I’m a paper snob. A necessary trait for someone who has a heavy hand and utilizes wet mediums (Watercolors/Heavy Metal mixes/Gouaches/India Inks). As such, I like to test out various paper stocks to see which can best handle heavy mediums while still being smooth enough to support extensive line-work without forcing a texture.
Over the past two weeks I’ve worked with Blick’s in-store studio watercolor 9×12 paper.
Cost: I got it on sale for six dollars, which is very low for a whole 15 sheets of 9×12.
Specs: 9×12 inch (confirmed with ruler, +- .05 inches depending on the serration), 140ib. weight, with a smooth finish. Acid-free and Cold-press! Both good things. Made in the USA, if you care about that. The 140 pounds is standard for watercolor, but nothing special. I usually like it a higher around 160-180, but that’s just so I don’t have to worry about killing the tooth.
Texture: The texture is extremely smooth, which is what drew me in at first. Smoothness is often a double edged sword, though, as it can often correlate with a weaker tooth, which means I have to be subtle with the watercolors (God-forbid I take my time, right?)
Ink performance: This is a beautiful stock for archival and fountain inks. It can take a good amount of pen punishment without showing indents or pressure lines. I had no issues getting a good range of value either, which means the absorbance isn’t too high (some papers spread ink when you put it down too thick).
Pencil performance: It falters in the higher b pencil range, probably because its pretty thick. Texture lines will show up if you aren’t careful, but the texture is very ordered, so used correctly, this could be a bonus. hb to 6h works perfectly well as long as you sharpen enough. My 4h really liked this paper, it started to scratch above 6, though.
Watercolor performance: This is the part most of you will want to pay attention to, considering its marketed as a watercolor studio level paper. I was a little let down by how quickly the tooth came up in the mid to shadow range of my drawing. I’ve almost never wrecked the tooth with a moderately saturated tone (the middle color of a particular watercolor). Putting down deeper colors was a big struggle and I had to do it dry as the paper didn’t hold well against the paints. It was noticeably worse against my higher quality watercolors, especially ones with metals, despite being acid-free. The glaze from my series 4 amethyst barely shined despite using a bunch of it almost entirely dry.
Metal Performance: As with most smooth Cold-pressed paper, Metals and glue bind well and sink into the tooth if you’re delicate. Very good paper for leafing and adhesives. Here is a link to a piece in which I used extensive adhesives and leafing with this paper: https://bluebeard-art.com/2017/11/30/sagittarius-art-in-progress/
Oil performance: I only used a white oil in the drawing, but it reacted very well with the paper and watercolor and I was able to achieve the low opacity effect I was attempting without any issues.
Conclusion: This is a great stock for light-range watercolors, pen drawings, light use of oils. It suffers quite a bit with wet gouaches and mid-deep tone watercolors as well as heavy metal paints and mixed media projects. Overall, it’s still an excellent stock for the price. In store it was going for eight normally, but online it is listed for a mere 5.72, and I got it for 6 with a membership card.
Rating for price: 7.4/10
Rating overall: 5.6/10
Here is the mixed media painting that I did on the paper. I did quite a bit to repair the damage to the right of her head, but it still showed up in the final project despite two layers of dry oil over it. For these reasons I would not use it for an intensive mixed-media painting, but it performs extremely well for subtler projects, just go easy on the water and saturation and you’ll be fine : )