Watercolor paper, thickness

akvarellpapper Tjocklek

Sometimes when I complain about a student’s watercolor paper, and say that it is too poor to give a successful result, the student points to the cover of the block and says: but it says that it is 300 grams! (140 lbs)

I don’t know where this delusion comes from, that the thickness of the paper is important for the quality of the paper. But that is a very common misconception.

A watercolor paper thickness is measured in grams square meter or pounds per ream. There are three standard weights: 90 lb (190 gr), 140 lb (300 gr), and 300 lb (640 gr) but other thicknesses are sometimes available.

The thickness of the paper naturally affects the result somewhat. A thin paper dries significantly faster than a thick one when it gets really wet. A really thick paper retains the moisture for a long time, sometimes painfully long.

A thin paper also becomes significantly more bubbly when wet than a thicker paper. 300 gram (140 lb) paper and thinner must be taped to a board to maintain reasonable flatness, while 425 gram (200 lb) or thicker will remain flat, so you don’t always need to stretch such a thick paper. (But still wet it first, for the sake of the colors.)

The drying properties are therefore different, as is how smooth the paper stays when it gets wet. But the surface is the same on a cold-pressed paper from, for example, Arches, regardless of how thick it is.

Personally, I mostly use 300 gr (140 lb) paper, it dries fairly quickly, it has to be stretched, but I’m happy to do that. Also, the price is not as high as for 640 gr (300 lb). I use thicker paper sometimes, but thinner only exceptionally, in that case mostly because I have old thin paper that has to be used, but I don’t buy new 190 (90 lb) gram paper.

If you are at a loss as to the thickness of watercolor paper, 140 lb (300 gr) is good enough, reasonably expensive and has a comfortable drying time, but should be stretched. Thicker paper is expensive but has some advantages. If price matters to you, buy the 90 lb (190 gr). paper. They have the exact same surface as thick papers but get bubbly when you wet them, and they dry quickly, but have a wallet-friendly price.

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