Dear aspiring artist friend,
The paper you choose can make or break your illustration. 😏 Seriously though, while there are artists who can create stunning artwork on napkins or paper cups, if you're working with watercolors, it is so important to choose the right sketchbook or paper pad to achieve the best results.
Now, let me tell you about some of my absolute favorites that I've tried and tested! I primarily work with gouache watercolor and colored pencils, so I'm always on the hunt for a versatile multimedia surface that can handle my creative whims. Whether you're an experienced artist or just starting, you're sure to find something to love on this list!
Find Your Perfect Watercolor Sketchbook: My Top Picks
Here are my top picks:
Stillman and Birn Sketchbook Zeta Series - This one's my personal favorite! I've tried almost every size, but I'm especially in love with their pocket-sized version. The paper is thick and smooth, making it perfect for pen and colored pencil work. While it's not the best option for heavy watercolor use, it can handle some light washes if you're careful not to overwork it. If you're looking for a more watercolor-friendly option, try their Delta Series instead!
Stillman and Birn Sketchbook Delta Series - The ivory-colored pages on this one are a real treat for the eyes! The thick paper and cold-pressed surface texture make it an ideal choice for painting. Plus, the pages won't warp, so you can create to your heart's content without any worries.
My Mellow Days Watercolor Bujo - It's honestly one of my all-time favorite bullet journals! The creators, Cynthia and Simon, have ingeniously incorporated watercolor paper into a bullet journal, making it an absolute dream for anyone who loves to paint in their journals. The paper can handle both watercolor and ink beautifully, with no ghosting or shadowing on the other side. Plus, the fine texture on the surface gives it an extra special touch. And if you want to try out their new plain paper watercolor sketchbook, be sure to use my code "dearelaine" for 10% off your purchase!
Paul Ruebens - Now, I know that quality paper can sometimes come with a hefty price tag. That's why I was thrilled to discover the Paul Ruebens 100% Cotton Paper sketchbook - it's one of the most affordable cotton paper options I've ever seen! While the sizing may not be to everyone's taste, the cotton paper is perfect for watercolorists who love soft paint transitions. Plus, the pages are thick, the surface has a fine grain, and they're even perforated so you can easily tear off your masterpiece to share with the world (or scrap an oopsie page - we've all been there!). 🤗
Hahnemühle Sketchbook - Last but not least, this one's been my go-to for most of my flower tutorials. The cold-pressed texture gives it a more grainy feel compared to my other sketchbooks, but it still works like a charm with gouache, watercolor, and colored pencils.
Find Your Perfect Watercolor Paper Pad
And if you're looking for watercolor paper pads, let me give you a quick rundown of some key things to keep in mind. Hot-pressed watercolor paper has an extra smooth surface, while cold-pressed has a textured surface. And there's a variety of texture options within the cold-pressed category, so you can choose what suits your style best! Additionally, watercolor paper comes in cellulose and cotton options - cotton tends to keep the paper moist for longer, which I love when I'm working on loose florals. However, cellulose paper can be a more affordable option for practice.
No matter what your skill level or preference, there's a sketchbook or watercolor paper pad out there that's perfect for you. So go ahead and experiment until you find your next favorite surface to create on.
Happy painting! 💕
If you want more recs, here's a video of 10 of my favorite art supplies: