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ARCHES® Aquarelle is the best paper for watercolours

You will find a vast range of Fine Arts papers in specialist stores. However, it is essential to make the right choice to ensure that you can paint your best watercolours without limiting your possibilities. Here we explain why ARCHES® Aquarelle paper is the best paper for watercolours.

Criteria to consider when choosing a watercolour paper

  • Composition of the paper
  • How it is made
  • Grain
  • Grammage
  • Paper size
  • Conservation over time

A good watercolour paper is made of 100% cotton fibres

The composition of a paper will determine its durability and absorbent capacity. Cotton fibres are more durable, which means your paintings will last longer. 100% cotton papers, sometimes called rag papers, are more absorbent and allow the pigments to penetrate into the paper and bind onto the fibres. They should be favoured because they allow you to progress and master the watercolour technique more quickly.

Arches Aquarelle le meilleur papier pour l'aquarelle

100% cotton paper is ideal for working with the “wet-on-wet” technique. It stays damp for longer, allowing you to work better with a wet brush and achieve attractive blending effects. The colours stand out better and remain brighter when they dry. Cotton, with its long fibres, makes for a stronger paper with greater durability. It is possible to overlay colour washes with no fear of damaging the surface. The cotton gives the paper an inimitable beauty and feel.

Arches Aquarelle le mailleur papier pour l'aquarelle

ARCHES® Aquarelle paper is made of 100% naturally white, long-fibre cotton linters.

Manufacturing process: the cylinder mould guarantees a quality paper

Papermaking on a cylinder mould is a traditional process which produces watercolour papers of a quality close to that of an artisan paper, with deckle edges, a watermark and a natural grain. This process is also used to make high-grammage papers. The fibres are deposited regularly and evenly over the wire, which gives the paper great mechanical strength. Another non-negligible advantage for watercolourists is that the paper slackens uniformly when wet.

Arches Aquarelle le mailleur papier pour l'aquarelle

Gelatin sizing to the core of ARCHES® Aquarelle paper, an exclusive, unique process!

The gelatin sizing to the core of ARCHES® Aquarelle watercolour paper is an essential element in its exceptional quality. In addition to manufacturing on a cylinder mould, the Arches paper mill uses a process that involves dipping the paper in a bath of high-quality natural gelatin, which soaks into the paper, penetrating right into the core of the fibres. This strengthens its structure as well as improving its properties of absorption and mechanical strength.

Arches Aquarelle the best paper for watercolours

The advantages of gelatin sizing to the core for ARCHES® Aquarelle paper:

  • Optimum absorption: Thanks to the gelatin, ARCHES® Aquarelle paper absorbs water evenly, facilitating the wash technique and the blending of colours and allowing you to create pleasing colour gradients.
  • Resistance to deformation: Gelatin-sized paper keeps its shape extremely well when wet. Gelatin sizing to the core strengthens the fibres in the paper, which limits warping when the paper is moistened.
  • Durability: Paper gelatin-sized to the core is more robust and is able to withstand overlaid washes, glazes, corrections and various other techniques, such as lifting and retouching or watercolour lifting especially when working on wet paper. It allows the artist to work comfortably through each water cycle, at their own pace, over a long continuous stretch of time or with interruptions.
  • Soaking: Even if it is soaked for a long time, the paper will still retain enough gelatin not to become too absorbent.
  • It preserves the lustre and transparency of the colours whilst preventing paints migrating through the paper.
  • It gives the paper added strength to resist erasing and scratching without tearing or linting.

ARCHES® Aquarelle paper also offers the advantage of being able to paint on both sides of the paper. Every artist has their own preference depending on their technique, sensibility, etc.

ARCHES Aquarelle the best paper for watercolours

How to choose the grain of your watercolour paper?

The “grain” of a paper is its texture, its finish that feels more or less grainy when you stroke its surface. It is the wool felt that the sheet of paper passes over that subtly marks the texture when the paper is made on the cylinder mould.
Choosing the texture of watercolour paper is a personal matter, part of the artist’s creative process, their preferences and techniques and what they paint. There are 3 textures: cold pressed, hot pressed and rough.

Cold pressed (slightly textured) is the one most often used, as it is the most versatile, suited to the majority of techniques or subjects. It offers better diffusion of the colours, reflects the light and gives the pigments a sublimely transparent effect. The paints are distributed evenly over the surface, creating soft transitions between colours. This is especially important for colour gradients and blending.
Cold pressed paper gives you more control; the brushstrokes are clean and precise, making it easier to create textures and specific motifs.

