REVIEW: Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper

Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper Painting examples in various opaque mediums

Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress Black is the first 100% cotton black watercolor paper:

I was curious. The words ‘Black’ and ‘Watercolor’ are not ones that I would have used together.  Recently, I’ve been using some fine black papers for my art. I’m not an artist that assumes that cotton paper is always superior, so I wondered what the benefit might be.  Would it be a better black paper?

When Legion Paper sent me some sample sheets, I was thrilled to give them a try.

Specifications

  • 100% cotton
  • 300gsm/140lb
  • Neutral pH, Acid, Chlorine, Lignin-Free
  • Same surface both sides
  • Sized for watercolor
  • Contains no animal gelatin
  • Synthetic Sizing
  • Buckle-Resistant, dries flat

Available in Pads of 8″x10″, 9″x12″, 10″x14″ and Sheets of 20″x30″ 

Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper: Overview

Applications

Aqua Coldpress Black was formulated with metallic, pearlescent, iridescent, and interference paints in mind, but it works well with gouache, acrylics, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, pigment sticks, pastels, pens, markers, gel pens, and alcohol inks.  In short, almost anything that is opaque or semi-opaque.

Look and Feel

The paper is stiff, flexible but not easily folded. When you wobble it, it has the slightly metallic sound of high-quality paper.  The first thing that struck me as different was the surface texture of the paper.  

Note that the front and back of the paper are the same color.  In my photo they look different but it’s a trick of the light.

Front and back of Black watercolor Paper Stonehenge Aqua from Legion

I colored lightly with color pencil to pick out the coldpress pattern of the paper.  You can see the ‘wells’ where pigment will be captured.  This immediately told me that there would be a difference between this black paper and other black papers that I’ve used. The texture will allow textural effects, granulation, and for the light to play across the pigments, showing variations of color.  For some mediums, this will have no effect at all.  For others, it will be significant.

Performance

I grabbed every medium I could think of that might work with this paper.  I ended up not using all of them.  I only had four sheets, so I didn’t want to use more than one for the test.  The mediums I didn’t use, though, tended to be variations of the something I did.  For instance, I used pan watercolors but I didn’t use watercolor pencil or watercolor brush pens.

Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper examples of different painting and drawing mediums and how they appear on paper

My test sheet is pretty busy, so I’m breaking it down into smaller sections to discuss each medium.

Colored pencil, masking fluid, acrylic goache, tape on black watercolor paper paint out example
  • Zebra Pen Colored Pencil:  I added more layers and burnished the color pencil I used to show texture earlier, and added a darker red.  The light color showed up well but the dark was pretty dull.  The pencil gives a chalkboard effect.
  • Acrylic Gouache:  I’ll discuss this in the next set, as it is used here as contrast for the masking fluid and tape.
  • Molotow Masking Fluid Pen 2 mm: The masking fluid came off easily with no tearing, but left the paper dull.  Molotow’s blue-tinted masking does stain some papers, so I used another brand down below, which did a much better job
  • Nichiban Masking Tape: This masking tape peeled away easily, no tearing or pilling.
  • Black Gesso: I used the gesso both under and over the acrylic gouache to see how closely it matched the paper.  Knowing my own flaws, I like to know if there are ways to cover up my mistakes.  The gesso has a different gloss, but would be okay for small touch-ups.  Black acrylic would work and would spread easier, but wouldn’t match the texture as well.
Gel pens example on stonehenge aqua black watercolor paper
  • Sarasa Clip Ballpoint Pen: The effect from these pens was similar to that of the colored pencils.  The contrast is not strong, but gives a nice chalkboard feel.
  • Signo Uniball Broad White Gel Pen: This is the white pen of white pens.  Strong contrast, great coverage.
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleedproof White:  Slightly duller than the Signo White, it’s similar in contrast.  This is a medium meant to cover up mistakes on white paper.  Applied with a brush, it’s better for large areas, but if applied too thickly it might crack.
  • Golden Liquid Acrylic: Bold contrast, excellent coverage.  The paper is a good weight and stiffness for acrylic.
  • Liquitex Acrylic Gouache: Acrylic gouache is very similar to liquid acrylic and acts pretty much the same on this paper.  I’ll discuss traditional watercolor gouache in one of my example paintings.
Watercolor Creams, Iridescent medium, and mixed watercolor on Legion Black Watercolor Paper
  • Brea Reese Watercolor Creams:  In the promotional blurbs, Legion Paper indicates that pigment stick works on this paper.  That includes gelatos and watercolor sticks.  The only kind I have at the moment are these Brea Reese Creams.  The contrast is moderate where directly applied, but weak when spread with water.  I’ve never had much success with layering this medium, but you could get some interesting effects by varying the contrast.
  • Winsor & Newton Iridescent Medium:  Iridescent means the light reflects off of the color, so you get a mirror-like effect.  It’s very sparkly, and has a strong contrast on this paper, but allows the texture to show.
  • Iridescent Medium Mixed with watercolor: I mixed a little phthalo blue with some of the Iridescent medium.  Even the darker portion has good contrast.  This would be great for painting galaxies!
Duochrome, Iridescent Watercolor, Metallic Pen example on Stonehenge Black Watercolor Paper
  • Daniel Smith Duochrome Cabo Blue Watercolor:  Duochrome Cabo Blue is described as having ‘color shifting from blue to metallic gold, then finishing with a shimmering metallic blue’.  On this paper the gold is mostly lost and you get more of a purple and blue shift. Faint sparkles and metallic with very strong contrast and lots of texture showing.
  • Daniel Smith Iridescent Scarab Red Watercolor:  This iridescent color is described as ‘a complex burgundy with a delicate surface sparkle of blue-green pigment’.  The scan makes it look muddy, but in real life it looks metallic green with hints of red. More shimmery than sparkly.  Good contrast.
  • Zebra Pen Metallic Brush Pens: Smooth coverage, and strong contrast with a metallic shimmer.  I discuss this medium further with one of my example works.
Black Watercolor Paper examples of pens and pencils on surface
  • Sakura Fluorescent Gel Pen: Excellent contrast, good coverage.  Very nice on this paper.
  • Sakura Glaze Gel Pen: Sakura’s glaze pens are always fairly dull in color and I was surprised that it had as much contrast as it does.  This would be good for shadows in the background.
  • Graphite Pencil:  Graphite has moderate contrast.  Good enough that you can draw your subject before adding color or if you want grays with a slight shimmer.
  • QoR Watercolor: I used Cadmium Yellow Primrose, which is semi-transparent, and Pyrrole Red Medium, which is semi-opaque.  Both have moderate contrast but are dull in color.  More about this medium below.
Test for wet in wet watercolor on black paper and transparency
  • Pebeo Masking Fluid Pen 0.7 mm: This masking fluid came off more easily than the Molotow, with no dulling of the paper.  So, if you decide to use masking fluid, test before doing so (always a good idea). Some brands work better than others.
  • QoR Watercolor: I wet the paper thoroughly, and dropped in the Cadmium Yellow Primrose and Pyrrole Red Medium that I had used before, as well as adding some Transparent Pyrrole Orange.  I let it all dry and added two more layers.  The paint moves enough for blending, but not for juicy, drippy effects.  Adding more layers didn’t make the colors brighter.  In fact, since some of the transparent orange bled into the more opaque colors, contrast decreased.
Black paper watercolor comparison

