Baohong is probably the only company or brand I know that uses 100% cotton for their student grade watercolour paper. Most student grade paper use cellulose paper which are noticeably cheaper.
Baohong student grade is called Academy. I bought this recently together with the artist grade just to test the paper. I paid SGD 29.50 for the 12 by 16 inch student grade watercolour paper pad. The 12 by 9 inch artist grade is priced at SGD 29.50 too. Fabriano Artistico is 1.5 times more expensive just for comparison.
Here are some wet on wet tests where I wanted to see how the horizontal lines blend onto a wet surface. I used varying amount of water with the far right being very wet.
As you can see when the surface is just wet, the paint is not going to move much. Adding more water will allow the paint to blend more easily.
With cellulose paper, no matter how much water you add, paint is not going to blend. Once you lay down paint on cellulose paper, the paint just sinks and becomes immobile.
Colour of the paper is off-white, similar to paper colour of Arches and Fabriano Artistico Traditional.
Painting lifting test on the student grade paper.
The texture above's coldpress which is smoother than the artist grade (below). You can paint on both sides of the paper but the other side is smoother.
It's slightly easier to lift paint off the artist grade paper.
This was painted with ArtGraf watersoluble graphite
The student grade paper is smoother compared to the artist grade...
And hence works better for pen and ink drawings.
Painted with Azo Yellow, Transparent Pyrrol Orange and Cobalt Blue Deep.
The paper has good sizing and handles watercolour very well.
Layering works great.
Painted with Hansa Yellow Medium, Rose Madder Permanent, French Ultramarine
This student grade paper is definitely good enough for some serious painting. In fact, I can't see much difference between the student and artist grade in terms of performance. Perhaps it's slightly easier to blend colours on the artist grade but the student grade is definitely good enough, way better than cellulose watercolour paper that's for sure.
Colours are vibrant on the paper.
Lastly, there's the satisfaction of drawing and painting on good paper that you just somehow don't get on cheaper paper. Maybe it's the placebo effect of having spent more money and hence you feel more satisfied. Anyway, the quality for this student grade paper is comparable to artist grade. And hence it's really worth the money.
I'll be buying the hotpress surface in the future.