REVIEW: Strathmore Ready Cut Watercolor Paper

Ever tried to find a frame and discovered your painting isn’t an easy size to find? Strathmore Ready Cut watercolor paper comes in three of the most common U.S. frame sizes — 5” x 7”, 8” x 10” and 11” x 14.

Strathmore Ready Cut Watercolor Paper Front

On the back you’ll find information to help you find the right mat for your painting as well.

Strathmore Ready Cut Watercolor Back of Package

Strathmore Ready Cut comes in both Cold Press and Hot Press, but I’m only reviewing the cold press today.

But Really. Why Ready Cut?

The precut paper size is certainly a nice feature, but is the paper any good?

If you’ve bought Strathmore paper before, you’ve probably noticed there is a number on the cover. Strathmore has five different qualities of paper. Starting with paper designed for beginners on a shoestring budget, all the way to professionals that want only the best — those numbers help you decide which paper is best for you and your circumstances.

Each series has more than one kind of paper, designed for different mediums.

100 Series – Youth: for ages 5 and up
200 Series – Good: for beginners, decent quality, economical price
300 Series – Better: affordable, heavyweight, good quality
400 Series – Best: for advanced artists, higher quality, variety of textures
500 Series – Premium: for professionals, archival, lignin free, acid free, 100% cotton

Ready Cut is one of Strathmore’s 500 series, their Imperial watercolor paper, which can also be purchased in large sheets of 22″ x 30”.
I’ve been using it for about five months now, and have found it to be absolutely fabulous for those super runny, juicy, drippy watercolor effects.

Video

What’s the Paper Like?

Strathmore Ready Cut Example

The Ready Cut Cold Press has different textures on the front and the back. The front is relatively smooth for a cold press. It’s a bit rough for a fabric-tipped pen, but works great with gel pen, plastic-tipped pen, or ballpoint pen. The back has a rougher surface. Both sides have a surface that allows a uniform flow.

The color is white and the paper is sturdy, the kind that would bend rather than fold if you rolled it.

It is archival, lignin free, acid free, and 100% cotton.

Strathmore Ready Cut: Pros and Cons

As I mentioned above, this paper is fabulous for really juicy watercolor effects, which I find surprisingly hard to find. You can see from the photo above that I often wet the paper until there are huge puddles of water.

It does curl slightly at the corners, if you don’t tape it down. Personally, I don’t bother, because it flattens out afterward and doesn’t curl enough to cause me problems. That’s my style though, and some people will want the paper perfectly flat. I’ve never had any dimpling* or buckling*.

The paper keeps the colors brilliant so there is less fading once the paper is dry. It’s pretty easy to get that beautiful glow that is a hallmark of watercolor painting.

Color can be lifted from the paper with some ease. Not so much that you are likely to do so by accident, but so that you can lighten areas of color.

I also like the paper for less juicy painting. I have found I need to let colors dry completely before glazing or adding more details. If I start painting while the paper is damp, the paper will damage. I don’t get pills — those little bits of paper that stick to the brush — but I’ll see more roughness, and sometimes the paint won’t go down. I think the same thing that allows me to get those terrific juicy effects causes this.

The good thing is that it is easy to avoid.
While wet, add paint and let it mingle.
While damp — let it be.
Once dry, add more layers of color.

This is actually good advice for almost any watercolor paper. I wish I’d remember to follow it more often, lol.

*dimpling — small pockets that form on watercolor paper because some areas absorb more water than others.
*buckling — waves that form on the paper for the same reason as above.

Examples

Before Watercolor Strathmore Ready Cut Paper

In the example I did for the video, you can see how much water I added to the paper. The photo above shows how bright the color remains once dry. I painted this while I was with a group of people, and they were exclaiming at that color.

After Landscape Watercolor Strathmore Ready Cut Paper

This is the finished work. After the initial paint was totally dry, I added details with a less juicy mix of paint.

