Friday, July 21, 2017

Paper Review: Bockingford Watercolor Paper: Watercolor Basics

Hey arty friends!  Today we're reviewing St Cuthbert's Bockingford Watercolor paper, as part of our month long World Watercolor Month celebration here on the blog.



This pad was purchased a year ago, after hearing about it at the Nashville Pla-Za's Hands on Creativity event, from the Winsor and Newton rep.  This rep mentioned that ColArts, Winsor and Newton's parent company, had recently purchased Bockingford paper.  The rep seemed really excited by this acquisition, comparing it to Arches, and the excitement was contagious.  I wanted to give it a shot.

Edit:  According to the St Cuthbert's rep that tweeted me, this isn't true.  Apparently they are owned by F.I.L.A of Italy.   

I couldn't find Bockingford locally at Pla-Za or Jerry's Artarama for a number of months, so I took matters into my own hands, and ordered it from Amazon.  You can now also find it through DickBlick

The Stats:
  • Full Name: St Cuthberts Mill Bockingford
  • Mould Made
  • Available in two finishes: CP/Not (Cold press) and Rough Press
  • Available in a variety of colors- white, cream, grey, eggshell, blue, and oatmeal
  • Available in Sheets, Rolls, Pads, Spirals, and Blocks.
  • Woodfree bleached chemical pulp (what is this, even?  Is it a cellulose base that's been artifically modified to make it acid free?)
  • St Cuthbert's Mill also makes two other watercolor papers- Saunders Waterford and Milford, neither of which I have had the opportunity to review.

The tagline for St Cuthbert's Bockingford is "Quality at an Affordable Price"

The paper we're reviewing today is a block of Bockingford in White with the CP (cold press) finish.

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The Packaging

My Bockingford watercolor paper came shrink wrapped in plastic, which required a knife and +10 dex to open.


On the back was a sticker requesting that we promote their product for free and leave positive reviews on Facebook (kidding- it was just their Facebook info)


Once free of it's shrink wrapped prison, my Bockingford paper (I'd purchased a pad, not a block) was ready for use.



"Bockingford is a beautiful white English watercolor paper, traditionally made on a cylinder mould machine at St Cuthbert's Mill.  This is a high quality paper made using pure materials to archival standards.

It's attractive surface is created using natural woollen felts that give it a distinctive random texture.  Appreciated for its excellent colour lifting abilities.  This is an extremely forgiving watercolour paper valued by professional and amateur artists around the world.

Bockingford offers quality watercolour paper at an affordable price. "

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The Field Test

The Transfer Image

Image was sketched with Color Eno lead in Soft Blue.


6B Graphite was applied to the back of the image.



Image was taped down, then penciled with significant pressure to transfer the image to the watercolor paper below.


The Watercolor:

Paper was taped to my desktop.  I recommend removing your 'craft sheet' from your desktop first- you want to tape your paper to a secure surface.


For this field test, I wanted to do a style study of Takahashi Macoto, as I love his beautiful shoujo illustrations.





















Finished Scan



The Verdict:

  • Decent amount of texture
  • Surface is visibly wet for a fair mount of time
  • This paper handles blending strangely- usually colors that can be softened with water still leave a fairly hard edge
  • Sedimenting colors look really strange and pebbly on this paper.
  • I used this paper for a Takahashi Macoto style test, so I may need to do more testing before I can give a verdict.
  • Colors were fairly vibrant
When testing this paper, I had expected something similar to Arches (soft, easy blends, subtle shading) and felt somewhat disappointed by how little texture is on the paper surface, especially compared to Winsor and Newton's own watercolor paper.  I'd like to revisit this paper and try a few other techniques with it, as perhaps this field test was not the best representation of what this paper is capable of.

A year ago, when Bockingford was harder to find, and more expensive on Amazon, I would say this is worth skipping, as there are other papers in the US which perform almost as well.  Now that Bockingford is more accessible, and given the fact that it's available in tinted sheets (something I must try soon!), my verdict is slightly altered- if you have the money, and are interested in trying out a new watercolor paper, give it a shot!

For more watercolor tutorials, and watercolor supply reviews, please check out my Watercolor Basics hubpage!

Outside Sources and Second Opinions