Review: Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper (300GSM Coldpress)

St Cuthberts Mill is located in the southwest of England, and they have been making paper since the 1700s. Saunders Waterford is one of the watercolour paper they make.

The pad that I have is gummed down on all four sides, so it doesn't warp even with heavy washes.

Saunders Waterford is 300GSM (140lb) Coldpress watercolour paper, acid free, 100% cotton, mould made. The paper has two versions, off white and high white. Mine's the off white so colours when applied will have a warm tone to it.

It has a slightly textured, grain fin. It's the same texture that's found on the more affordable Bockingford watercolour paper, which is also from St Cuthberts Mill.

I felt that the vibrance of watercolours is dulled down slightly on the paper. I'm not sure if it's because of the off white surface, or the absorbency of the paper. Personally, I prefer pure white instead of the slightly warm vibe given off by the off white surface. This would be a problem for those who want to retain the colour vibrancy of their pigments.

It absorbs water very well. Actually, saying that it sucks water would not be too far from the truth.

Synthetic brushes, as they don't hold as much water as sable brushes, would be sucked dry by the paper. My friend commented that it's difficult to create a sharp edge with this paper. The reason is because once your brush is without water, you'll get the dry brush effect, hence you won't be able to create a sharp edge. I highly recommend using sable brushes with this thirsty paper.

Because of the water absorption, it's not a suitable paper for fine detail work. It's not easy to handle the brush on the surface, and when you use smaller brushes for detail work, the water gets sucked out very fast.

While the paper can absorb a lot of water, it does dry quite fast as well.

Below are some watercolour sketches I made with the paper. Some of the scanned images have been enhanced, basically those white uncoloured areas without paper texture have all be brightened with Photoshop.

Winsor & Newton watercolours

Schmincke watercolours



Schmincke watercolours

Kremer Pigments

Daniel Smith


Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)



Actually I paint on this

Actually I paint on this paper professionally with synthetic brushes all the time. The thing to remember is that every watercolour paper has it's own characteristics and it's pretty common to use half a pad just learning to effectively use that paper even if you are accomplished with watercolour. I find this paper very good BUT there are quirks. It is not as nice to paint on wet on dry, it seems to grab the paint. The workaround is to damp the paper and paint wet in wet and you will get beautiful flat washes that way. You will get horrible brush marks if you try to do flat washes wet on dry. If you prefer painting wet on dry then Fabriano artistico will suit you better as it has longer working time. SW is known for having a gritty feel under the brush which I noticed the first time I used it. But after using it for some time I have adjusted my technique and getting very good results on it changing my opinion of the paper. Watercolour is frustrating for any beginner (its not an easy medium) but the best thing you can do is buy professional paper from the start and stick with it until you get your technique down pat on that paper.

The big mistake all beginners make is to use a cheaper paper or spend inordinate amounts of time and money trying to find a cheaper paper to use. Its a waste of time. Just spend the money, get professional paper from the start and learn that way. It is worth more for improvement than hours of practice.

I bought this paper to try

I bought this paper to try and initially did not like it. I have both sable and sable synthetic brushes and the quality/feel of the paper is about the same for me, no matter which brush I use. I do consider this a professional quality paper, but it is at the bottom end of that range and is priced that way too. In Australia it's 30% cheaper than other professional level papers. It has a known gritty feel under brush that most artists comment on which is why I didn't initially like it. But after finishing a full pad with it I've adjusted my technique to get the best from this paper and for the price am quite happy to use it.

It is a paper that suits wet in wet technique better than wet in dry. What I like about it is that it does take a heck of a lot of scrubbing without surface damage. I've been known to scrub an entire layer of paint off with a toothbrush without ill effects. I do paint detail in my paintings, I'm tight not expressive. But I never use fine brushes for detail anyway. I combine ink lines and watercolour so my fine detail is always crisp.

Would I recommend this paper? Over and above any off-brand or store brand product absolutely. It overall performs better than many other papers out there. Do I think it's the best paper? No. I much prefer Fabriano Artistico over this one but it's 30% dearer. I use this paper for master studies as I can get good results for learning purposes without using my first choice paper. The colour does not bother me, I use natural and muted palettes most of the time so vibrancy of the pigment is not that big a deal for me. Although I've not noticed any dulling per se anyway. I use DS paints.

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