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Choosing Your Watercolour Paper: Texture and Weight

Choosing the right paper for your watercolour paintings can be a challenging task — What’s wrong with regular paper? What are the differences between the textures? What does GSM mean? 

Read on for answers to these questions!



When met with water, regular paper tears easily. On the other hand, watercolour paper is heavier, does not tear so easily, and absorbs pigments well.

Two important factors are texture and weight.


There are three kinds of watercolour paper surfaces:

  1. Hot-pressed
  2. Cold-pressed (NOT)
  3. Rough 


Cold-pressed (NOT)


Smoothest, little to no tooth

Medium textured

Most textured

Least absorbent 

Little pigment penetrates the surface

More time to move the paint around before it dries

Medium absorbency

Deeper penetration by some pigments

Less time to move the paint around before it dries

Most absorbent

Pigment penetrates deeply into the fibres of the paper

Less time to move the paint around before it dries

Good for fine and subtle details 

E.g. Botanical art

Good for both detailed works and large, smooth washes



Good for granulation and washes, creates a grainy effect

E.g. Bold and expressive paintings

Not for wet-on-wet application

Some wet-on-wet application

Good wet-on-wet application

Cold-pressed paper is most commonly used because it allows for some detailed work while also giving your work some texture. 

But ultimately, it depends on the kind of subjects you are working on.


Weight is measured in pounds (lbs) or grams per square metre (GSM). 

The higher the weight, the thicker the paper and the more water it can take. 

Lighter papers are cheaper, but buckle when wet. They need to be stretched before use. This process involves paper being wet and fastened to 4 sides of a firm surface, then allowing it to be dried. Light papers are those less than 300GSM.

Heavy papers are more expensive, but can withstand multiple washes and do not usually require stretching. Heavy papers are those more than 550GSM.

We hope this guide has been helpful in picking the right watercolour paper for your work. Check out footnotes™ notebooks for watercolour-friendly notebooks you can carry around.