Fabriano Artistico

Fabriano Artistico

Fabriano paper mill is Europe’s first major paper producer. There is evidence that cotton paper from the small town of Fabiano was already produced in the latter part of the 13th century. The paper mill was established as early as 1282, which makes it Europe’s oldest still in operation. In Fabriano, people were inventive, many advances were made and paper from Fabriano gradually became known all over the continent. The best paper in the Middle Ages came from Fabriano.

A photo from Fabriano paper mill
A photo from Fabriano paper mill
Theluoz, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Reproduction of a print depicting a paper mill in Fabriano, Italy. C. 1450

Reproduction of a print depicting a paper mill in Fabriano, Italy. C. 1450
User:Piotrus, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Great artists, writers and statesmen have written and painted on Fabriano paper. Michelangelo, Beethoven and Giuseppe Garibaldi to name a few. The euro notes are printed on paper from Fabiano.

Fabriano is nowadays a large paper mill that doesn’t just make fine paper for artists. They also make notepads, greeting cards and other basic paper products as well as high quality paper. They keep up with the times and have environmentally friendly manufacturing. They have a goal to return 95% of the water in production to nature, clean and at the right temperature. They only use certified cellulose and renewable energy.

Fabriano’s finest watercolor paper is called Artistico, it is produced in thicknesses of 140 lb and 300 lb (300 and 640 g/m²). The color is white, but not completely white, but with a light beige tone. It is also available in extra white. No bleach or optical whiteners have been used in the production.

It is available as hot pressed, cold pressed and with a rough surface. There are blocks with all sides glued in different sizes and sheets 22X30 inches (56X76 cm) and 30X44 inches (76X112 cm). It is also available in roll 55X393 inches (140X1000 cm). Artistico has sizing both in the paper pulp and on the surface with non-animal glue, vegans can use it. It is 100% cotton and mold made.

Fabriano Artistico is usually slightly cheaper than other papers of the same type. It can make a difference of $2 to $3 per sheet in Artistico’s favor, this in Sweden, and it seems also in Europe. While in the US the paper from Fabriano often has the same price as other comparable papers.

The first time I bought Fabriano Artistico, I bought rough surface paper. That’s the kind of surface I prefer. The paper was a disappointment to me. I often paint with a lot of water and paint on the paper, and Artistico wasn’t quite up to the task. The liquid gathered in puddles on the surface in a way that was troublesome, the paper did not absorb the color in a way that I was used to on other papers with a rough surface. Rough papers are only lightly pressed and usually absorb liquid more than cold or hot pressed.

When I tested Artistico cold pressed paper much later, it was like a completely different paper, absorbent and soft. To illustrate the difference, I did the experiment below. An identical sized rectangle is filled with the same amount of watercolor paint, I used an eyedropper to ensure that there was the same amount of color on both samples. Then I photographed the color spots during the drying process.

Fabriano drying process

The top row is rough grain and the bottom is cold pressed. Honestly, the difference wasn’t as big as I expected. But I can still conclude that the cold-pressed paper absorbed the color a little faster, and that the rough paper is wet on the surface for a significantly longer time than the other. Not until step three or four has the rough grain paper absorbed the liquid so much that controlled wet on wet painting is possible. While the cold pressed is wet enough for wet on wet already in step one or two.

The opposite result is the usual one, a rough paper is usually more absorbent than a cold-pressed one. My theory is that the somewhat strange and dimpled surface that Artistico rough surface has, is created, not with any wool felt, but with the help of some kind of embossing that presses the paper fibers so much that this surface occurs. In any case, I don’t like the surface and don’t like the rough paper’s lack of ability to absorb liquid. The surface is somewhat similar to another Italian paper, namely Magnani rough.

But the cold pressed paper is very nice to paint on. It works very well wet on wet. It is easy to lift paint from, this also applies to the rough. This is probably an asset for some watercolor artists, but it also makes glazing difficult.

Both paper types have medium hard sizing, and they can handle scrubbing and rough treatment decently but not more. The rough paper is more suitable if you treat your paper unkind.

An uneven surface on Artistico rough, it is easy to wash away paint.
An uneven surface on Artistico rough, it is easy to wash away dry paint.
Natural surface on Artistico cold pressed, On this paper it is also easy to wash away paint.
Natural surface on Artistico cold pressed, On this paper it is also easy to wash away paint.

If, like me, you like to use a lot of paint and water on your paper, you should avoid Artistico rough, but if you paint more restrained, it is an affordable and good watercolor paper. The cold-pressed paper is absorbent and easy to paint on. An excellent and easy-to-paint paper for beginners as well as the experienced watercolorist. It has a nice price, in Europe at least, and behaves very well as long as you don’t scrub and rub too much.

A painting made on Artistico cold pressed paper
A painting made on Artistico cold pressed paper, deep and nice colors and good transitions wet on wet, an example is on the car’s windshield on the left.

Name: Artistico
Manufacturer: Fabriano
Manufacturing Method: Mold Made
Material: 100% Cotton
Sizing: On the surface and internally in the pulp
Surface: Available as cold pressed, hot pressed and rough
Thickness: 140 lb and 300 lb (300 g/m² 640 g/m²)
Color: White and extra white

Manufacturer website:

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