LearnWatercolor Paper

What is Hot and Cold Press Watercolor Paper?

posted by Misfit September 19, 2017

Does Paper Have a Temperature?

In a short answer, No.  But why is it that watercolor paper is classified as Hot or Cold Press?  Is there a difference between the two?  If you are a bit confused – no worries.  I was too when I first found out paper could have a temperature (lol).   That being said – there is a huge difference between hot and cold press paper – and both are used for different reasons.  Below, I’m going to try and sum up what is the difference and which paper might be better for you,


The main difference between these to papers is found in their texture – also known as the “tooth” of the paper.


When discussing Hot and Cold Press – if the paper is smooth to the touch – we are dealing with Hot Press Paper.  This paper is similar to Mixed Media Paper or very thick drawing paper.   The way I like to keep these straight is think of the paper being HOT “ironed” flat.  

However, if the paper has bumps along it’s surface – this is known as Cold Press Paper. I like to think of it having Goosebumps.  


Now you are probably wondering, okay… why does the texture of the paper matter? 

HOT PRESS  (Smooth Paper) 

Well, hot press paper, due to it’s smooth texture, is great for detail line work and inking. The reason for this is because you are not having to fight the grooves of the paper while you ink.  Hot press paper also doesn’t absorb water as quickly – this means your paint kind of sits onto of the paper for a while allowing you to play around with the paint on the paper and even remove the paint before dries. 

COLD PRESS  (Bumpy Paper) 

Cold press paper, on the other hand, is like a sponge-quickly absorbing the water placed on it.  Although you have less play time with your paint and it dries faster than Hot Press –  Cold Press paper allows the artist to have a great deal of water control while painting.  For this very reason, Cold Press is the most popular type of watercolor paper is recommended as the best paper for beginners. 


Well, if you have been using watercolor for some time and want to try adding ink lines or finer details to your paintings – I recommend trying Hot Press Paper.  Ultimately, the type of paper you use will be based on your personal preference and art style.  However, if you are an absolute beginner – start with cold press.  Watercolor is already difficult – so best to not make it any more so.   Learn your basic skills and venture into new territory.    So, I hope that clears up some things and helps you have a better understanding of Watercolor Paper. 


Lots of Love,


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