I switched to a gel pen, because you can often detect damage with a pen when it catches or skips on the paper. I also wanted to show how well a pen works on this paper.

Watercolor Painting Example Fruit Basket

I used the same method for this next painting. I was with a group, and one of them laid out a still life with a basket of persimmons. I wasn’t worried about getting the exact details, but wanted to get a loose impression of that still life.

The Strathmore Ready Cut paper is perfect for that. The paint flows, but still allows me some control with the wet-into-wet technique. I get the color I want in each area, and then use the following layers to get the appropriate detail.

Watercolor Painting Example Fruit

For my last example, I still used the wet-into-wet technique for initial color, but with less water. Mostly because I was in a hurry and didn’t want to wait as long for the paper to dry.

You can use a blow dryer to speed up drying but usually color fades more if you do this, and you risk blowing the color around so much it all blends into one color. That isn’t always bad, but not what I wanted here.

Once my initial color was dry, I used the negative painting technique to carve out the shape of the pears. This meant I glazed fairly heavily — adding two or three layers of color over large areas of the paper versus just adding smaller areas of color for detail.

I let the paper dry again. To get the reflection at the bottom of the pears, I used a clean brush and clean water, brushing downward very gently, barely touching the paper. After letting it sit for a few seconds I gently blotted up the excess water with a Kleenex.

When you lift color, you damage the paper. It’s unavoidable, but the gentler you are the less damage. This is a good way to judge the quality of a paper. Many papers will give you mud, if you lift this much color, or won’t lift at all. As you see from the painting, the color still has a glow even after this lifting.

Strathmore Ready Cut: Overall

Strathmore Ready Cut cold press watercolor paper is one of Strathmore’s premium 500 series paper designed for professionals. It is cut to a size that will fit one of the three most common frame sizes in the U.S. and comes with information on matting sizes as well.

The color is excellent for the wet-into-wet technique, holding up well to excessive amounts of water. The paper will curl a bit at the edges if not taped down, but flattens easily afterward, and there is no dimpling or buckling.

Color is easy to lift.

Overall, a high quality watercolor paper, suitable for any level of experience.

Tools

Strathmore Ready Cut Cold Press
Aquafine Daler-Rowney Watercolour 24 half pan set

REVIEW: Aquafine Watercolour From Daler-Rowney in Tube and Pans

Links of Interest

Princeton Velvetouch, Series 3950, Paint Brush for Acrylic, Oil and Watercolor, Set of 4

REVIEW: Princeton Velvetouch Mixed Media Brushes

Disclaimer
I received 10 packs of Strathmore Ready Cut Cold Press Watercolor paper from the Fila Group, to be used as I wished. I decided to do this review, because I like this paper. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Art Supply Reviews
24 Comments
  1. Alice 5 months ago

    I really love the first painting. Looking at it before it was a garden scene I totally saw a raccoon like animal with beady little eyes in the green section to the left of the blue water area. Haha! Love it!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      Thank you, Alice! One of the things that I like about this method is that you always have a choice, and never know for sure what your finished piece will be like.

  2. Teresa 何 Robeson 5 months ago

    Thank you for the very helpful review! I didn’t even know these precut sizes existed. 🙂

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      Thank you, Teresa! It is handy having the exact size.

  3. Kathy Delumpa Allegri 5 months ago

    Thanks for wonderful and thorough review, Sandra! Seems you were already answering my questions as I watched your video-(lovely French countryside music, too). I like the ready-cut feature for standard size mats and frames and the quality of the paper (500 series).

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      Thank you, Kathy! I notice I repeated some of the text in the video. *sigh* I was really rushing to get it completed before I took off for Florida again.

  4. Walter F Pierluissi 5 months ago

    I have used these papers since 2015 more or less, they are fantastic and lovely for those multiple washes…. And your review is actually beautifully done my friend, always enjoying these reviews…. Thanks for your time in creating them!!!!!!!!!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      Thank you, Walt! I’ve used Strathmore in the past, but it was always hard to find their professional paper except in the large sizes. It’s so nice having one precut to the sizes I like to use.

