I’ve tried many different types of papers and watercolor boards to see which works best for my type of painting. You may choose something else to work with for yourself….experiment to find out the surface and type and manufacturer you like to work with best. I’ve chosen to work mainly on Arches 300 lb. hot pressed paper for my large major paintings. This paper is thick and heavy and does not need any stretching. Another added benefit is that it won’t buckle and if you mess up the front, flip it over and start again on the back. Also, it takes a lot of correction or working on the surface if you need to make changes by scrubbing out, erasing, scraping with an exacto, sanding, etc. Occasionally I will use Arches 140 lb. hot pressed paper for some small studies or paintings such as my birds but I don’t soak and stretch that either. Most papers need to have the surface “washed” or brushed over with clear water to remove the sizing that is on the surface. I use a wide bristle brush for that and don’t really get the paper soaking wet when I do it. Hot pressed paper does not have the bumps and texture that cold pressed paper does so the paint blends and dries smoother without puddling into little depressions that the cold press has. You may want that effect though and would be happier with a “bumpy surface” to work on.
Another surface I enjoy working on is Gesso Board by Ampersand. It has a white clay coating on a masonite type base. It can be bought in a textured surface or a smooth surface. Ampersand makes boards for other media so be sure you purchase the watercolor board by them. The benefits of this board is that it doesn’t have to have glass over it. You can seal the painting and frame it when you are done. Also, you can easilly lift color off for highlights or changes. I have found that it is difficult to get large blending washes such as skies with it though as the clay surface soaks the paint up and prevents it from moving and blending as it does on paper.
Never work on thin, cheap paper. You will not get good results, it will buckle horribly, and boy will you become frustrated. Arches watercolor paper is 100% cotton and will not get yellow and brittle over the years. Some cheap watercolor papers actually have wood products in them and are not archival and washes do not work nearly as good as on Arches or other quality paper. Even if you are just learning or practising opt for the good paper so you can see how watercolor paint should really work and you never know you just might make a masterpiece you want to save while practising! I hope this information is helpful to you. Keep painting…..Cordially, Doris