Hot pressed (the finest and smoothest texture) undergoes an extra finishing process: it is pressed between cylinders with a very smooth surface. Ideal for mixed media and dry techniques such as pencil or pastel drawing. Its surface is similar to that of drawing paper, but with the ability to absorb water. Hot pressed ARCHES® Aquarelle paper is not suitable for distemper.
Its fine texture, which can feel “waxed” to the touch, is ideal for illustrations, portraits and precise, detailed works as it allows you to draw fine lines, to lay a light wash over a drawing, to play with colours and create lovely fused effects. The brush and the paints slide easily as the surface of the paper is completely smooth, perfect for areas of solid colour.

Rough paper has the most textured surface. Its grainy surface allows for good adherence of the paints and a soft diffusion of the colours. It allows you to give relief and volume to the colours by playing with the grain of the paper. It is ideal for painting landscapes or creating effects, relief effects especially, as it allows you to add depth and dimension to your painting. It is also recommended for material effects as it enhances the sedimentary effect and accentuates the granularity of the paints.

ARCHES Aquarelle the best paper for watercolours

Which grammage will be best suited to my watercolour technique?

The grammage is the weight of the paper. It is expressed in grammes per square metre.

Thin papers, with a grammage of less than 300 gsm, will therefore be preferred for mixed media work (e.g. watercolour sketches) and dry techniques which require very little humidity.

300 gsm is the most commonly used paper as it can absorb a lot of water. Good absorption is an essential quality for watercolours, as it guarantees an even distribution of the paints.

Thick papers with a grammage of more than 300 gsm allow you to work on wet paper for longer. They can absorb large amounts of water and dry more slowly. A high grammage also prevents the paper from warping when it is soaked with water. Heavier watercolour papers are more robust and durable. They can better withstand washes, corrections and several layers of colour without becoming fragile.

ARCHES® is the only brand to offer an 850 gsm watercolour paper for special extra-large format work using extreme wet techniques.

The watercolour papers in the ARCHES® range are available in 185, 300, 356, 640 and 850 gsm to cover the needs of all artists.

Choose the size of your watercolour sheets according to your particular needs

  • Loose sheets: choose sheets if you want to give your work a certain cachet (deckle edges) and allow its authentication (watermark).
  • Blocks glued on 4 sides: ready for use, these blocks allow you to work outdoors as well as in the studio. The paper is held tightly and evenly, so there is no need to stretch it – all you have to do is paint! The sheet will only be detached from the block once the painting is finished and dry.
  • Blocks glued on 1 side: practical, because you can have several sheets in the same format without having to cut the paper to size. The sheets are held together and protected by a cover so there is no risk of damaging them. Once detached from the block they can be stretched on a board using gummed brown paper tape or masking tape.
  • Spiral travel journal: small enough to slip into a bag. It is therefore perfect for painting anywhere (outdoors, when travelling, etc.). The spiral spine allows you to open it 180° to work on a perfectly flat sheet. Use it to create an album you can keep and leaf through later to rediscover your artistic memories. It also makes a nice gift for an artist.
  • Rolls of paper are the answer if you want to work on a large surface or cut your paper to a particular size.

How can I be sure my watercolours will last without fading over time?

Proper conservation of your watercolours is essential to preserve their beauty and quality over time. Here are some tips to ensure optimum conservation:

  • Avoid leaving your watercolours in direct light and keep them away from heat sources.
  • Store your watercolours away from the light, in a dry atmosphere.
  • Maintain a temperature between 18 and 20°C.
  • Avoid variations in temperature.
  • Choose quality paints and our ARCHES® Aquarelle paper. It is acid-free and has been treated with a fungicide to prevent the appearance of mould.
the best paper for watercolours

The infinity symbol used in the watermark in sheets of ARCHES® Aquarelle paper symbolises permanence, i.e. the ability of our paper to last. Alkaline-reserve, acid-free, OBA-free ARCHES® art papers meet the requirements of the ISO 9706 standard for permanent papers.

Now you know why ARCHES® Aquarelle is the most popular paper with watercolour artists the world over!

ARCHES Aquarelle – Arches Papers (

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