The Difference Between Hot and Cold Press Watercolor Paper

If you are new to watercolor, chances are this is a puzzling question that is burning in your mind (I mean why would you have clicked on this article unless you were at least curious).    This subject was even more baffling because most watercolor papers are wrapped up tightly in plastic wrap to protect the papers from scratchings and dents.   Thus making it impossible to even catch a glimpse of the difference between these two papers until you try and break open that seal like a smooth criminal. Which is very tempting – especially considering how pricey watercolor paper can get.  I know your thinking about it!   DON’T DO IT!  RESIST THE URGE TO OPEN THAT PACKAGE!  I know it’s tempting but just calm down and I’m about to explain what really is the difference between these two papers… So here’s the first reason…   


Without getting to complicated, when referring to Hot and Cold Press Watercolor Paper – you are actually referring to the “TOOTH  of the paper.    Yeah, another watercolor term that sounds a strange – but in laymen’s terms we are just talking about the ‘TEXTURE” of the watercolor paper. 


Watercolor paper that feels smooth to the touch – similar to Mixed Media or Drawing paper just way WAY WAY thicker – is called Hot Press Paper.  To keep this straight, I like to think of the paper being HOT ironed flat.


Watercolor paper, however that has a bumpy feel to the touch – is known as Cold Press Watercolor Paper.  To keep this one straight, I like to think of the paper have “GOOSEBUMPS” due to the COLD.


And that's a short explanation of the difference between hot and cold press paper.   Learn more by watching 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?


  • Cheryl Turtlemoon
    March 18, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Aha! I wish id seen this yesterday when I went shopping :) thank you!!!

    • Misfit
      March 23, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      You are welcome :D

    • chitra
      March 5, 2018 at 6:29 am

      Thanks, It is very helpful.

  • Deborah Kondelik
    July 24, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you! Great clarity.

  • Vasco
    November 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks! Very helpful.

  • Barb
    December 11, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    This is so helpful, thank you. I have to artistic daughter-in-laws and I want to get them good supplies. Now I know what I am buying and I might try it too. Thanks for your professional and clear explanations.

    • Misfit
      December 12, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      I’m so glad the information helped! :D I’ll be adding more of this type of content soon. So be on the look out!

  • NdukaOmeife
    March 29, 2017 at 11:56 am

    The information is very useful. Thank you!

  • Colette
    February 14, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Your explanation is clear and concise. Thank you for your help.

    • Misfit
      February 15, 2018 at 11:19 pm

      I’m glad Colette, and welcome :)

  • Randi Plotner
    March 9, 2018 at 1:37 am

    I just received a shipment of cold and hot press watercolor paper, to play around with. Was hoping to use the watercolor brush pens I also ordered, but have not yet received (leaving town tomorrow for 4 days). My husband asked about the difference(s) and preference(s) between papers, and I could not really answer the question! Due to the wonders of Google…I found you! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, and I look forward to watching more of your videos and tutorials — this weekend!

  • Denise Cavanagh
    June 14, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Quick question. you’ve explained the physical difference between the two papers however which paper is best to use. I have just invested in some watercolour brush pens, which paper is best for this. Also which is best for watercolour half pans?

    • Misfit
      June 21, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      It really depends on what you desire – if you want smooth coverage of your paints (especially for digital prints or photography purposes – Hot Press is best. Cold Press, on the other hand, is ALOT easier to control your paints and lay down smooth washes. But you will get a slightly bumpy grainy appearance when painting on it. So – it’s really up to personal preference when it comes to paper. If you are asking which paper I prefer more – at the moment – I’m really loving hot press due to it’s ease for photography and film.

  • John Clagett
    February 4, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge about watercolor paper.

  • James Robie
    September 19, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Very well done!


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