I was very fortunate to receive watercolor block samples from Hahnemühle USA out of Crystal Lake, IL, so that I can review them and inform my fellow watercolor artist friends how they preform. That’s you!
What are watercolor blocks?
Watercolor blocks are watercolor sheets, bound together as a block. The sides of the block has dried glue to keep the pages together. Somewhere along the edge there is a section without glue, so that you can separate the page from the block. You can easily do this with a letter opener, a knife, or your finger after your painting is dry.
Why are blocks advantages?
The advantage of using a block as opposed to a loose sheet is that you do not need to prepare your paper by taping it down, or by wetting it and taping it down (no pre-stretching the watercolor paper).
For this review I painted the same scene, using the same colors, with the same brushes, in the same sequence, using the same techniques, in the same weather conditions. I needed this control so that I can understand what each type of paper was doing and to be able to spot the differences which I am happy to share.
Click any picture for a larger view.
300 g/m² 140 lbs. matt
The paper itself has a cold press texture but the texture isn’t uniform or repeating. It accepted my graphite sketch with very little pressure. The sky was done wet on wet, which means I pre-wet the sky with clean water before I applied my color. When I applied my color, the pigments spread fast and fluid. The colors blended together well and I did not have to soften the edges. The tree was done wet on dry, which means I painted the tree directly on dry paper. The colors blended effortlessly (see close up photo). This tells me that the paper isn’t drying fast and my pigment is soaking in . The paper stayed wet a fair amount of time. The ultramarine blue in the sky has slight granulation showing on the paper. The paper did buckle as I was painting, however dried almost completely flat in the end.
- Paper has a varied texture
- Stays wet a fair amount of time
- Pigment and water spreads fast and fluid
- Paper did buckle on the block; Dried mostly flat
- Very minimal granulation in the ultramarine blue
- Painting has soft look
Cézanne Hot Press
300 g/m² 140lbs.
This hot press block has a satin finish and no texture at all. The wet on wet sky technique created a bead of water and pigment on the paper which tells me that the water wasn’t quick to soak in from the previous cold press block however the surface dries much quicker. Pigment does not spread out fast nor does the pigment mix quickly. This is shown in the close up of the tree that was done wet on dry. Edges have a hard look because of the quick dry time. The ultramarine blue in the sky has moderate granulation showing on the paper. The paper did buckle on the block as I was painting but dried flat in the end.
- Paper is satin smooth with no texture
- Paper dries fast
- Pigment does not blending fluidly
- Moderate granulation showing in ultramarine blue
- Paper did buckle but dried completely flat
- Painting has hard edges
Turner Cold Press
300 g/m² 140lbs. matt
Turner cold press has a small repetitious texture that resembles a screen. The wet on wet sky produced nice fluid blending of pigments. Edges look soft. The wet on dry technique with the tree also created fluid blending (see close up photo). However when dry, I noticed white speckle pattern in the dark green of the tree. Paper showing through? There is moderate granulation showing in the ultramarine blue sky. This paper dries quicker than Cézanne cold press but stayed wet longer than Cézanne hot press. The painting never buckled on the block and remains completely flat.
- Paper has repetitious tiny grid like pattern
- Pigments blend smooth
- White speckles appeared in darkest green of tree
- Stays wet an ample time
- Did not buckle on the block, always flat.
- Moderate granulation showing in ultramarine blue
600 g/m² 280lbs. matt
This one is my absolute favorite and I am very much in love. But this is my own personal preference and you should explore yours.
The heavy weight paper has a deep varied texture. I was afraid at first, because I have painted on heavy weight watercolor paper with much struggle. Not this time. Blending was effortless. The pigments ran fast and fluid just like the Cézanne 180lbs. matt but even more so! It accepted the water well, I did not need to use more water because the paper was so thick like with inferior brands. Paper stayed wet a fair amount of time. The wet on dry technique on the tree also produced nice effortless blending of colors (see close up photo). The ultramarine blue formed large granulation on the paper. The paper never buckled and is completely flat.
- Large varied texture of paper
- Ample drying time
- Colors blend well wet on wet or wet on dry
- Large granulation of ultramarine blue
- Paper never buckled and remains flat
Last but not least…
Leonardo Hot Press
600 g/m² 280lbs.
This heavy weight hot press paper is satin smooth, despite what the watercolor painting looks like. The application of pigment was extremely fluid especially wet on wet and produced no hard edges like the Cézanne hot press. The wet on dry technique on the tree also blended quite nicely. The paper remained wet an ample amount of time. The ultramarine blue formed extra large granules which surprised me because the paper is so smooth. I like granules btw, so that doesn’t bother me. For hot press paper, this one is high quality with easy fluid blending.
- Paper has satin smooth finish with no texture
- Pigments blend fast and fluid wet on wet and wet on dry
- Paper stayed wet an ample amount of time
- Extra large granulation with ultramarine blue resulted
- Painting never buckled on block and remains flat
I want the thank Hahnemühle for allowing me to perform a review on their watercolor blocks. I have my personal favorite, but I encourage you to experiment with your own style. You can find Hahnemühle watercolor papers at the following dealers:
Dick Blick, WetPaint in MN, DaVinci Artist Supply in NY, Flax Art & Design in San Mateo, Binders in Atlanta, and Talas in NY.
Now get out, have some fun, and paint!