Paper Review: Cottonwood Arts Laminated Coldpress Sheets: Watercolor Basics

It's still World Watercolor Month, and we're continuing our Watercolor Basics theme with another paper review!  Today we're taking a look at Cottonwood Arts Laminated Coldpress Sheets.

These laminated watercolor sheets are not the only self-supporting watercolor option on the market.  Watercolor blocks are also a great option for painters on the go, and many paper companies now offer sheets or boards, such as Canson's Montval Artboard (a later review!).

At the time of purchase, Cottonwood Arts was a new brand for me, and I'd already started the Watercolor Basics (link) series here on the blog.  Cottonwood Arts primarily produces papers that can handle a variety of media- marker, ink, graphite, mixed media, and of course, watercolor. On their website, the Laminated Coldpress Sheets we'll be reviewing today are similar to an available  pack that has ten 10 sheets in size 5"x7", and cost $9.75, less than a dollar a sheet.

Places to buy:
Cottonwood Arts
(these are surprisingly hard to find online!)

The pack was purchased from David's Art Supply in Metairie, Louisiana, in 2015.

The Stats:
  • 6 Sheets Per Pack (also available in 10 sheet packs online)
  • Coldpress paper adhered to chipboard back for stability
  • Cold press
  • Weight is not given, but I assume it's 90lb watercolor paper (probably cellulose derived based on price) attached to chipboard (also cellulose based, possibly acid free?  That would be ideal, but it does not say)

The Packaging:

Like the Bockingford paper we recently reviewed, the Cottonwood Arts paper comes shrinkwrapped.  Unlike the Bockingford paper, sheets are individual, and not attached to a pad by tape or gum.

The packaging contains surprisingly little information about this watercolor paper, so much of the stats listed above are from observation and assumption based on experience.

Be careful when opening the pack- if you can open it juussst right, you can still use the cellophane to hold your unused sheets.

As you can see, the 'laminated' sheets are thicker than cardstock or 140lb paper on its own, thinner than illustration board.

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The Inks:

This illustration was inked with the waterproof Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen.

The paper handled brushpen very well- no smearing, no feathering, and the graphite erased clealy.

The Field Test

Since these are 'laminated' watercolor sheets, they should be able to withstand a fair amount of water and abuse- so I didn't bother to stretch or secure this illustration before dousing it with water.

And although there was some bowing of the chipboard back, it was really rather minimal compared to some of the buckling I've seen with 140lb watercolor papers.

I felt like the Cottonwood Arts paper handled color a bit strangely, and it seemed like a thinner paper (maybe 90lb?  less capable of really handling water and blends- water tends to evaporate immediately) glued to chipboard for support.

 A little bit of bowing and flexing as the board dries.

 This bowing causes the sheet to rock while I painted, which made having a steady hand difficult.

This paper took well to thicker applications of color, and might be ideal for gouache.

Colors did layer fairly vibrantly- sometimes unusual for inexpensive papers, where pigments can settle into mud- although I didn't do any complicated layering or glazing techniques.

The Finished Piece:

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The Verdict:

Currently, I'm inking a few pieces with traditional dip pen and acrylic ink, with plans on watercoloring over them on these watercolor sheets.  I find that the dip pen constantly catches on the paper's surface- not uncommon for cold press papers.  Sometimes watercolor papers that aren't really suitable for watercolor (like Fabriano Studio) are great for brush+ink techniques- Cottonwood Arts sheets may be suitable for that, although the size I used is a bit small for that.

Cottonwood Arts Laminated Coldpress Sheets behave like cheap watercolor paper attached to chipboard- they buckle, cannot hold large amounts of water for wet into wet blending.

Fortunately, they are relatively inexpensive, and may be ideal for your field work, or light pen and ink sketches.  For the most part, the chipboard prevents the paper from buckling and wrinkling excessively, and the quick dry time may be idea for in the field painting.

Outside Resources and Second Opinions:

Mike Hernandez's Supply List for Scottsdale Art School
The Art of Mike Hernandez Kickstarter


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