Bockingford watercolor paper is mould made paper from St. Cuthberts Mill. It’s a high-quality paper, available in cold press, hot press, and rough, in a wide range of sizes and formats. It’s also available in five different tints.
Today, I’m reviewing the cold press and hot press surfaces in a 7 x 5 inch spiral pad format.
Bockingford Watercolor Paper – Specs
- Color: White
- Paper Weight: 300 gsm/ 140 lb
- Format: Spiral Pad (also comes in other formats)
- Size: 180 s 130 mm/7 x 5 in (available in many sizes)
- Surface: Cold Press & Hot Press
- No. Of Sheets: 12
- Content: 100% wood-free bleached chemical pulp
- Characteristics: Mould made, acid free, archival, highly lightfast, internally sized, buffered with calcium carbonate for added protection, pH 7-9, short grain
- Good for: watercolor, pastel, gouache, acrylic, pencil, charcoal, pen and ink
These spiral pads come in three surfaces – Not (aka cold press), hot press and rough. I’m reviewing the Not and Hot Press today.
The paper is 100% wood-free bleached chemical pulp, calcium carbonate buffered, pH 7-9, and internally sized. It does not have gelatin surface sizing, which is uncommon for this kind of paper. St Cuthbert’s Mill recommends stretching to avoid buckling, and being extra careful with masking fluid. That said – I had no problem removing either masking tape or masking fluid. I didn’t stretch or tape down and did have some curling, especially with the hot press.
The structure of the paper is stiff, more likely to bend than fold.
Although not cotton, Bockingford watercolor papers are mould made, which enhances the stability. They are acid free and archival. In fact St Cuthbert’s Mill claims the paper will last for 100s of years, without deterioration, in good storage condition.
It is very easy to lift color. Very easy, but remember I mentioned the stability above? This ease in color removal is both the biggest strength and greatest weakness of the paper.
Painting on this paper reminds me a bit of working on mineral paper. You can’t wash all the paint off like you can with mineral paper. You can work color to a light to medium tint, and continue to paint over the lifted areas with ease.
The surface texture on front and back are the same.
Bockingford Watercolor Paper – The Spiral Pad
The Bockingford spiral wire pad has a thick wire spiral that keeps the sheets secure. The holes are cut wide enough for easy flipping, without the wire wearing away the paper or allowing it to droop.
I wouldn’t recommend it for a chunky book, but there is enough room to allow ephemera glued to some pages.
Pages aren’t likely to fall out by accident, but the spiral wire does have a gap that allows you to remove sheets from the back, and then put them back in. That’s handy for scanning or if you want to tape the paper down on another surface while working on the painting.
My hot press spiral pad had a curve in it. My suspicion is that at some point in shipping it was pressed between two objects. I removed the paper before painting.
For one painting I taped it down, and once the painting was done, I laid it under a heavy book and got most of the curve out. For a second, I stretched it (wet it completely, clamped it down and let it dry). This removed the curve before I painted.
Both methods worked. I prefer just taping, but many prefer stretching.
St Cuthberts Mill mentions the color lifting abilities of these papers, and well they should. Let me show you what I mean.
The texture of the cold press is very regular, of the kind that looks more like a weave than a pebbly surface. It adds some texture to the finished painting without dominating the color. The paint flows beautifully allowing beautiful washes.
Blossoms and streaks will occur if you add wet to damp paint, but they’re easy to avoid with even decent technique.
I did my usual testing, lifting and scrubbing and was impressed with how well the paper was holding up. I had no problem with either masking fluid or masking tape. I did remove both within a few hours since St Cuthberts Mill cautions not to leave it on for too long.
I was quite happy with my finished piece, but the paper held up so well. I was curious and decided to continue testing.
After the paint had dried overnight, I started lifting color again. I removed a lot, let it dry, and then repainted most of the background.
Even after all the lifting, I was able to get crisp edges. The secret is in lifting color, letting it dry completely and then repainting.
With many papers it becomes impossible to paint over many-lifted areas, or the color gets muddy. With the Bockingford cold press the color was lighter, but could be built up.
I had no problem with buckling, dimpling or curling. St Cuthberts Mill does recommend stretching or taping the paper down, though.
This is the what makes this paper unique. It isn’t going to be for everyone, because some people won’t like having color lift so easily. But once you learn to control that, you can work on this paper over and over until you get what you want.
Just to show that you can do a painting with simple washes without lifting color, I did this desert scene.
The differences between the cold press and hot press were what I expected from the two surfaces.
I was impressed with how well the hot press held up to overworking. I didn’t have any problem with masking fluid or masking tape, but again only left it on a couple of hours.
I let the paint dry over night.
I don’t usually show the in-between step, but wanted you to see the changes I made. I removed a lot of the paint on the back half of the frog, and lifted and repainted much of the background. And then I lifted it and repainted it again.
Much of the color I used was staining, so I really was impressed by the amount I could lift.
In the end, the difference between the cold press and hot press is that I wasn’t able to get edges that were quite as crisp. The paint still flowed well, and the color was as bright.
This painting was done with some glazing and no color lifting. I used masking fluid again for the fine hairs, and had no trouble removing it.
Because hot press is so smooth it is fantastic for line and wash, so I used a technical pen in this one.
Bockingford Watercolor Paper – Overall
St Cuthberts Mill Bockingford watercolor paper is an extremely sturdy paper with exceptional color-lifting properties. Colors flow beautifully and remain bright.
The differences between the hot press and cold press are what is expected from the nature of the surfaces. Both papers are comparable in handling and sturdiness.
It requires adjustment in the paint to water ratio if you’re used to papers with less ability for color lifting. But …
… this is a paper you can mess with and still produce a beautiful painting.
The St Cuthberts Mill website is set up beautifully with information on each paper, including how to store and get the most out of your paper. You can find the Bockingford information here. I recommend going out to read them. They’re good general instructions for the majority of watercolor papers, whatever the brand.
About St. Cuthberts Mill
St. Cuthberts Mill, based Wells England along the waters of the River Axe, has been producing artists papers since the 1700s. They use pure raw ingredients, specially sourced pulps and cotton linters, as well as woolen felts to produce their paper,
Links of Interest
- Review: Saunders Waterford Watercolor Blocks
- REVIEW: Aquafine Watercolour From Daler-Rowney in Tube and Pans
- St. Cuthberts Mill Bockingford Watercolor Paper Spiral Pad – Cold Press
- St. Cuthberts Mill Bockingford Watercolor Paper Spiral Pad – Hot Press
- Aquafine Watercolors
I received one spiral pad Cold-press 7” x 5,” and one spiral pad Hot-press 7” x 5” watercolor paper from the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, for the purposes of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in