Stonehenge Aqua Watercolor Paper

Finding the Best Hot Press Paper

I have long been on the search for the ideal hot press watercolor paper. Watercolor artists face new challenges as manufacturers are acquired by other companies or switch to a different paper mill, causing unexpected shifts in paper quality.

Featured Painting:
'Field of Dreams'—watercolor by Ken Hosmer
(on Stonehenge Aqua cold press paper)

Each year as I aspire to New Year's resolutions, I set my sights on trying new painting methods, new ideas, or in this case a new brand of watercolor paper. To test the paper, I chose old cars as my subject and decided to do two paintings: one on hot press paper and one on cold press paper.

The Basics
Watercolor paper is classified into three surface textures: rough (very textured), cold press (less textured), and hot press (smooth). Cold press paper is commonly recommended in most painting workshops. Therefore, hot press paper is often overlooked as an option, even by more experienced painters. Hot press paper has a smooth surface which enhances crisp brush strokes and organic paint flow textures. It will also create more surface bloom which can also add a rich textural quality to watercolor paintings.

Watercolor on Stonehenge Aqua hot press paper

The Search
In the past, I loved to paint on hot press paper. Although the paper was somewhat less forgiving than the traditional cold press paper, the end results included some of my best and most exciting paintings. Then some years ago I began having difficulties with paper quality. So the search was on for a "great" hot press paper.

Many brands of hot press paper have difficulties. Some papers easily slough-off or abrade while attempting to lift paint with a sponge. This changes the surface texture, making correction difficult. Some papers are prone to sizing issues either caused by uneven sizing during manufacture or by mold organisms attacking the sizing during storage. This symptom becomes evident when the new sheet of white paper is wet for a painting. The paper looks like it has oily spots, which may, or may not, disappear when the painting dries. A good hot press paper does not have these issues.

This past fall, I taught a workshop in Vancouver, Washington. One evening at the First Friday Art Walk, while touring galleries, we ran across a series of beautiful bird paintings on hot press watercolor paper. The artist, Bev Jozwiak, kindly shared that she was using Stonehenge paper.

Close-Up of Hot Press Paint Texture

Stonehenge Aqua
This paper is Manufactured in the U.S.A. and distributed by Legion Paper. (Incidentally, the paper has no watermark.)

Stonehenge Hot press—my new favorite hot press—is a great paper. It is heavily sized and very sturdy. I was able to easily remove a section of paint with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge, and repaint the area with no paper damage. Washes flow evenly, yet it is easy to create crisp bloom texture by adding extra water to moist areas.

Stonehenge Cold press—paper texture runs smoother than Arches cold press. This paper is heavily sized, has excellent paint dispersion, and is easy to lift or soften edges after the paint is dry. Because of the heavy sizing, glazing must be done cautiously to avoid lifting the previous under layers. This excellent paper is similar in handling to the "old" Winsor and Newton paper.

Close-Up of Cold Press Paper

To learn more, see: How to Select Watercolor Paper