WATERCOLOR / Watercolor Paper / Watercolor Supplies

Hot & Cold Press Paper – What is the Difference?

Perhaps, while shopping at your local art store – you might have noticed some watercolor papers labeled Hot Press while others Cold Press. While standing in the aisle – searching through different brands – you may have even wondered – what really is the difference between Hot and Cold Press and does it really matter?    

What does Hot Press and Cold Press Watercolor Paper Mean?

These terms are referring to the “tooth” of the paper.   Also known as the texture – or bumpiness of your paper.

HOT PRESS PAPER

  • Hot Press paper feels smooth to the touch – similar to mixed media or drawing paper. 

COLD PRESS PAPER

  • Cold Press paper, on the other hand, feels bumpy to the touch.   It is sometimes referred to as “Not Paper,” basically meaning Not Hot Press.

But why is texture important to an artist?  

Texture can factor into a painting in two different ways – absorbency, and luminescence.

ABSORBANCY

Hot Press Paper

Due to it's smooth texture, Hot Press paper is excellent for detail line work, inking, watery drips, and puddles, which create blossom effects on your paper. Since the surface of this paper is smooth – your paint will dry unevenly and is more likely to create more abstract and blossoming textures when compared to Cold Press.

Cold Press Paper

Cold press paper, on the other hand, due to its bumpy texture – is like a sponge. This paper will quickly absorb the water placed on it and evenly distribute it across the page. Thus creating smoother more even washes of color.

LUMINESCENCE

The second factor that can play a role in texture is luminescence or the vibrancy and vividness of colors on your paper. I like to compare this factor to stained glass. Think of how stained glass allows light through it's glass panes. The same is true with your watercolor paper. The paint color is tinting your paper – allowing the white of your page to shine through it. However, if your paper is grooved or bumpy (similar to grooved stained glass) less light will shine through. Whereas, if your paper is smooth more light will of the white of your page will shine through.

WHEN TO USE HOT vs. COLD PRESS PAPER

HOT PRESS PAPER USES…

So what paper do you use for your illustrations? Well, Hot Press paper is mainly used by realistic (photo-realism) watercolor styles, more abstract watercolor styles or by artist who really want thier paintings to “pop” vividly off the page.

COLD PRESS PAPER USES…

Cold press paper, on the other hand, is considered the most versatile and forgivable paper – and for this reason, is the most popular form of watercolor paper. This paper is also highly recommended for beginners to start with since it is so forgiving.

WHAT PAPER DO I PREFER

I swing back and forth between hot and cold press – depending on what project I am tackling that particular week.   But I will say – the cold press is a lot easier to work on – when compared to Hot press.  

SOFT PRESS WATERCOLOR PAPER

However, that being said – there is some cold press paper where the tooth of the paper is very fine (or smoother) when compared to others.   I’ve been on the search for a Cold press paper that has a texture similar to Hot press and excited to say I've found one.   I like the smoother texture of Hot Press but also the absorbency and durability of cold press paper.   This brings us to Soft Press watercolor paper.

What is Soft Press Watercolor Paper?

Soft Press watercolor paper is a middle of the ground type of paper. It has a light texture – meant to help with absorbency. But at the same time, a smooth enough texture for inkings and line work. Which is why I really like this style of paper most. If really compliments my art style well.

That being said – it can be hard to come by. So I often will purchase cold press paper but then flip the paper upside down and paint on the reverse side. This little hack gives me a smoother texture to cold press – but still keeps the absorbancy. So – hopefully, that clears up some questions you might have regarding Hot and Cold Press paper.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HOT & COLD PRESS PAPER FROM THIS VIDEO

About Author

Hi there! My name is Carrie and I'm a Watercolor Misfit! What's a Watercolor Misfit? Well, anyone who is willing to try new things and not afraid to get their hands covered in paint! So what do you say, are you a Misfit-ian?

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