The best watercolour paper in February 2024

Three of the best watercolour papers on a blue background
(Image credit: Saunders / Arches / Yuyo / Future)

The best watercolour paper is crucial because it needs to hold up against wet media. For this, it needs to be hardy but also needs to allow the colour to shine brightly. Low-quality watercolour paper may be too thin and rumple under the water, with the colour pooling unevenly as a result.

Usually, you'll want heavyweight paper (around 300gsm/140lb), although speciality or student paper will often be lighter. While they're formulated for watercolours, the best watercolour paper can also be used for other techniques, especially water-based media like the best watercolour pencils

Below, we've selected the best watercolour paper for various approaches. Our reviewers have tested them in their own work for quality, and we've also considered value. For pointers on choosing between hot and cold press papers, scroll down to the question section at the bottom.

Keep in mind that, while working flat is best for washes, one of the best easels gives a useful vertical view of your work. If you are looking to brush up on your skills, see our guide to watercolour techniques. You might also want to invest in the best watercolour paints.

The best watercolour paper available now

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What's the difference between cold and hot press papers?

Hot and cold press papers are manufactured differently. Cold press papers are textured and more absorbent (suiting a wide range of approaches), while hot press paper is smooth and suits more precise work as it displays detail well.

What is watercolour paper made of?

Traditional papers are made of cotton or cellulose, or a blend of these. Cellulose papers tend to be more affordable, while cotton papers are of higher quality, as they are stronger and archival, making them suitable for finished work.

What's the best watercolour paper?

Lancelot Richardson

Lancelot Richardson is an artist, painter, and freelance illustrator based in Brighton, UK. He tutors life drawing at independent art school Draw Brighton, and teaches in their online Patreon courses. He is also a freelance writer, producing articles on art and drawing. He works in both traditional and digital mediums.

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