The handmade watercolour paper from Blue Pine Arts is made in India with 100% cotton rag, 220gsm, luxurious bright-white paper.
The paper is available in sketchbooks and loose sheets, either 8.5 x 6.75 inches or 13.5 x 8 inches, in stacks of 12 or 24.
At the time of this review, prices start from US $21 to $25 for medium-sized (A5) portrait and landscape orientation sketchbooks. For the loose sheets in stacks, prices are from US $13 to $36.
The paper comes with deckled edges.
The sketchbooks are softcover with custom designed upcycled Indian fabric.
Each sketchbook has 44 pages.
The binding looks alright to me and the sketchbook can open completely flat easily, even for the first page.
The stitching is just this single thread that goes into two holes. I'm not sure how durable the stitching will be in the long run though.
Here's a quick pen, ink and watercolour sketch.
The texture is coldpress. When drawing with ink, as long as you go slowly, you can get solid lines.
The paper can handle heavy washes even though it's just 220gsm. There will be some buckling but the paper you can press the paper flat easily after it is dry. Since there's paper buckling, it's best to use the paper at an angle rather than flat on the table where pools of water may collect on the paper.
The sizing is done quite well. Paper absorbs just enough water to paint with dry or wet washes easily. And the paper is bright white which makes colours appear very vibrant.
Glazing or layering techniques are easy to use once the initial layer is dry. The second layer glazes over easily.
Wet on wet techniques work great. Colours are able to blend easily into one another. The water will do the work of mixing the colours for you.
When you draw fast with ink, you can get rough edge lines. This coldpress texture is not suitable for dry media such as pastels or coloured pencils. Covering the paper completely without showing the paper white is difficult.
Last thing to note is since this is handmade paper, there are going to be some imperfections, such as paper fibre coming off, dents and blemishes on the paper. But overall, those are minor and uncommon issues.
Handmade watercolour paper is for those who appreciate artisanal products. They don't really offer any advantages over mould-made paper, especially not when the prices are comparable to popular brands.
Let's compare prices. A 20-sheet 9 x 12-inch 300gsm Arches watercolour block cost US $29.35 (US $1.46 per piece), from DickBlick. The 8 x 13.5-inch 220gsm handmade paper from Blue Pine Arts is US $36.36 ($1.52 per piece). 9 x 12-inch Fabriano Artistico is US $1.36 per piece. The prices listed do not include shipping though. So Blue Pine Art pricing is actually quite comparable even though it's slightly higher.
If you're thinking of binding your own sketchbook with the paper to save money, the 44-page portrait sketchbook is US $24.68 and the 12-sheet stack to make it is US $20.20, 24-sheet is $36.36.
Anyway, to conclude, I do enjoy painting on this paper. I've tried other handmade paper from Khadi Papers and Indigo Artpapers and they work alright. I've no major complaints. They are all enjoyable to use.