For this Watercolor Warmup, I’ll be testing out some 300lb watercolor paper – and painting a very simple house plant!

It’s the start of a series that’ll be getting its legs under it in July during World Watercolor Month; I’ve wanted to “redo” the paper comparison I did wayyyyyy back when I knew nothing about painting. Ha! I had such hutzpah. I thought just splashing paint on paper would work, I didn’t need to have any other knowledge, just make some blobs of color and make recommendations. How silly I was!

But honestly I did what a lot of newbies do. Just play with blobs. It’s a lot easier than learning to paint and THEN pontificating; so there’s that. But it’s why I generally am not in favor of swatch charts for any medium – they don’t tell you a thing about how something actually performs….just how it performs in a blob.

But that shall be replaced, for me, in a multipart paper assessment, and that’ll be a long project that’ll one day culminate in a new overall comparison. Whee!

Tutorial: Watercolor Warmup: Leaves (paper test #1)

Speedball’s Fluid 300lb paper is up to bat first; let’s do it!

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Fluid 300lb watercolor paper block

The paper surface feels like it’s cotton; if you touch, say, an Arches cold press and compare it with a Canson Montval (PLEASE DO NOT FINGER PAPERS IN ART STORES!) you’ll know what that difference is like. Student grade papers are made with a mix of cotton and something else, and fine art papers are all cotton – and you can pretty much feel the difference. Cheaper papers are a bit….slicker? That might be a good word for it.

The Fluid, made by Speedball, definitely feels like cotton – even softer than other papers though. More like a letterpress softness. I think of Speedball (maybe incorrectly) as the company focused on printmaking – I have a bunch of their supplies that I hope to eventually get to using for some linocut projects soon. So this paper could be absolutely perfect for that.

But the texture is not the cold press I’m used to. It’s more…machine like. Regular. That doesn’t mean it won’t paint well, just a different texture, so the performance I’m used to in paint traveling up and down the valleys of a cold press paper is not going to be the same

Performance assessment

 This paper did a few things I was unprepared for:

  1. Fast absorption – I thought something called Fluid might flow more. But – it did do slightly better when I really saturated it by using a bigger brush that expelled more onto the paper; just not as much as other papers. Might be because it’s 300lb, so I’ll test some 140lb later in this series to see if it’s the same.
  2. Pilling – meaning fragments of paper fibers loosened from the surface and can be seen floating in the pigment. Often those disappear when dry – the fibers just dust off, and sometimes just seem to disappear like magic. But on any paper that does this, the simpler the strokes you make, the better – no scrubbing. My painting style doesn’t often encompass that, so this paper isn’t one that draws me in!
  3. Lifting underlayers – while all watercolor papers will lift color underneath, this seemed way too easy to do that on the Fluid. Again, a simpler brushstroke will fix that, so some is user error. I’ll be looking at this when testing this paper with landscapes etc, too.

The testing series

I’ll be diving into more of this testing series in July; not sure how long it’ll be but I’ve been slowly collecting a variety of papers! I plan to paint simple houseplants at this same size so I have an apples-to-apples comparison, then in the days after the first test, I’ll play in the background with looser paintings and subjects more in my style.

If you want to see those tests, follow my 2nd instagram account or see the summaries I’ll post at Artventure. I’ll be using those as my “notes” for an eventual overall comparison of papers later.

As I paint houseplants I’ll also be playing with various combos of colors for houseplants, even going outside my palette. The Cobalt Blue and Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow) were interesting; some of the bluer color made me think this is a great combo when you want some Cascade Green but without the granulation – and the option to go more yellowgreen if desired.

See a study I did with Cascade Green here.


World Watercolor Month is coming!

Every July I serve as an ambassador for World Watercolor Month – this year is no different! As artists, Charlie leads us in the effort to fundraise to enable others – children! – to make art….through the International Child Art Foundation. To that end, we each send him a painting to use for merch to raise funds.

This year instead of picking a previous painting, I created something specifically FOR this effort. And there’ll be a video to kick off WWCM! But you can go right now and purchase a mug or zipper pouch – and help kiddo artists!

Visit my page in the shop

What paper questions do you have?

As I work through this series, I hope to be able to answer more questions than “is this good?” I’ll be explaining terminology, etc, so if there’s something that’s been on your mind, drop me an email or a comment that I can add to the list!


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  1. June from Minnesota

    Now I know why I get pilling! I work the paint too much!
    I would be interested in seeing you paint some FERNS- I love to see them in the woods during a hike. Fiddle heads are so interesting and I’ve heard they can be delicious 🙂

  2. Miriam

    I’m always so amazed with your painting, for me’s like magic., you start with lines here and there, and at the end it’s this beautiful painting with the a blend of the perfect colors! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Janis I. Carlson are such a great talent. watching you paint these simple leaves was so enjoyable. i am motivated to try and copy what you have done. I love the different greens from these two paint colors. always enjoy your talent .. it is so motivating to those of us out here. And, your calm, talking is a positive part of this creating that you do. Thanks for showing us how.


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