Bee Paper Company is a art supplies manufacturer that makes a lot of paper products. I've used their 100% cotton watercolour paper before and the quality was quite good, and it was reasonably priced.
So when I saw that they are also selling a watercolour journal that had 25% cotton content, I bought one to try.
Bee Paper Watercolor Journal is a hardcover spiral bound sketchbook. There are different sizes available, the A4 and A5.
On Amazon where I bought the journal from, it's labeled has having 100% cotton paper. My journal's packaging says that it only has 25% cotton content with 260gsm paper. When I look at the paper and used it, it does feel like the latter.
The hardcover is made of 100% recycled chipboard.
The paper has a fine grain texture that feels like cartridge paper instead of watercolour paper. Shown in the photo above, the difference in texture from Bee Paper and coldpress paper is quite obvious.
When I painted my first sketch, I felt instantly that something was wrong. The paint on the paper would not move around much, and because of the natural white (slight cream) of the paper, it also makes the colours appear a bit duller. I've used more than 10 pieces for painting and could never feel the love for the paper, even when I'm using really high quality pigment.
Below are some common watercolour techniques performance on Bee Paper (25% cotton), Daler Rowney Aquafine (100% cellulose) and Arches (100% cotton).
When the wash is first created, the colours begin to sink very quickly and they do not move much. If you want to paint a gradated wash, you to move quickly if not your previous stroke may have developed a hard edge, not because it has dried, but because the paint has sank into the paper.
In the middle example, I was trying to charge in some colours while the wash was still wet. I painted several horizontal strokes. Those strokes did not blend well with the existing wet wash.
In the last example, I painted the paper with water first before painting several horizontal strokes. Same thing happened. The colours do not blend well onto the existing wet surface. This is even so when I tilt the paper to use gravity to move the water.
Let's compare that to Daler Rowney Aquafine watercolour paper, which is an affordable student grade paper.
The results are slightly better but the paints still remain relatively immobile.
With some work, you can produce gradated wash or colour blending but it's also not easy.
Also notice the paper texture with Aquafine is more obvious compared to Bee Paper. The texture adds additional characteristic to the wash. So even when you're using a single colour, it still has some characteristics because of the texture.
The Arches coldpress watercolour paper performs the best. When creating the first gradated wash, when I was added the cool red to the French Ultramarine wash, the cool red actually traveled upwards even though the paper was tilted! Can you see how much smoother that gradated wash is compared to the other two paper above?
In the second example, the horizontal strokes may still be discernible but the blending of colours is so much smoother.
Wet on wet techniques work really well on the Arches 100% cotton paper. When the paper is wet, the colours can blend really easily, softly with other colours. That's what good watercolour paper can do.
Here's a sketch painted with mostly hard edges.
Another sketch painted with hard edges.
Creating the gradated sky was really difficult.
For this sketch, I want you to focus on the top part, the roof where I painted with Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine. I wanted the colours to blend smoothly together but they can't because of the paper. So the result was a wash that has blotches of colours that looks distracting and calls out too much attention to itself.
I brought this sketchbook for an overseas sketching trip and filled up more than half the book with sketches. The first sketch was a disaster because I used lousy paint on lousy paper. That's the recipe for disaster. When I switched over to using Daniel Smith, I wasn't happy with the sketches too.
After using this watercolor journal, I've come to a resolution that I will subject all sketchbooks to those three tests that you saw earlier before I use them for any proper work. This is going to make my watercolour sketchbook reviews so much easier because I won't need to use more pages anymore if they fail those tests.
Overall, I was really disappointed with the paper. For a journal to be marketed for watercolour use, it does not work well with the medium.
I guess it's okay if you're buying this for children for them to play around, but if you want to practice watercolour techniques on it, you'll be frustrated and sorely disappointed.
The fine grain texture makes this paper more suitable for use with pencil or ink. The same texture makes watercolour washes look flat and boring. This is more so when the colours sink in and can't move much after that.
Using wet on wet techniques is almost impossible. If you're someone who likes to paint hard edges, then the paper is probably still usable.
You can check out more reviews at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01D55GJL0?tag=artprdus-20
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