Color shift was noticeable.  I grabbed a still from the video showing the colors wet as opposed to dry.  If you chose your colors well for opacity and control the amount of water, you could use watercolors.  They wouldn’t be my first choice, though as other mediums have much better contrast.

Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper: Example Paintings

Example Painting: Watercolor Gouache

Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper painting example on Coldpress
Photo reference from FotoRieth on Pixabay

Traditional watercolor gouache is much more opaque than watercolor, and as you can see, it has terrific contrast.  I used a set of Miya Himi gouache, which is a cheap set, but you wouldn’t know it from the beautiful colors in this painting.  I did three layers of color to get this level of contrast.  The paper curled a little as the paint dried, but not while I was painting.  I was able to flatten it afterwards.

The most important thing I learned from this painting was that color is fairly easy to lift.  It can be too easy.  Sometimes, when I was trying to add more color, previous layers would lift instead.  You do need to control the amount of water you are using if you want to layer color.

Example Painting: Metallic Brush Pen

Metallic Brush Pen on Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper
Photo reference from stevepb on Pixabay

Watercolor paper is notorious for fraying fabric-tipped pens and markers.  I was worried that might be a problem with Aqua Coldpress Black.  Once I actually felt the texture, I was less concerned and risked my metallic brush pens to create this drawing. This is an 8 x 10 size piece of paper and there was absolutely no fraying to the nib of my pens.

I also verified something that I suspected from my tests.  The sizing keeps color on the surface for a while.  On other black papers, I’ve been able to smudge the colors from metallic brush pens and gel pens, if I do so immediately.  On this paper, I had longer to do so, which let me blend it more and over a larger area.  I added white and yellow gel pen to brighten the drawing, and was able to blend it in so it wasn’t too harsh.

Ever draw something with your paper lying flat, and then lifted it to discover everything is slanting to the side?  Yeah.  It screws up your perspective when you look down at a flat piece of paper.  Best to have your paper at a 25 degree angle or more, if you can.

Unfortunately, when I make videos, I need to have my paper flat. I’m pretty good at adjusting for it, but my barrel was a bit more distorted than I liked.  So I grabbed a cheapo promotional pen with black ink, and used it to shade and adjust.  Turns out, it works pretty well on the black paper.  I actually like it better than the black gesso.  Inks will vary though so be sure to test before using.

