Paper problem?

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  • Hello everyone 🙂 This is the first time I use 100% cotton paper and I have a little question…  Someone know what happens? Did I use too much water or other? The dark spot seems to disappear when drying and take a really long time to dry too.

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    Watercolor papers vary quite a bit, which is why many people find one they like and stay with it (not me! I love to experiment!).  You might have used too much water, but it could also be the paper and/or the paint you are using.

    It probably isn’t the cotton content so much as sizing, which can affect how long it takes for the color to dry.

    As for the spot fading, that probably means you added the color while the paper was too wet.  If you add paint into wet, it spreads into the water.  One of the tricks of learning watercolor is timing (and I’m still learning that one!).  Sometimes, you want the color to spread – especially if you are mingling colors for a soft blending.  Learning how much water it takes to get just the amount of spread you want is the key.

    The other possibility for the fade has to do with the paint you are using.  There is a thing called ‘color shift’, which means the a paint is one color when it is wet and another once it has dried – with watercolor, the paints dry lighter.  The amount of water (as explained above) causes some of the fade, but it is also caused by the amount of pigment in the paint itself.  This is one of the main differences between professional and student grade paint – student grade usually has less pigment and therefore more color shift.

    Then it could be the brush too (lol! Every tool counts in watercolor).  Brushes hold different amounts of water and paint and they also release that water and paint at different rates.  If you are using the same brush that shouldn’t be the issue but if you’re using a different one,  the new brush may be soaking up more water or releasing too much water all at once.  Again – this can be the difference between a professional quality and student quality brush.  People also tend to have different preferences in how much water and pigment the brush holds and how fast it is released.

    If you’ve used the same paint on different paper and not had as much fading, it is probably the paper – or you did use too much water this one time.  The only way to know for sure is to try again with less water and see what happens.

    Thanks for all the info, Sandra! 🙂 I think I have added too much water… I have used my big mop brush which I have used maybe two times and I probably got a ”little” carried away with it lol and I have remembered that I have done some swatching on the same paper with student and professional quality and the same blue (Ultramarine Deep – Sennelier) and none of the color or the blue didn’t fade nor spot like in the picture.

    I will try tomorrow to paint again on it, just to be sure the painting is totally dry… And have a less heavy hand with water lol.

    Thanks so much again for the info and the help, Sandra!

    Your brush is probably partly to blame if it’s a mop.  They’re made to hold and release lots of water for wetting your page and doing washes.  You might dry holding it to a towel for a few seconds before applying it to the paper.

    I haven’t used the arches paper I have for watercolor, and I am also finding how difficult it is to change from a fairly surface sized 9assuming) paper to an open absorbent paper.  I also noticed that the pigment came off my brush on to this paper differently, so I began noticing how the pigment sits on my brush and paying attention to when it was nto really there anymore, though the brush was still  a bit wet with colored water… Am I being clear?  A wash for sky was a bit tricky!

    The streak of Rose Dore really laid into this one, for instance.

    @sandra-strait – It’s was a wash I was trying to do when the spots had appeared, I forget to mention it… I am really sorry.

    I usually use round brush, and even I have a bad habit of using too much water with them so I have probably really over wetted the paper with the mop. I really need to use a towel to dry a little my brush lol.

    – Lovely painting 🙂 I don’t use Arches, but yeah, I find absorbent paper difficult too. The fact I have used mainly really cheap ”student” grade and student grade paper don’t really help me.


    Is it Hot Press Arches @kate-powell? Or Cold Press. The HP is really thirsty, and not suitable for big washes IMO.

    I don’t know.  I bought three boxes of the paper when a small art store went out of business for acrylics — didn’t do watercolor then.  But it is really thirsty.  Can I prime it for watercolor? @rod-fletcher @sandra-strait

    I don’t know of any way to prime for watercolor that wouldn’t cause as many problems as it cured.  I suppose you might try wetting it thoroughly as though you were stretching it, to see if there is surface sizing that causes the problems.


    I have no experience, but I believe that there is a primer for watercolours.


    Thanks peeps!

    I think it may be the sizing on/in the paper. Is the paper older? I had something similar happen a few years ago with some W&N artists’s paper I’d had from college (so about 10 years old). I actually took a video at the time, showing the difference but the forum won’t let me upload it, so I took 2 frames from it:

    unsized paper

    You can see how when you put a stroke down on the paper, it doesn’t move when water is applied in another stroke next to it.

    Sized paper

    Versus in the second frame where I used newer paper and the paint moves across the paper surface once a second stoke is applied. When the sizing deteriorates it basically turns that part of the paper into blotter paper. on mine, the paint actually soaked right through to the other side. If you don’t mind the effects, it’s still okay to use, but since I like the flow of sized paper, I ended up cutting up that paper for scraps. If the paper isn’t older, then I agree with Sandra, maybe too much water could have broken down the sizing. Hope that helps!


    @jill – Thanks for the info 🙂 Didn’t know the sizing can deteriorate with time… That explains why some really old maybe 12 ~ 13-year-old paper I have re-found in my stock was acting weird.

    I have brought my paper  2 ~ 3 months ago and the other sheet of paper I have used have seemed ok for now, done a little beating to one without my mop brush just to try and except the paper have pilling a little because of the over-working, the paint has never passed to the other side.

    Oh I wonder if that happened with mine!  Sizing broke down?!

    I used to make paper — a lot of my paper.  So I went looking for surface or external sizing.  I found this video and will try this in the next month or two and let you know how it works.  In the meantime, if you’ve tried, please give feedback!

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