Watercolor Paper Review: Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal: Watercolor Basics

Today we're taking a look at the Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal.

In 2014, when designing and executing additional illustrations for 7" Kara, Volume 1, I gave Bee Paper Aquabee watercolor paper a whirl.  At the time, I tested several watercolor papers to see if any were a fit and affordable replacement for the Canson Montval I regularly used for 7" Kara watercolor comic pages.

Aquabee is 100% cotton rag watercolor paper, and I expected it to behave similarly to Arches or Prestige.

While it wasn't the worst performing paper I'd tested, it certainly wasn't my favorite, and it wasn't a replacement for Arches as my default for nicer illustrations, nor Montval, as my default for affordable watercolor comic pages. Bee Paper just seemed to fall flat.

Ok, so why did you buy a Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal?

I am forever on the search for a good, affordable watercolor sketchbook for studies and doodles.  Sometimes a paper that isn't really suitable for larger illustrations works perfectly fine for watercolor sketches and studies.  And sometimes you can learn to love a paper's quirks and eccentricities, and find unique uses for it, outside of its intended purpose.

So what are we going to find with the Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal today?

First off, the paper used in the Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal is NOT Aquabee watercolor paper.  Aquabee is 100% cotton rag, the paper used in this journal is 25% cotton rag, 75% cellulose base. 

The Stats:
  • Acid Free
  • 'Creamy' off white
  • 160lb (as compared to the common 140lb)
  • Archival
  • 25% Cotton
  • For wet and dry media
  • Black chipboard cover- very sturdy
  • Made in the USA
  • Available in 3 sizes- 5.5"x8", 8"x8", 8.5"x11"
  • 35 sheets
  • Spiral Bound
Where to Buy:

Other Watercolor Products by Bee Paper:100% Cotton Watercolor Paper
Cold Press Watercolor
Watercolor Postcards

The Packaging
Image Source
The Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal features two heavy chipboard covers (front and back) and an enamel covered spiral binding.

Love watercolor?  Then check out my watercolor webcomic, 7" Kara.  7" Kara is a family friendly, all ages comic that follows the adventures of diminutive Kara as she pursues big adventure.  Meeting giants, riding cats- its all in a day's play for Kara!
Can't stand cliffhangers, hate to wait?  Order Volume 1, now in print, from the Natto-shop today!

The Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal needs these chipboard covers (and probably a sturdy rubberband) because the paper is very prone to buckling, as shown in this shot.  This journal was stored for about a year underneath heavy books, and the paper is STILL warped.

Bee Paper watercolor art journal

Inside is a vellum coversheet to help prevent the paints from rubbing onto the cover (an excellent addition), and 35 perforated watercolor sheets.

The Field Test

This isn't quiiite a field test, as I'd already started using this sketchbook.  Rather, this is an illustration that I used for a tutorial, so I have photos and video.

The Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal takes ink fairly well (this was inked with a Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen)

Bee Paper watercolor art journal

For commentary, watch the video!

A Valentine to YouTube - Fieldtesting Bee Paper

What's wrong with this paper?
  • Takes Paint Strangely:
    • Difficult to blend and blend out on this paper, because paper absorbs paint almost immediately
  • Due to this very fast absorption time, may leave streaking with large areas
  • Texture is Weird/Different from Other Cold Press Papers-spongy?
    • Almost like painting on sketchbook paper
  • Paper has longer dry time
    • Bleeding and feathering while paper is still damp
  • Tries to buckle- would need to clip it down
    • Paper bubbles up and kips with too many layers
What's Right with this Paper?

  • Heavy chipboard covers provide a lot of support while holding the sketchbook- but you'd need a few clips for the chipboard to provide support to the paper during painting
  • Vellum flysheet is a great idea and helps protect first illustration- usually I skip  the first page to accomplish the same thing
  • Spirals are enamel covered, making them a little safer to handle

Close up of feathered bleeding in dress and on tail

Just a friendly reminder that I review these materials of my own volition, and out of my pocket.  I see no support whatsoever from any art supply companies or distributors.  Most companies won't even signal boost their own product reviews, and my work has never been featured on a company Instagram.

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Additional Illustrations:

These illustrations were part of a set of Line Tool inspired 7" Kara sticker designs.  Half (not shown) were painted in a Strathmore Watercolor Visual Journal, the other half were painted in this Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal.

This illustration was taped down to minimize buckling.


Left:  Illustration painted on Strathmore Visual Art Journal, Right: Illustration from same series painted on Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal

Full set of Line Inspired sticker designs:

Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal

Bleeding and loss of control in cheek area

The Verdict

I disliked the Bee Paper Watercolor Art Journal that I never finished using it- it's still half empty.  I struggled to get this paper to perform consistently, and even when working within Bee paper's limitations, I still had difficulty getting the effects I wanted. 

I would strongly advise against this watercolor sketchbook.  I've found that the 25/75 mix papers tend to handle worse than 100% cotton rag or 100% cellulose, because they're unpredictable.

Preferred Watercolor Sketchbooks/Workbooks


Outside Resources and Second Opinion
Reviews on DickBlick
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