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.
On the back you’ll find information to help you find the right mat for your painting as well.
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.
What’s the Paper Like?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Links of Interest
Princeton Velvetouch, Series 3950, Paint Brush for Acrylic, Oil and Watercolor, Set of 4
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.