Example Painting: More Watercolor Gouache

Gouache painting of flower on Stonehenge black watercolor paper
Photo reference by Lina Angelov on Unsplash

I do like to try and destroy new paper when I test.  I only had four sheets so I waited for the last painting to do my worst.

To start with, I totally saturated the paper.  I would like to say this was a wise and planned decision.  But no.  I upended my brush water right on to the paper and turned it into a wading pool.  In this way, I discovered the paper does buckle.  If you intend to use lots of water, you might want to stretch the paper.

Since watercolor is so transparent, I decided that gouache was a better choice to let me see any damage.

I glazed, lifted, scrubbed and repeated. I finally did some damage to the bottom-most petal and wasn’t able to add color back to that area.  It took real dedication to get to that point.  This paper takes a lot of abuse. That is important for someone like me, because I tend to fuss.

Stonehenge Aqua Black Watercolor Paper: Overall Thoughts

Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress Black Paper is textured coldpress paper, toothy enough and heavy enough for watercolor, gouache, and acrylic, yet smooth enough that it won’t damage your fabric tipped pens and markers.  It’s strong, holding up to lots of abuse.  Though it will take a lot of water, you do get some buckling if it is saturated.  The color contrast is better if you limit the amount of water, so I don’t consider that an issue. 

Opacity counts.  Even though transparent mediums do show up better than on other black papers, opaque colors work best (but you knew that didn’t you? Only common sense).  If you use specialty watercolors – iridescent, duochrome, etc.  the effects may be different on the black than it is on white paper.

Is it a better black paper?  In some ways, yes.  I mentioned above that I use other quality black papers, but on the Aqua Coldpress Black,  I find I can get brighter, bolder contrast with watercolor and gouache.  The main advantage with metallic and gel pen is that you can smudge the color for a more burnished effect.

Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress Black will be part of my go to papers now, for gouache and special pen effects.  I’ve already ordered a pad.

Tools

Disclaimer:

Legion Paper sent me two 5 x 7 inch sheets and two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets for the purpose of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post contains affiliate links which help support Doodlewash community features. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

About Legion Paper

Legion Paper sources, distributes and sells paper.  They represent more than 60 paper mills in sixteen countries, many of them centuries old.  These mills include the German Zerkall, who created the letter invitations for Napoleon’s wedding, and the Magnani mill provided the paper that Da Vinci used. 

In 1972, Stonehenge 100% cotton deckled paper was created in answer to more expensive European mouldmade papers. Still made in the USA, it is an affordable paper that never compromises quality. 

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
18 Comments
  1. Jean Marmo 1 month ago

    Thanks for the wonderful review and showing all the many mediums you used!

  2. Walt. F Pierluissi 1 month ago

    Wonderfully done Sandra… Very informative and for sure I will try this Stonehenge paper.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, Walt! I’m becoming a black paper addict!

  3. mlaiuppa 1 month ago

    Oh BOY! I’ve been wanting to try a black watercolor paper but couldn’t find one that was 140lb. The best I could do was a mixed medium and didn’t like it. So I bought a jar of Daniel Smith watercolor ground in black and painted my paper. I wasn’t pleased with the results but it was better than what I had been using.

    Now I have a real watercolor paper I can experiment with.

    I have been wanting to really get into the Daniel Smith iridescent, duochrome and interference paints and just haven’t been pleased with the results using white paper or the black ground. I am going to track down a pad of the Legion and give it a try. (Fireworks and the Northern Lights are subjects I’ve really wanted to try.)

    This is a great reviews. Thank you so much for your thorough tests. You’ve taken the work out of my search and choices.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, mlaiuppa! I hope you share your Fireworks and Northern Lights results with us here at Doodlewash!

  4. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 1 month ago

    Thanks Sandra for the wonderful review. I have been thinking of getting some black paper so this review is helpful for this brand thanks again 🙂

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, Lisa! I look forward to seeing what you do on black paper!

  5. sqwiffy 1 month ago

    Not sure that I’m ready for black paper but was interesting to see.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      If you had asked me even a couple of months ago, I’d have said no, but now I’m addicted!

  6. Mary Roff 1 month ago

    Great review! Thank you!

  7. Gaeyle Gerrie-Boss 1 month ago

    Really appreciate your thorough approach to a cool new product!

  8. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 month ago

    Sandra, thank you for a thorough and well written review. Do you begin with a sketch before applying other media? If so, just a regular graphite pencil, or what do you use? I’ve never heard of watercolor creams; they sound like fun to try.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, Sharon! Sometimes I draw my subject with a graphite pencil. It depends on the complexity of the subject. Watercolor creams take some getting used to. I’m not too fond of them, but that may just mean I haven’t learned to use them properly.

  9. Ellen B 1 month ago

    The colors looked really good on black paper. Would love to try gouache soon and hopefully we have an equally good black paper from around here

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, Ellen! Look for a black paper that is 140 lb/300 gsm, that is sort of in-between cardstock and construction paper.

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