Monday, August 15, 2016

Compare watercolor papers: Arches Watercolour, Bright White

This is part four of twelve in my series of watercolor paper tests, comparisons, and reviews. Here I am testing Arches Watercolour, Bright White, rough and cold press. Hot press is tested in a separate post. See this post for introduction and photos of all the papers and this post for conclusions.

Arches Watercolour, Bright White

  • Finish and weight: Rough and cold press, 140 lb. (300 gsm) (for hot press, read this post)
  • Composition: 100% cotton, acid free, no optical brightening agents, fungicidal treatment to prevent mold
  • Manufacturing: Cylinder mould
  • Sizing: Sized to the core with natural gelatin
  • Website info

Paper color

Arches Bright White is actually a slightly warm and creamy white.

Watercolor brightness

Yes, watercolors look quite bright on this surface.

Arches Watercolour, Bright White, cold press with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Arches Watercolour, Bright White, rough with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Paper texture

The cold press paper is less visibly textured than Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor, yet shows off granulation patterns in a slightly grainier way. Both cold press and rough feel quite rough to the touch and to the brush.

The rough paper has a pebbled texture that is very noticeable on the unpainted paper, yet the texture becomes less prominent and looks much like a cold press paper once painted on. This paper is an  alternative to Arches cold press for those who desire slightly more texture!

Paper sizing and absorbency

The cold press is sized, but feels very absorbent in comparison to Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor. The rough paper is even more thirsty.

Note that, due to the natural gelatin sizing, Arches watercolor paper smells a bit when wet.

Arches Watercolour, Bright White, cold press with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Arches Watercolour, Bright White, rough with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Paper cockling

This paper cockles just like the other watercolor papers if left unstretched. The rough paper cockles too much to be used unstretched for a wet painting, similar to Fabriano Artistico rough, as the paint settles in the valleys of the paper and creates backruns.

Pencil/pen/brush and ink

The surface feels rough for both pencil and pen and ghosting remains after deletion. The cold press is the least rough of the two. Pen lines look a bit jagged. Brush and ink dry unevenly due to the absorbency of the paper.

Cost and availability

I only found Arches Watercolour Bright White available as sheets online. (Natural White is also available in blocks, pads, and rolls). 
  • List price for a 22”x30” sheet is $10.90, online it can be found for less than half that price, about $4.50.

History and continuity

The Arches paper mill in France was founded in 1492. In 1956, four paper mills merged, one of them Arches, to create the paper group Arjomari ("AR" for Arches). In 1976, they acquired Canson & Montgolfier. In 1991, Arjomari merged with Anglo-American paper company WTA to become Arjo Wiggins. Since 2011, Arches belongs to the Swedish-Finnish paper group Munksjö Oyj, which became a publicly traded company in 2013.

The watercolor paper is still made in Arches, a small town in the east of France. Arches is, together with Strathmore, one of the most widely available papers in the United States. I could not find any exact dates for introduction due to its long history, but the Bright White is a more recent paper than the Natural White.


Arches cold press is a good option for cold press paper of 100% cotton, but I did not find it worked as well with pen or pencil due to the rough and absorbent surface texture. If you like Arches cold press, you might want to try Arches rough as the results are similar! Note that, if you are sensitive to smells, you might want to test one sheet before buying a large batch.

Översättning. Arches Watercolour är ett franskt akvarellpapper som kommer från ett pappersbruk som grundades 1492 i Arches i Frankrike där det fortfarande tillverkas. Det är ett av världens mest kända akvarellpapper. Arches är ett papper av 100% bomull med limning av naturlig gelatin, vilket orsakar en speciell lukt när papperet är vått. Trots namnet så är Bright White inte helvitt utan drar åt det varma hållet, dock är det vitare än Natural White.

I jämförelse med Strathmores papper så är Arches ytstruktur mindre framträdande i både fin och grov gräng men granulerande pigment framträder ändå. Arches känns även strävare mot både pensel och penna och absorberar en hel del vatten. Utan fuktspänning så bucklar det vid vätning, speciellt den grova grängen. För den som vill ha lite mer ytstruktur så är grov gräng ett populärt alternativ till fin gräng.

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