Discovering Watercolors and My Favorite Watercolor Paper

Some old and new favorites

From my youngest memories I was constantly coloring, painting or sewing. Luckily, my parents and grandparents encouraged me in this.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts from my grandparents was a Disney drawing desk that had clear plastic overlays that taught you how to draw Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto!

By my 8th Christmas, I was constantly hand sewing something so my father bought me a real sewing machine. It was a metal Holly Hobby Sewing machine that took the same sewing machine needles as my mother’s sewing machine took. I was SO excited about this and I could not have been prouder! But that’s another story for another day!

Today, I wanted to talk about watercolors and my favorite watercolor paper…

Designs by Rachel Beth handmade watercolors palette

A little background: When I was 9 my mother remarried and I inherited approximately 40 of the most wonderful Aunts, Uncles and cousins a child could ask for!! We would gather at one Auntie’s gigantic farmhouse for at least one weekend every month.

The big white house was down a long tree lined driveway, had a wrap around porch and could have been out of Gone with the Wind!

It had 10 bedrooms and every bedroom had 4 double beds with true feather down mattresses and plenty of room to spare!

Us children would sleep 4 to a bed because we could! The feather mattresses were like clouds! The beds were so high that we thought climbing into these beds was like climbing a mountain and then we would jump into the mattress and sink deep in! What fun! Lol

On one of these visits, I met Aunt Kathy and Uncle Howard. They were like celebrities! No one knew they were coming that weekend, they drove up in a fancy car, everyone was so excited that they were there and everyone wanted to be close to them!

Aunt Kathy would become one of my favorite Aunties and Uncle Howard became a hero to me. He was a true war hero and had survived being a prisoner of war and tortured during the Korean war. The adults were always whispering about it and I never learned more than that.

Aunt Kathy was a highschool art teacher. A true career women with the most wonderful clothes! She was very sophisticated and had a beautiful Texan accent. She encouraged all my artistic endeavors and gave me tips on how to do things in the “proper” way. But, when it came to watercolors, her “encouragement” actually scared me!

She told me, in her sweet southern drawl all about the “rules” of watercolor painting. When I got home, I put the watercolors away and didn’t touch them again for YEARS! Lol (of course, I never told Aunt Kathy this!)

When I did finally decide to try watercolors again, it was with great caution and little confidence.

Then one day I saw that my friend and favorite artist Mindy Lacefield was offering a watercolor class, so I decided to register for her class. I was surprised to find out that she felt the same way about watercolors as I did! ( You can learn more about Mindy at

She said she had always been afraid of watercolors because of all the rules and that we were going to break all those rules because rules were meant to be broken!

And then she proceeded to paint with watercolors in the same way you paint with Acrylics!


Oh, The shock…


OH, WHAT WOULD AUNT KATHY SAY?? Was she turning in her grave??!!…

OK, maybe not scandal and I’m sure Aunt Kathy probably would have just shook her head and forgave me for breaking those rules she told me about…but I couldn’t believe it!

After that class, I put my acrylics away and threw myself into watercolor painting and I haven’t looked back.

I just LOVE the medium! Technically, I do more of a mixed media kind of art, as opposed to straight forward watercolor but I think of it as watercolor.

A mermaid paperdoll on Fabriano hot press watercolor paper

Also, another thing that was holding me back was that I do not like the heavily textured, traditional watercolor paper.

To that end, I went through a process of testing every brand of watercolor paper that I could get ahold of in the hope of finding a paper that I really liked and in my research I found out that there is such a thing as smooth watercolor paper. It is called Hot Press paper. Again, MIND BLOWN! Lol

I found that my #1 favorite paper is Fabriano Hot Press Satinata Studio Watercolor paper. It is 25% cotton, 140 lbs/300 gsm. This paper is made in Italy, very pricey and well worth every penny! Your paint brush simply glides across the paper as if you are painting on air!

Fabriano Studio Watercolor Paper Pad
Hot Press 300GSM/140 LB

Unfortunately, this particular Fabriano paper does not come in 4×6 or block form, which I have found to be my favorite size and form of paper… For those of you wondering what a “watercolor block” is, the entire pad of paper is bound together on the sides and after your painting dries, you remove the top layer/your painting. This helps keep the paper from deforming/curling from the water as it dries.

There is an entire line of Fabriano watercolor paper but the Hot Press Satinata Studio Watercolor Paper pictured above is my favorite.

My 2nd favorite paper is Arches Hot Press Watercolor paper. Arches Hot Press Watercolor paper comes in block form, it is 100% cotton, 140 LB/300GSM and has a Satine surface (though not as smooth a surface as the Fabriano Hot Press WC paper).

Arches Watercolor Paper Block
Hot Press, 300GSM/140 LB

My 3rd favorite paper is Fluid Brand Hot Press Watercolor Paper. It is acid free, 140 LB or 300GSM, has a satiny finish, comes in block form and in many sizes. It is made in the US by Speedball Art Products, the price is very reasonable and it is a great everyday paper!

Fluid Watercolor Paper
140LB/300gsm Hot Press Block

If you are in the process of looking for watercolor paper, I hope this helps! As Jane Davenport says, Life is too short for bad paper!


A new palette that I’m waiting to arrive
Handcrafted Watercolors
by Jen Pfeiffer of
Pfeiffer Art Supplies

Published by sharietomlinson

I’m Sharie. Owner of Butterfly Bunny Studio and The Urban Duck. Mixed Media Watercolor Artist, Bunny & Disney Lover, Avid Gardener, Proud Mother to Josh, Bunny Momma to Princess Buttercup Bunny and Wifey to Jason. I am located in Columbia, Md but I’m a Harford County girl at heart! You can find me on Etsy at and on Instagram at @notjoshsmom Email me at

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