Magnani Acquarello

magnani 1404

Magnani paper mill is one of Europe’s oldest, it was founded in 1404. It is located in Italy, between Pisa and Florence, in a small village called Pescia. It is a paper mill with ancestry, many historical documents are written on paper from Magnani.

Paper Museum in Pescia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Their watercolor paper is called Magnani Acquarello and is available in three different surfaces that have different names. There is a hot-pressed paper called Portofino, a cold-pressed one called Italia and the Rough has been named Toscana. The papers are manufactured exclusively in the thickness of 140lb (300 g/m²) except for sheets that are only available in 275lb (550 g/m²).

There are both blocks with all sides glued, so-called pads, and blocks with only one side glued. Magnani Acquarello is also available in round blocks, which is very unusual and should, according to the distributor of the paper, “redefining the normal boundaries of watercolor painting”.

The manufacturing method is moldmade, and made of 100% cotton and has sizing both in the pulp and on the surface. The paper is usually less expensive than the competitors in terms of this type of paper, that is: moldmade, of cotton and sizing on the surface.

Many people probably recognize the Toscana block, different blocks are decorated with different paintings,

Magnani Acquarello is naturally white, not high white as many papers (nowadays) often are, but white with a faint beige tone. The paper has a longitudinal pattern that is most visible on it with rough grain.

The paper can be perceived as soft with its sparse surface sizing, but it has quite a lot of glue in the pulp. This means that the paper does not so easily absorb water that is painted on it. The paint stays on the surface and is not so easily absorbed by the paper which makes wet in wet painting difficult

To illustrate how Magnani Acquarello absorbs water, I did this little experiment. I placed the same amount of paint on Magnani and Arches, respectively, I used a pipette to ensure that the amount of paint was the same, then I painted the paint over equal areas. Then I photographed the drying process. When the Arches paper has dried, Magnani was still wet on the surface, the paper had not absorbed the color, but it was still on the surface of the paper.

Top row: Magnani
Bottom row: Arches

Now one can be led to believe that this would bring good properties for wet on wet painting. That a paper that is wet for a longer period of time would lead to better wet on wet properties. But the opposite is the case, because the paper does not absorb the water, it just lies on the surface to suddenly, after a few minutes, just disappear.

The fine intermediate level on a damp paper that no longer shines with water, but is still so wet in the core of the paper that it is possible to achieve fine wet on wet effects, is not possible to find with this paper. It is either very wet or too dry.

This is well illustrated with the following example: An equally large paper surface is painted with the same amount of water (pipette). Then I paint, with a filled brush, a brush stroke on the left side of the wet surface. Then I let the paper rest for three minutes and do the same on the right side of the paper. Arches has absorbed so much liquid that after three minutes the color flows out much more controlled than on Magnani, which is still so wet that the color spreads uncontrollably.


The smaller quantity of sizing on the surface means that the color does not stick to the paper as well. It is easy to wash off, even dried, paint. If you are a friend of such corrections, to wash and rub, then you would probably enjoy Magnani. It is very easy to remove paint afterwards.

Darker colors tend to become shiny. This is probably due to the sizing, but I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, dark colors become shiny, this is less visible behind glass. But it is striking how much it shines on a painting that is painted on Magnani paper.

From another angle you can see how the dark color shines.


Magnani Acquarello is a high quality paper that is not as expensive as the competition. The range of different thicknesses and colors is limited, 275lb (550 g/m²) for sheets, and 140lb (300 g/m²) for everything else, only natural white is available. Three different surfaces are available, which unusually have been given different names.

I find the paper very difficult to paint wet on wet on. But on the other hand, it is easy to wash off dried paint. A decent cotton paper that does not really reach the top level, but which is affordable

Easy to wash off dried paint. The paper surface has a somewhat unnatural “embossed” pattern.

Name: Magnani Acquarello
Manufacturer: Magnani 1404
Manufacturing method: Mouldmade
Material: 100% Cotton
sizing: Internally and on the surface
Surface: Cold pressed (Italia), hot pressed (Portofino) and rough (Toscana)
Thickness: 140lb, 300 gr/m² (sheets 275lb, 550 gr/m²)
Color: Natural white

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1 year ago

Great post. I just bought handmade paper from Viceversa in Italy. It would be great if you would compare it to Arches.

Reply to  Erik
1 year ago

I know. I bought from their website.

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