Review: Daler Rowney's Optima Mixed Media Paper (250gsm)

Here's the Daler Rowney Optima mixed media paper. I bought these together with a bunch of other Dalery Rowney papers to try out a few months ago.

The Optima mixed media paper is available in spiral drawing pads from A5 to A2 sizes.

The paper is 250gsm and acid-free. The surface is lightly texture and is pure white. There's no mention on what material the paper is made of.

From my several days of usage, I found out that this paper is more suitable for dry media rather than wet media. I've never been impressed by mixed media paper and the Optima from Daler Rowney doesn't impress me that much either.

It's quite difficult to use watercolours on the paper.

The paper does not absorb water that well. There's a tendency for the water to pool so you have to be careful not to use too much water. And the paper warps when you use too much water.

The pigments on the paper tend to pool together. It's difficult to achieve a proper flat wash or use wet-on-wet techniques. The warping makes the pooling effect worse because pigments will gather more easily at indented part of the paper. In the sketch above, you can see the pigments concentrate in one area, such as in the sky area.

Water behaves in an even more unpredictable manner on this paper and it makes using watercolours very challenging.

Sometimes it doesn't look too bad. But overall, I feel that watercolours look flatter and slightly dull than those on actual watercolour paper.

Even though there's slight texture on the paper, when watercolour dries, it looks as though they were painted on hotpress paper.

Here's a comparison of how watercolour looks on the Optima mixed media and normal watercolour paper. There's visual interest created by the appearance of the texture on the proper watercolour paper.

Here's another watercolour piece that I tried taking into account that the paper does not absorb water well. I used just the right amount of water. Even so you can see that there are some back-runs caused by water pooling.

I've used the Artgraf watersoluble graphite for this sketch. It's a bit messy because of the water pooling effect.

The paper has a somewhat horizontal grain texture going downwards that does not look very pleasing. You can see it the granulation pattern.

Not sure if you can see the grain texture in this photo.

Pen and ink works well on the paper. This was drawn with a G-nib with Kuretake Sumi ink. The ink wasn't dry yet when I took the photo.

For the two pieces above, the lines were drawn with Noodler's black ink and the wash with Daler Rowney Kandahar ink.

Markers work well with the paper. I've drawn this with Sharpie and Copic markers. There's some bleed through to the next page, but it will never reach the next piece of paper.

Dry media works best on the paper. These are drawn with the Inktense coloured pencils.

However do note the tooth of the paper. Even though the paper is not exactly rough, you'll get a lot of white showing through with coloured pencil usage.


Avoid this paper if you're using wet medium like watercolours, acrylic or gouache. The unpredictable nature of how the water will behave makes using those medium even more difficult.

The paper is more suitable for pen and ink, markers and dry medium such as pencils, pastels.

Overall, the Optima mixed media is a strange product. By trying to appeal to different users of different medium, the final product is somewhat inferior than what you would get from paper that have a dedicated purpose.

If you want a good mixed media paper, I would suggest you get watercolour paper instead, either coldpress or hotpress depending on what kind of texture you want. Watercolour paper with cotton content work better with water medium. Some watercolour paper work extremely well for pen and ink artworks too.

If you want to work with pen and ink, it's might be better to get cartridge paper. Although in some ways, I feel that the mixed medium paper is better than cartridge paper because you can get higher paper weight as compared to cartridge paper.

If you want to work with dry medium such as coloured paper, you can get cartridge paper or the many other types of paper created specifically for dry medium.

Prior to using this, I've also tried the Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media Paper and that paper also works better with dry than wet medium. That paper is also much smoother.


If you want to try for yourself, you can find the Daler Rowney Optima mixed media paper at Jackson's Art Supplies (UK) and Amazon: | | | |


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