  5. jean marmo 5 months ago

    Thank you for this info! I have never seen this paper. It may be above my experience level but appreciate the review.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      Thank you, Jean! When you feel you’re ready to move on up (or even just want to try a professional paper), I recommend trying this.

  6. jkpringle21 5 months ago

    Sandra wonderful review and enjoyed the video. All your paintings are beautiful but I always have a favorite, awesome garden painting. More of surprise, I clicked on Cold Press, and low an behold Series 500 in all sizes from C/P -H/P available on Amazon.ca.I’ve only been able to get Series 400, guess I’ll do some early christmas gifting, myself. Happy Holidays

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      Thank you, Joan! Yay! I’m glad the paper is available in Canada. I know postage is atrocious and you never know how long something will take to arrive!

      • jkpringle21 5 months ago

        As some one from Ontario, Canada I would prefer to order locally on-line, but my art store isn’t caring this series so next best is Amazon.ca and I’m thankful for Prime free shipping.

  7. Morgen E Machen 5 months ago

    Very fair, very thorough review. I like that you used different techniques in your paintings and looked at the lifting and glazing techniques.
    By the way the paper performed during this review, I should like it. Unfortunately, I do not. I say unfortunately because during a regular grocery trip to Walmart, I was so thrilled to find 100% cotton paper, (and one I hadn’t tried, at that), that I purchased several packages. First thing I noticed was the texture. Its not quite a cold press, but not nearly smooth enough to be hot press. The next issue was in application. I like to let my paint mix on the paper and it consistently dried faster than it should have, creating difficulty with unwanted hard edges. Lastly, I found the shift to be noticeably more pronounced than when using my other artist grade papers; all of which shifted to some extent, though not nearly as extreme. For those wondering, I use mainly Daniel Smith, followed in frequency by Schmincke, M. Graham, DaVinci, and Holbein. I can’t explain why this is, thus haven’t found how to correct it. In order to recoup some of the expense of purchasing a product I don’t want to use, I either let my student artist children have at it, or use it for gouache. I think it could also be used for ink with little issue.

    I’m not trying to bash the product, nor undermine the review. Just wanted to share my subjective experiences. In my opinion the idea behind the product was a great one (though I don’t at all mind measuring my own paper , when it’s such a great price by the roll or sheet), and if you like the lower series Strathmore watercolor paper then you will probably like this to. I just don’t see the difference between the 500 series and cellulose so seeing a higher price point is frustrating.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 5 months ago

      I haven’t seen this a my local Walmart. If I do, I’ll buy a pack and check it out. I’ve purchased some off of Amazon besides the packs I was given and have had no problem. I wonder if it was a quality control issue? I’d write to Strathmore and ask for a refund.

      • Morgen E Machen 5 months ago

        Thank you so much for the suggestion, Sandra! I hadn’t thought of that and reading through the comments here, my experience seems to be an anomaly.

        I’d never seen it there either but the odd product occasionally can be found so I didn’t question it, just considered myself lucky to try it at a Walmart type price (for pro grade paper). Maybe some counterfeit found its way onto the shelf? I’ll try your suggestion. Thank you again for your helpful reply.

  8. Jael 5 months ago

    Shhhhhhhh! This is my favorite paper. You’re giving away family secrets!

  9. Nellie Nellie 5 months ago

    Sandra thanks for another brilliant review and beautiful work to illustrate the really nice color saturation on the Strathmore. I will run low on paper and give this a try soon. Nice to hear about the 500 series, this sounds promising 😉🤗

  10. Mary Roff 5 months ago

    Thanks for a wonderful review, Sandra!

  11. Varsha Koli 5 months ago

    Thanks for this review, Sandra!

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