Review: Canson XL Watercolour Paper (300gsm)

Canson XL watercolour paper is an inexpensive 300gsm student grade watercolour paper. Is it good enough for watercolour? Let's see.

Even though it's labeled as coldpress, the texture is more like fine grain cartridge paper to me. It's not hotpress though because hotpress is much smoother. There's still texture on the surface but it's fine grain texture. Also, the paper is only textured on one side, so you can't use the other side for painting.

Fine grain textured paper is good for pen and ink work.

Here I tried wet on wet, trying to blend the colour into the white of the paper. The paint moves but movement is limited.

When I painted vertical lines into the wet wash, the strokes did not diffuse into the wet wash. With good cotton paper, the strokes should diffuse softly into the wet wash.

With this, I wet the paper and painted the colours on each side, tilted the paper to get the colours to mix. The colours did not move much even though the whole rectangle was wet.

For this, I painted the box with Gamboge, and painted red on the other side and tilted the paper to get the red to flow. Even so, it was difficult to get the red to flow.

This paper is not good for wet on wet techniques. It's difficult to get colours to blend into one another. If you want to charge in another colour to your wash, don't expect the colour to diffuse.

While the paper isn't good for wet on wet techniques, you can still do some glazing or layer. However, because there isn't much paper texture, you can't have too many layers.

Best use of this paper is to paint fast. Get in and get out. It's good for use with pen and ink. The paper doesn't dull the colours so that's good. Performance of this paper is not very different from other non-cotton paper that I've used. You've to understand the limitations and work around them.


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

It's definitely not the best paper for painting, but it's my favorite with watercolor pencils because the texture seems just right. I sometimes use a sprayer to activate watercolor pencils, and this paper is great for that -- heavy enough to take a fairly heavy spray of water.

Canson XL is terrible. I almost gave up watercolor because of this paper. It's not suitable for WC. There are other inexpensive options like Strathmore that are much better.

I've always been able to get it to work well for me. I use it in a lot of my mixed-media projects (artist trading cards, stamping images and then coloring with watercolor, etc.) and it always holds up, but he's right that it can only take so many layers before it begins to pill. It's not a "good" paper, but most people will be able to make it work and a beginner won't feel like they're throwing away their money by learning on an expensive paper.

Thanks for the review. I have never absorbed the reason for not using cheap paper, and your post made that really clear. This was well written and concise.

Hello, Theo
I have a question if you are able to help
I did a nice painting on this not so good paper some time ago.. and now someone wants to buy it: is this paper archival?

Thank you so much for answering. And for everything you do ))

This is my favorite cheap watercolor paper. It is true that it's very fragile and pills under too much water and working, but knowing the weaknesses of the paper helps so I know what to avoid doing. The texture is pleasant, and it's amazing as a mixed media paper. Alcohol marker doesn't bleed through, watercolor pencils can dissolve fully because of the smoothness, and my water-based markers work great as well. I can use all types of mediums on it. Actual watercolor techniques on the paper can be done, just not as good as 100% cotton paper obviously. The crazy buckling and funky absorption can be remedied with prewetting the paper, which to save money, I will continue to do.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.