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…
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TEXTURE
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.