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WATERCOLOR FOR BEGINNERS

Hot & Cold Press Paper – What is the Difference?

In my opinion – watercolor paper is the most important supply you will purchase out of all the supplies available to use in watercolor.   It is the canvas of your art – and can make the painting experience wonderful or pure torment.   But having good paper doesn’t mean you have to bust your budget.   It simple means you need to choose wisely after learning some crucial information about this wonderful supply.   One particular aspect that you will have to consider when purchasing watercolor paper – is what type of texture you desire to paint on.

Perhaps, you might have noticed when looking closely at different types of watercolor papers – is that some papers have this bumpy texture – whereas others don’t?    

WHY DOES WATERCOLOR PAPER HAVE BUMPS?

Well, what you are looking at is the texture of the paper – often referred to as the “tooth” of the paper.   But why is this texture important to artist?   Well, what we have stumbled upon is the difference between two types of watercolor paper – Hot and Cold Press Paper.  

EXPLORING PAPER TEXTURE…

HOT PRESS PAPER

  • Hot Press paper feels smooth to the touch – similar to Mixed Media paper.  Personally – I like to think of this paper being HOT ironed flat. Thus having no bumps at all.

COLD PRESS PAPER

  • On the other hand, Cold Press paper feels bumpy to the touch.   It is sometimes referred to as “Not Paper” basically meaning Not Hot Press. I like to think of this Paper as having “GOOSEBUMPS” due to the COLD.   
Painted Swatches on Hot & Cold Press Paper

BUT WHY DOES TEXTURE MATTER?

THE POSITIVES & NEGATIVES OF HOT PRESS PAPER

Due to it’s smooth texture, Hot Press paper is great for detail line work, inking, watery drips, and puddles which create blossom effects on your paper. The down side of using hot press paper is that since the paper is so smooth – you will have a great deal of difficulty reworking or lifting paint and creating soft edges in your illustrations. Layering can also be a problem with Hot press because this paper can easily be overworked.

WHEN TO USE HOT PRESS PAPER

This paper is mainly used by realistic (photo-realism) watercolorist and more modern (or abstract) watercolorist. This paper is also used by graphic design illustrators who wish to photograph their work since the camera will not pick up the texture of the paper.

THE POSITIVES & NEGATIVES OF 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. The only downside to this paper is that inking and intricate line work can be especially difficult due to its bumpy texture. Another downside to this paper is that – as mentioned earlier – it is hard to photograph without picking up the texture of the paper.

WHEN TO USE COLD PRESS PAPER

Cold press paper is considered the most versatile and forgivable paper – and for this very reason is the most popular form of watercolor paper.

SO WHICH PAPER DO I PREFER?

Personally, I swing back and forth between hot and cold press – depending on what project I am tackling that particular week.   But I will say – cold press is alot easier to work on – when compared to hot press.   However, that being said – there are some cold press paper where the tooth of the paper is very fine (or smoother) when compared to others.   I’ve actually been on the search for a a months now for a cold press paper that has the texture similar to hot press.   This is why watercolor paper is such a personal preference.   Because personally I like the smoother texture but also the absorbency and durability of cold press.   So Hopefully this little posts helps you get a bit more understanding on the two types of paper.

Value Study On a Paul Rubens Watercolor Journal – Hot 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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