Zerkall mill is not only well known for its specialized printing papers which are used by private presses, but also for its unique range of printmaking and artist papers. Zerkall papers are manufactured in sheets with four deckles on a very special mould machine, which allows a maximum width of 60″ and a maximum length of 88″ for each deckle edged sheet. Zerkall printing papers, printmaking and artist papers are manufactured in a way that meets the requirements for permanent papers i.e. alkali reserve, resistance to oxidation and pH value. The finished Zerkall paper is a percentage of cotton rag (prepared in the historical beater room), cotton linters and high alpha cellulose. The mill is run by the Renker family in its fourth generation.

 Hong Kong Orchid Drawing for Blog


II.  Paper

  1. Newsprint for rough or smooth surface. Great for practice, gesture, or contour drawing with charcoal, or Conte crayons.
  2. Sketch Paper — 50, 60, 65, or 70-lb paper, smooth, medium, or rough surfaces, acid-free, suitable for pencil, charcoal, pen if smooth, and light wash if 65-lb weight or over.
  3. Sketch Books (Tape Bound or Spiral Bound) offer acid-free, neutral pH,
    papers in various weights bound between long-lasting hard covers. Suitable for a variety of medium, including some that are suitable for
    light wash.
  4. Drawing Paper – Over 70-lb with smooth, medium or rough surfaces. Choose acid free, suitable for pencil, charcoal, crayon, pen if smooth,
    and/or light wash. The best will have a good “tooth” which means the paper surface will grab hold of the medium you are using.
  5. Illustration Boards are not archival. They come in two surfaces and a variety of thickness and size.
  • Cold Press slightly textured surfaces used primarily for illustration in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, tempera, pen and ink, charcoal and pencil drawing.
  • Hot Press smooth surfaces used primarily for pen and ink, mounting, transfer lettering and graphic design.
  1. Multimedia Artboards™ come in white and black and accept both oil and water based paints without buckling or warping. This material holds a definite edge with no bleed. The surface can be erased, scraped, and sanded, and both front and back are usable surfaces – with one side smoother than the other.
  1. Coquille Stipple Board is an artist’s white drawing board with a stippled texture. It will produce a dotted drawing that resembles a halftone but may be reproduced as line art. It is not acid free.
  1. Bristol Board is available in three different surfaces:
  • Regular (Cold Press) is designed for pencil, colored pencil, soft to hard charcoal, hard pastel, oil pastel, washes, gouache, and airbrush
  • Vellum (Medium Finish) suitable for acrylics, airbrush, charcoal, crayon, pen and ink, and pencils. It is also suitable for calligraphy, felt marker, lithography, screen-printing, and watercolor.
  • Plate (Hot Press) for fine pen and pencil work, allowing for flat even washes. Plate is also suitable for airbrush.
  1. Tracing Papers are perfect for developmental sketches and drawings, preliminary detail renderings and quick roughs. They are ideal for tracing and overlays. Use as a cover to protect your artwork. This paper is available in pads or rolls with weights that vary from lightweight 7-lbs to 25-lb. We recommend that you select a tracing paper that is smooth and transparent like Canson.
  2. Vellum with reference to drawing paper is a highly transparent, extra smooth paper suitable for line drawing, pencil, color pencil, ink, and
    fiber tip. It resists scraping and repeated erasure. It is non-yellowing,
    has a neutral pH, and is perfect to archive drawings for future reference.
  3. Vellum, also called parchment, is paper handmade from the stomach of a
    calf. It was a particular favorite among Botanical Artists who used it to show off their precise watercolor paintings of botanical subjects. The smooth surface allows for a crisp, clean representation of the subject.
    The paper is still made today, somewhat expensive, and hard to find. However there are several suppliers who can be located on the Internet.
  4. Watercolor Paper began in the China in 105AD and made its way to the middle east by 751 and then to Spain around 1036, Italy (Fabriano) by 1250, then France (Arches) by 1338, Germany (Nuremburg 1390) around and then Kent, England in 1588. Originally all paper was handmade and of excellent quality. Today we have available to us watercolor paper that is Rough (RP), Cold Press (CP), Soft Press (SP), and Hot Press (HP). The Botanical Artist will primarily use Hot Press (Smooth), although both Soft Press and Cold Press (Lightly textured papers) are sometimes used. The best weights to choose are from 140-lb to 300-lb. Every paper is different and cannot be selected solely by its weight. Weight, color, texture, absorbency, and paint color reflection change from paper to paper. The professional artist will always purchase watercolor paper that is acid-free, has a neutral pH and may prefer paper that is 100-percent cotton with four deckle edges. A deckle edge is a paper edge that is softly frayed. Four deckle edges are the desired look for floating artwork on top of a mat within a frame instead of placing the art under the mat. Papers can be trimmed or burned to appear deckled.

