Monday, May 28, 2018

Canson Montval Watercolor Paper Review

7" Kara Chapter 5 Cover
As longtime readers know, I'm a watercolor comic artist.   Or at least, I consider comics my craft, and watercolor my primary medium.  I also do kidlit illustration, but my true passion lies in comics.  Montval is where my two interests coincide.

Canson Montval is the first cellulose based cold press watercolor paper I've reviewed in a while.   When it comes to illustration, I've moved mainly to cotton rag papers (although I do use Fabriano Studio for inks on occasion, as I like the tooth), but for comic pages, I work almost exclusively on Montval.  I find Montval to be a perfect combination to suit my needs- it comes in a useful size, so I don't have to cut it down, it runs through my printer easily, it's quite affordable, it comes in 20 sheet packs, and it can handle almost everything I throw at it, while retaining sharp detail.

All 7" Kara pages post Chapter 1 have been painted on Canson Montval Watercolor Paper.  This means I've had almost six years of experience painting on Montval, and have painted almost 200 watercolor comic pages on this paper, so I have a lot of experience with this paper.

Montval is probably not a suitable paper for watercolorists or every illustrator, but it's quite suited to my watercolor comic needs.  Over the two years I've worked on my Watercolor Basics series, many of the comic focused tutorials were painted on Montval watercolor paper.

Canson Montval is considered a student grade watercolor paper (although I can't understand learning on a paper that doesn't perform like the papers you want to upgrade to), and there have been some complaints about it going downhill.  I haven't experienced this issue yet, and hope I never experience it while painting 7" Kara pages.  You should note that I ALWAYS stretch Montval paper (unless it's in my Montval Sketchbook)- Montval buckles badly if not stretched.

Note:  All images in this blogpost are from 7" Kara, and are on Canson Montval watercolor paper.  If you want to see how Montval performs, page after page, please go read the comic, it's free.

Comic page painted on Canson Montval coldpress watercolor paper
Page from Chapter 2

The Stats:
  • Cellulose-based paper
  • 90lb-140lb, with several weights in between
  • Available in Cold Pressed and 'Snowy Grain'
  • Sheets- 22"x30 (124lb), 22"x30" (140lb)
  • Rolls- 36"x5yd, 38"x5yd
  • Pads (140lb) 9"x12", 10"x15", 15"x20", 18"x24", 5.5"8.5", 9"x12"
  • Albums- 10"x7", 14"x11"
  • Art Board (90lb)- 16"x20", 20"x30"
  • Blocks (140lb)- 4"x6", 6"x9", 9"x12", 12"x16", 15"x20"
  • Wirebound Sketchbooks (140lb) 8.5"x5.5", 9"x12" (I've only found these thru Amazon)
  • Cards with envelopes- 5"x7" (I've only found these thru Amazon)
  • Acid free
  • Suitable for watercolor, gouache, ink wash, and acrylic
  • Available from DickBlick, Amazon, Cheap Joe's 

Comic page painted on Canson Montval coldpress watercolor paper
Page from Chapter 3


Price Comparison:

Cellulose Papers:

Canson Montval
Canson Montval 140lb 10"x15" tape-bound pad, 12 sheets: $8.35 on Blick

Canson XL
Canson XL 140lb 11"x15", tape-bound pad, 30 sheets- $7.13 on Blick

Blick Studio
Blick Studio 140lb 11"x15", 15 sheets: $7.63 on Blick

Fabriano Studio
Fabriano Studio, 140lb, 11"x14" tape-bound pad, 12 sheets: $8.25 on Blick

Cotton Rag Papers:

Moulin du Roy
Moulin du Roy Coldpress Watercolor Paper, 140lb, tape bound pad 11.8"x15.7", 12 sheets  $22.91 on Amazon 

Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro Bright White Coldpress Watercolor Paper 11"x14", 20 sheets- $29.99 on Cheap Joe's 

Arches 
Arches Cold Press Watercolor Paper, 140lb, tape bound pad 10"x14", 12 sheets- $14.11 on Blick

Blick Premiere 
Blick Premiere Cold Press Watercolor Paper, 140lb, block or sheet only, 10"x14", 20 sheets- $21.10 on Blick


Comic page painted on Canson Montval coldpress watercolor paper
Chapter 7 Cover

How does it Compare to Cotton Rag Paper?

Canson Montval is a cellulose (woodpulp) based paper, so it has some limitations.  It doesn't hold water well, and dries quickly, so blending and washes can be limited, especially around tight corners.  Although it holds onto pigment better than many other cellulose watercolor papers I've tried, it doesn't quite hold a candle to my favorite cotton rag papers in terms of blend-ability and color vibrancy.  You may find your techniques a bit limited (mainly to glazing) on cellulose papers, and Montval isn't different.

That said, Montval handles multiple glazes well, dries quickly to allow for fairly rapid page progression, works well for watercolors and watercolor pencils, holds tight detail, and is fairly forgiving.



Comic page painted on Canson Montval coldpress watercolor paper
Page from Chapter 6
Pros:

  • Dries very quickly as a cellulose paper, so pages can be worked quickly
  • Right ratio for comic pages (10"x15")
  • Very affordable paper
  • Runs through printer easily, and bluelines dissolve quickly
  • When stretched, will not buckle or cockle excessively
  • Colors are bright and vibrant
  • Colors layer well
  • Performs better than average for cellulose watercolor papers
Cons:

  • Dries very quickly, so streaky blends, streaky washes
  • Not capable of some of the wet into wet techniques cotton rag papers can handle due to short 'open' time
  • High quality paint brands, such as Daniel Smith, are somewhat wasted on this paper, as it's only capable of so much
  • VERY responsive to weather- in Nashville it dries too fast, in Louisiana, it never seems to dry
  • Buckles if you don't stretch it

Comic page painted on Canson Montval coldpress watercolor paper
Page from Chapter 6

As you can see in this night scene, I had difficulty getting a diffused blend from dark to light- the paper dried too fast for me to properly blend the color out.

Comic page painted on Canson Montval coldpress watercolor paper
Page from Chapter 4


The Verdict:

Canson's Montval is my choice for watercolor comic pages because it's economical and behaves predictably.   I find it excellent for this purpose, although I rarely use it for standalone illustrations, as I prefer cotton rag papers such as Moulin du Roy and Kilimanjaro.

Is Montval the right choice for your watercolor comics?  For projects as time consuming, long-term, involved, and personal as watercolor comics,  its important to find the right paper for you.  I highly recommend you test out various papers to see if they serve your needs, and I hope you use my reviews to help guide your testing.

See It In Action:

7" Kara Chapter 6 Watercolor Prep- Penciling Borders:


Painting A Comic! Watercolor Tutorial:


Painting Pages- Working on a Double Page Comic Spread:


Watercolor in Progress: Painting 7 Inch Kara:



Second Opinions and Outside Resources:
ThoughtCo: Paper Weight
DickBlick: Canson Watercolor Paper Packs
Canson-Canson Montval
DickBlick: Canson Montval
Canson Montval Sketchbook Review
The Ultimate Watercolor Paper Comparison| Comparing 24 Types of Watercolor Paper
Cardstocks and Watercolor Papers: My Favorites and When To Use Them
See Be Draw: Compare Watercolor Papers: Canson Montval and Winsor and Newton Cotman
WetCanvas- Canson Watercolor Paper
Amazon Reviews: Canson Montval- Roll
Amazon Reviews: Canson Montval- Pad