A blog about paper testing!

I hope you will be interested in the topic of this blog! There are loads of photos that can be perceived as dull if you are not interested in the subject. I have used my iPhone for some pictures, in addition to two different microscopes connected to the computer. If I call myself a botanical artist, why not use the equipment to find out about the paper we use.

The topic of the day is to find a paper as good as Fabriano paper, loved by many botanical artists. Some may have heard that Fabriano hot pressed paper seems to have changed recently. The manufactures have apparently changed their process for commercial reasons. But one result seems to be that people find that the paper is no longer as smooth as it was.

The papers that seem affected are Fabriano Classico 5 and Fabriano Artistico – both hot pressed. I have used Fabriano since the early eighties, so the thought of having to find something else was a little upsetting. But put into context with all the terrible things going on in the world, it is a minute problem.

R.K.Burt’s in London identified the problem earlier in the year and contacted St Cuthberts Mill, the company that makes Saunders Waterford paper. They immediately put everything in place to come to our aid and have even changed their sizing process. The sizing seems to be the main reason why we all like Fabriano – but of course it may not be the only reason.

I have decided to put the photos in four different galleries. I compared Fabriano 5 with the two Saunders Waterford’s papers – Botanical Ultra Smooth (50% cotton replacement for Fabriano 5) and High White (100% cotton replacement for Artistic0).

  1. First Fabriano 5 painted on the non-mesh side:

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2)  Saunders Waterford High White painted on non-mesh side (except for one example). The non-mesh side held the label, :

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3) Saunders Waterford Botanical Ultra smooth. Painted on mesh side (with label) :

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4) Saunders Waterford Botanical ultra painted on non-mesh side:

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My opinion so far, not having painted a complete picture with either media on the two new papers:

There seems to be a clear difference between the mesh pattern and non mesh patterned sides, but more significantly with the Botanical Ultra Smooth. I found it easier to get better layers and deeper colour on the non-mesh sides of both papers. I also found that the coloured pencil result was not good on the Botanical Ultra Smooth mesh side, but worked well on the reverse. It seemed pale and fluffy on the mesh side, but much easier to get depth of colour on the reverse. In fact, although I didn’t Use as many layers as I might in a complete picture, I liked it the result.

The effect wasn’t quite the same with the High White as neither side became fluffy with CP.

With the watercolour washes on both Saunders Waterford papers, close views of the washes seemed to show the white of the paper in between the fibres. This became accentuated with more layers. This was quite strange. Also it wasn’t easy to get an ultra clean edge to the pigment line although I particularly went over with a damp brush, using a magnifying glass.

Looking at the views in the microscope, one can almost understand why. I used the microscope, because when looking at the mesh-side of the Botanical Ultra Smooth in the sunshine, the surface seemed to be covered with fibres that weren’t visible before I did anything on the paper. That could also explain the fluffiness of the CP on that side.

But comparing Fabriano with Saunders Waterford, the length of the fibres seemed different and the way the fibres accepted colour seemed different too. It also seemed that with watercolour, the pigment tracked out along the filaments on the edge of the painted section, much more with the Saunders than the Fabriano. Trying to go along the edge with a damp brush and magnifying glass didn’t make much difference.

I think that we might have found replacements for the coloured pencil paper, as long as I use the right side of the paper,  the non-mesh side. By the way, it is even more difficult to determine the right side with Saunders than the Fabriano, as the mesh pattern is very faint.

I am writing the coloured pencil section of my online botanical art course at the moment, so I intend to use this paper for the demonstrations and YouTube videos. I probably won’t be doing so much watercolour whilst I am doing this, so I hope others will be able to give more useful information about that.

I hope that what I have written so far will useful.