III. Drawing Boards

  1. Sketch Boards are designed for artists who need a firm sturdy surface for sketching and a means to carry their sketching paper with them. Two heavy clips on the large board will hold sketchpad firmly in place. An oversized rubber band holds the bottom of the pad in place during travel.
  1. Art Boards are portable, made of lightweight material, sanded to a smooth surface, and about ½” to 1” thick. Affix work to board with tape.
  1. Foam Board is a virtually weightless board made of a polystyrene foam core laminated on both sides with a white or black coated-paper stock. It comes in very large sizes, which you can cut yourself with a Logan Foamboard Cutter. It also comes in three different thicknesses, and is either acid free or not.
  1. Gaterfoam® Board is a lightweight, rigid display board with a polystyrene core and white or black surface. The core is very dense and firm and the surface is a wood fiber veneer laminate impregnated with resin for water resistance. It does warp, however, and is therefore unsuitable for stretching wet watercolor paper.

 IV.  More About Watercolor Paper

The botanical artist is known to work primarily with a quality Hot Press watercolor paper made of 100% rag cotton, chlorine and acid-free, and archival with an internal and external sizing, which makes it very absorbent and suitable to lifting, scraping and other techniques. Hot Press paper has a very smooth surface and a slight sheen. It is used to simulate Vellum (kid skin) used by early botanical masters. It is also possible to use Cold Press paper, especially if the paper is not too bumpy. Rough paper would never let you create clean sharp edges, so it is not recommended.

Not all Hot Press papers are alike. It is best to experiment with several types until you find the ones you like to work with best. You will find as you explore this that not all subject matter works well on the same paper. Or, perhaps it is best to say, that some papers help to emphasize the subject better. The fun is in the experimenting and after a while you become quite adept at switching gears when working on new styles of paper. A wonderful website that offers very many descriptions and definitions of a large variety of art and printing paper can be found at:

Hot Press and Cold Press papers up to 260-lb may be soaked and stretched onto a board where they can be gum taped and left to dry.   When the paper is dry after soaking, they are ready for the botanical image to be transferred by transfer paper, or graphite rubbed against the backside of the drawing. If you do not soak your paper at all, or remove it from its stretcher board after it is dried, you can transfer the image by light box or window. You will not need to stretch watercolor paper if you use a 300-lb paper or heavier. Also, with such heavy paper, you will not be able to use a light box so you will have to transfer by transfer paper or graphite rubbed against the back of the drawing.

Whether you stretch your paper or not, it is recommended that once you transfer your drawing to the watercolor paper, you tape your dry paper at the corners with acid free tape and affix it to a smooth board, foam core board, or mat board. Be sure the board surface is smooth, or when you work on your painting, the paper may pick up the impression of the board. This doesn’t sound plausible, but actually the pressure from your hand against the watercolor paper as you work causes the impression of the under-board to occur. Be very careful as well with your jewelry and elbows. Rings, bracelets, watches, etc. can all leave marks and impressions. Elbows leave dimples!

V. One Manufacture’s Selection: Fabriano Artistico


CategorySizeLbsSurfaceBasis WeightColor
Blocks12″ x 18″140lbCold Press300 gsmTraditional White
Blocks9″ x 12″140lbCold Press300 gsmTraditional White
Rolls55″ x 11yd140lbCold Press300 gsmTraditional White
Rolls55″ x 11yd140lbHot Press300 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″90lbCold Press200 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbCold Press300 gsmExtra White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbCold Press300 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″300lbCold Press640 gsmExtra White
Sheets22″ x 30″300lbCold Press640 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″90lbHot Press200 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbHot Press300 gsmExtra White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbHot Press300 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″300lbHot Press600 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″300lbHot Press640 gsmExtra White
Sheets22″ x 30″90lbRough200 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbRough300 gsmExtra White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbRough300 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″300lbRough600 gsmTraditional White
Sheets22″ x 30″140lbSoft Press300 gsmExtra White
Sheets22″ x 30″300lbSoft Press640 gsmExtra White


The manufacturer of Artistico watercolor paper is a world renown Italian mill located in the north central region of Italy that dates back to the mid 13th century – Cartiere Miliani Fabriano.

This range of 100% cotton watercolor papers has experienced changes over the last 10 years, creating some confusion we hope to clarify here: The cold-pressed surface textures have been modified, surface qualities such as soft-pressed have been discontinued, the sheet is no longer 4 deckled edges (2 natural & 2 cut edges) and the range is no longer watermarked.

On the brighter side the Artistico watercolor in hot pressed surface can still boast as having the smoothest surface of any mouldmade watercolor paper. Also in keeping pace for the growing demand in the watercolor market for a whiter paper the mill has added a whiter white to the range.

It is also important to note that the paper has a “running watermark” along the long dimension – it is not localized like most sheets.

The changes in the mill’s paper ranges have not taken away from the allure and beauty of this mill’s arsenal of quality student and professional art papers.


  • Mouldmade in Italy
  • 100% Cotton
  • Neutral pH
  • Acid Free
  • 4 deckles (sheets)
  • Internally & externally sized

Where to Buy


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2 Responses to “About Paper”

  1. Diane Harm says:

    Thanks, Olivia. Very informative.