In my student days I had a watercolour teacher who told me to buy the best painting equipment I could afford, and that wise advice has always stayed with me. “It is better to invest in one good brush than buy several cheap ones.” With that in mind I bought a Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable brush years ago that I only recently replaced. The same is true with paints. A few good tubes of artist grade pigment will reward you with better colours and mixes than student quality tubes. But where the difference is most noticeable is with paper. Sheet watercolour paper — 100% cotton rag — no matter if it is Arches, Fabriano, Waterford or Winsor & Newton yields far superior results than most sketchbook paper (except for the Stillman & Birn books), and allows you to do so much more (lifting, scraping, glazing, wet-in-wet). Where I notice the difference the most is in the way the paint granulates on the paper. I’ll admit I love the convenience of sketchbooks, but most of the time when the sketch is done I look at it and think that the result would look 100 times better on a sheet of good watercolour paper.


15 Comments on “Comparison”

  1. Alison says:

    Delicious! Inspiring and instructive… as I have been trying to capture pears in watercolour. How about a winter workshop on painting fruit! 😉

  2. Thank you so much for all the advice you give us.It really is appreciated. And your sketches are paintings, should be framed.

  3. Valerie says:

    100% agreement on the poor quality of water color paper in most books. I bought a large pad a quality watercolor paper, cut the paper down to desired sizes, and bound several different sketchbooks of my own making with the plastic comb binding spines that can be bought at Staples. Our school has the machine that cuts the holes. If you know a school employee you could crank off a dozen for a plate of cookies. A professional printing company (maybe even Staples) will bind for a fee. I like the versatility: folded pages for panoramas, narrow side binding so landscaper formats are all upright, move pages around, different types of paper, different number of pages in the book depending on the project, move pages between books, You’ll never go back to industry designed watercolor books once you DIY to your own needs.

    • I like this idea Valerie. Do you use something sturdy for a backing?

      • Valerie says:

        I’ve used cardboard from cereal boxes, granola boxes, etc. I’m cutting a new horizontal book at this very moment. I’m using 140 lb. paper. I like to round the corners with scissors for comfort. I flip over every other page so the texture matches on facing pages. A classy way to go would be 200 lb paper for covers. Michaels sells metal corner protectors for album pages that could classy up the book. Also fun is to buy used books with interesting covers. I cut out the pages except for an inch wide tab by the spine. I tacky glue quality paper onto some of the paper tabs, only enough pages so the book still closes well. These are good for stealth sketching. Val”cheap”erie

  4. Ros Jenke says:

    Love your blog – so inspiring – superb painting. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Ross says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I say the same thing to people who ask about buying a musical instrument… on a good quality instrument, you will sound better and they are easier to play… the result is that you are inclined to play more often, meaning that you improve faster… well worth the investment!
    However, I have the feeling with you that you could probably produce good works from a cheap set of supermarket paints and brushes.

  6. So true, Shari, I’ve stuck with books too long. Time to pull out some watercolor sheets…

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