My usual approach for watercolour work is to just grab the closest piece of available hot press paper and begin working. I had some preparation to do for my upcoming Enchanted Letters workshop so I grabbed my pre-cut watercolour paper and began to work.
Thankfully I have still have a Paper Ink Arts plastic pouch that is filled with pre-cut papers. As a traveling teacher, I never really unpack. I keep pre-cut papers avaiable to pack quickly.
It just saves so much prep time. This little bundle was cut down from the large sheets of the old Arches 300 gm Hot Press Paper and old stock of Fabriano Artistico paper.I know both are old stock because the Arches is over 10 years old and the Fabriano is over 3 years old. Sadly, both of these papers have gone through changes which affect us as lettering artists. The changes in the paper led me to purchasing the Botanical Utlta Smooth paper. This FatPad was purchased through Ken Bromley Art Supplies in the UK.
I had three letters to prepare, and took the opportunity to test all three papers. I was quite suprised at the differences in them. I used the same colours in each of them as well as the same ink, nib, gold leaf and giding medium. Only one brush was used for all of the painting in the letters. The Isabey 6229 Cat's Tongue Brush.
This is my favourite brush for tight and precise work that is needed in The Enchanted Letters. The Botanical paper is 50% cotton watercolour paper and has optical brighteners in it. So it is very white. Also very smooth as the name suggests. It performs similary to a smooth finish Bristol paper in my opinion. I call these "fast papers." You can get quite a tight pointed pen line on the paper, but watercolour effects spread quickly and need to be controlled by using much less water. I was not happy with how the watercolour performed on this paper even though I use a dry brush technique. You have to be really careful with water on this paper. But it gilds beautifully and the real star of this paper is how Finetec Gold watercolour performs. I used a Gillott 404 nib for this piece, and the Finetec gold sits on the surface of the paper. The gold watercolour looks and feels raised. A great effect for the final touch if you can plod through the difficulty of using the paper with watercolour.
The Fabriano Artistico 300gm was used for the S.
Absoloutely no performance problem at all with the watercolor or gilding. But the Finetec Gold is not nearly so bright on it. The gilding is also a bit more subdued compared to the Botanical Ultra Smooth. No special technique required for this paper. It will take more moisture than the Botanical Ultra Smooth and seems to settle into the paper rather than sit on top.
The Old Arches 300gm paper felt the best of all the papers to the touch.
It feels more substantial. It feels like it can absorb washes of water. It does not bruise easily and the colour is a warm white. The pointed pen ink line, in this case was Ziller Buffalo Brown and holds very tightly on the paper. No problems with gilding or painting. Of all three papers, the gold leaf is the least shiny on this paper. Interesting as the Miniautum Ink was used for all three specimens and the same float technique used on all the papers. The Diane Townsend Pastels perform perfectly on all three papers but a lighter touch is needed with the Botanical Ultra Smooth.
This was a fun experiment and it was great to see first hand how differently each of the papers react to the exact same techniques. Sometimes the struggle we feel with our work, can be as simple as changing the paper we are working on. Our techniques need to adapt the products we are using. It is difficult when we find a favourite surface and then the manufacturer changes it! I know the new Arches paper does not perform nearly so well. Rather than being " fast paper" I call it a "sluggish paper'. I can feel it resist the brush and almost pull hairs of the brush. To use the newer Arches, I usually prime the paper with a very light application of clear water and let it dry before I paint my letter. As artists, we need to have several tricks up our sleeves. And the only way to really know what you are working with is to mindfully practice, and be in tune with your materials. Know your products well. Find your favourites and play!