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If you want a more forgiving canvas, go with either "rough" or "cold press" paper. The smooth surface of hot press paper absorbs the watercolor paint too quickly for you to move it around and blend more if you're not happy with the initial application. Also, the smoother the paper, the more expensive it is. Arches is considered one of the best brands, but Canson is good as well.
That said, I used hot press often in college when doing hand drafting or pencil renderings, because the surface yielded beautiful results for final presentation drawings.
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I got a pad of Canson watercolor paper in the art department at Joann's for about $7. It says 90lb 9x12 Watercolor Paper on the front.
I really like it...it's a nice weight and absorbs the watercolor slow enough to move around but fast enough to dry pretty quickly. It has a slightly rough texture which I found just requires that I press firmly when I stamp an image.
IMO, the most expensive watercolor papers are not necessary for something like card making. I mean if you think about it, most likely they will be thrown out, LOL. *cringe*
The better watercolor papers like Arches, are for artwork that needs to last a long, long time. It's much more durable, made to withstand many wet washes, scrubbing with a brush, etc.
I personally have used Canson, Strathmore (found in AC Moore or Mike's) with good success, if you can get a nice stamped image on it. It's texture has a bit of tooth, so it can be a little tricky. But my all time fave is Fabriano hot press (smooth, no texture at all). Colors blend beautifully, no pilling, or tearing from very wet washes, and no buckling. I get it in blocks from Dick Blick, the 5" x 7" size.
I use watercolor papers alot and beleive the weight is the most important aspect. 140# cold press is best for very "wet" applications, 120# for only medium wet stuff and you can get away with 90# for stamping and coloring in with water colors. This is a great items to use that Mike's coupon on. You want the absolute best you can afford so the 40%-50% off helps! If you are fortunate enought to be able to use 140# for everything...BRAVO!
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