Top 5 Best Paper for Watercolor Pencils

best paper for watercolor pencils - drawing of a lion made with watercolor pencils next to a pad of winsor & Newton watercolour paper

In the world of art, the canvas is just as important as the paint. Or in the case of watercolor pencils, the paper can make all the difference.

From the vibrancy of colors to the precision of your details, the paper you choose can either elevate your artwork or leave you feeling frustrated.

In this guide, we explore the top five brands of watercolor paper, each with its unique strengths, to help you create your next masterpiece with confidence and ease.

What are the Best Brands of Paper for Watercolor Pencils?

  1. Arches Watercolor Paper
  2. Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Paper
  3. Canson XL Series Watercolor Paper
  4. Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper
  5. Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper

1. Arches Watercolor Paper - Best for Professional Artists

Arches is a well-respected brand that's synonymous with top-tier quality in the world of watercolor paper. Its products are crafted from 100% cotton, which offers an exceptional level of durability and absorbency. Arches paper is also available in a variety of weights and textures, giving artists the freedom to choose the perfect paper for their specific project.

Many artists praise Arches for its ability to withstand multiple layers of water without warping or deteriorating. The texture, whether it's hot-pressed, cold-pressed, or rough, holds the pigment well, allowing for stunning color depth and detail.

Made from 100% cotton for durability and absorbencyHigher price point compared to other brands
Available in different textures and weightsMay be too textured for some artists' tastes
Exceptional color preservation

If you're a professional artist looking for top-notch quality, Arches is a solid investment. Its premium features will give your artwork the foundation it deserves.

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2. Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Paper - Best Value for Money

Strathmore, a recognized name in the art supply industry, offers the 400 Series Watercolor Paper that strikes a balance between quality and affordability. This acid-free paper is fairly heavy, making it a suitable choice for both beginners and experienced artists alike.

A lot of artists like that the Strathmore 400 Series can handle a good amount of water and maintains its integrity under erasing and reworking. Its texture is also suitable for capturing the nuances of watercolor pencil work.

Good value for the moneyNot as durable as 100% cotton paper
Acid-free, preserving the vibrancy of your colorsCan warp if heavily saturated
Suitable for both beginners and experienced artists

If you're seeking an economical choice without compromising on quality, the Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Paper is the way to go.

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3. Canson XL Series Watercolor Paper - Best for Beginners

The Canson XL Series is a top pick among beginners and students due to its affordability and decent performance. This cold-pressed paper is sturdy enough to hold up to the demands of watercolor pencils.

Many beginners appreciate the Canson XL Series for its forgiving nature. It allows room for mistakes and can handle a certain amount of scrubbing and lifting. It also offers a nice texture that can add an extra dimension to your artwork.

AffordableNot made from 100% cotton
Good for beginners and casual artistsCan pill if worked on too aggressively
Cold-pressed texture is suitable for watercolor pencils

If you're just starting out with watercolor pencils, or if you're on a budget, the Canson XL Series Watercolor Paper is a great choice to begin your artistic journey.

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4. Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper - Best for Versatility

Fabriano Artistico is a premium Italian brand that has been in the paper-making business for centuries. Its watercolor paper is 100% cotton, mold-made, and available in a variety of weights and textures, which makes it incredibly versatile.

Artists love the Fabriano Artistico line for its ability to handle various techniques well. Whether you're working with light washes or more intensive wet-on-wet techniques, this paper performs consistently, offering excellent color lifting abilities and a beautiful, natural white surface.

Made from 100% cottonMore expensive
High-quality and durableMay not be readily available in all locations
Suitable for various techniques

If you enjoy experimenting with different techniques and need a paper that can handle them all, Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper is worth exploring. Its versatility and top-tier quality will take your art to the next level.

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5. Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper - Best for Detailed Work

Winsor & Newton, another industry heavyweight, offers professional-grade watercolor paper that's both durable and versatile. Made from 100% cotton, this paper is available in three different surfaces - rough, cold-pressed, and hot-pressed.

Artists often commend the Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper for its smooth surface, which is particularly suitable for detailed work. This paper can handle a large amount of water, and it preserves the vividness of colors beautifully.

High-quality and durableHigher price point
Made from 100% cottonMay be too textured for some artists' tastes
Suitable for various techniques, especially detailed work

If your artistic style leans towards intricate, detailed work, consider investing in Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper. Its smooth texture and exceptional quality will help bring out the best in your art.

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Remember, what works best for one artist might not work as well for another. It's always a good idea to try out different brands and types of paper to see which one suits your style and technique the best.

How to Choose the Best Paper for Watercolor Pencils

Choosing the right paper for watercolor pencils can significantly impact the outcome of your artwork. Here are several factors to consider when selecting the best paper:


Watercolor paper is typically made from either cotton or cellulose. Cotton papers are generally higher quality, more durable, and can handle more water without warping. They also tend to preserve the vibrancy of colors better. On the other hand, cellulose-based papers, usually made from wood pulp, are more affordable and can be a good option for beginners or those on a tighter budget.


The weight of the paper is a measure of its thickness and sturdiness. It's typically expressed in grams per square meter (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb). The heavier the paper, the more water it can absorb without warping or buckling. For watercolor pencils, a weight of at least 140lb (300gsm) is recommended.


Watercolor paper comes in three primary textures: hot-pressed (smooth), cold-pressed (medium texture), and rough (heavy texture). The texture you choose can significantly affect the look of your artwork. Hot-pressed paper can be ideal for detailed work, while cold-pressed and rough papers can add interesting textural effects to your art. Cold-pressed paper is the most versatile and works well with watercolor pencils.


Acid-free paper is designed to resist aging and discoloration. This type of paper will preserve your artwork for a longer time, keeping the colors vibrant and the paper itself from yellowing.

Price and Availability

While higher quality papers may come with a steeper price tag, investing in good paper can elevate your artwork. However, your budget should be a significant consideration. Additionally, consider the availability of the paper - some brands may not be readily available in all locations or may need to be ordered online.


Different brands offer different qualities of paper. Some brands are known for their high-quality, professional-grade papers, while others might be more suited for students or hobbyists. Choose a brand that aligns with your skill level, needs, and budget.


Watercolor paper comes in various formats: sheets, pads, blocks, and rolls. Sheets are usually the most economical and can be cut to the size you want. Pads and blocks are convenient for on-the-go painting, and rolls are perfect for larger works.

Remember, the "best" paper is subjective and varies from artist to artist. The ideal way to find out what works best for you is to experiment with different types, brands, and weights of paper until you find the one that suits your style and technique.

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