A while back I bought a watercolor paper sampler from Cheap Joes. Included in the various brands of paper were Saunders Waterford, 140 lb cold pressed. I liked the paper well enough, and felt it was different enough to do a review.
I looked up some information – the paper is professional grade, 100% cotton, and gelatin sized with neutral pH. It is endorsed by the prestigious Royal Watercolor Society of England. You might guess by that that the paper is European (or British, at least), which means you could have a hard time finding it in the States or Canada. I found it online at Blick’s for U.S. $6.64 for a 22×30 sheet, which is a little high. The same size sheet of Arches, for instance, is $4.76 and Fabriano Artistico is $5.64.
Both the paintings here are about 7.5 x 6 inches. The painting above was done quickly, and I tried to avoid overworking.
The piece below I deliberately overworked (not that I usually need an excuse to do that, lol) because I wanted to see how it held up to multiple glazings, lifting, frisket, and scrubbing, plus I used an exacto knife to scrape away some highlights.
The thing I liked most about the paper? I neither stretched it nor taped it down for either piece, but there was no dimpling, no curl, and only the slightest of buckling. It retained a certain hard quality that allowed me to hold it in one hand while painting even very wet washes. This might not be as important to everyone (though it is certainly nice), but it does indicate a good paper for plein air. No need for extra prep or something to tape paper to, if you don’t want it.
What did I like the least? The color dries matte, almost chalky in some cases. Although the paper is cold pressed, the texture and the way the colors handle seems more like rough to me.
The paper is harder than most of the other watercolor papers I’ve used, with a texture fairly smooth for cold press. It will fold without cracking, if you want to use it to make a journal, but the creases will be thick.
Washes spread easily but the paint dries fairly quickly, That can be a pro or a con depending on the techniques you’re trying out. Unless you work at it, you are likely to get hard edges or streaking with your large washes, but not many backwashes.
Frisket comes off well, but lifting color is problematic. It lightens a bit, but not much, even with scrubbing. The paper takes scrubbing well, with no pilling, but when you scrape it with a knife it tends to come off in chunks.
It pulls pigment off of a pencil, so it’s harder to get light lines for a pre-drawing, but the graphite does erase well.
Overall, I like the paper, but find it a definite challenge to use. I don’t think I’d want to pay the difference in price, on a regular basis, but would buy if I found a good sale, or intended to treat myself. If I ever visit Europe again, I know what I’ll be looking for!