Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Compare watercolor papers: Strathmore Imperial, Gemini, Aquarius II, all 500 Series

This is part three of twelve in my series of watercolor paper tests, comparisons, and reviews. Here I am testing Strathmore 500 Series Imperial (cold press and hot press), Gemini (rough and cold press), and Aquarius II. See this post for introduction and photos of all the papers and this post for conclusions.


Strathmore 500 Series Imperial


  • Finish and weight: Cold press and hot press, 140 lb. (300 gsm)
  • Composition: 100% cotton, acid free
  • Sizing: Hard surface sizing
  • Website info


Paper color


This paper is white.


Watercolor brightness


Yes, the watercolors retain their brightness on this paper.

Strathmore 500 Series Imperial cold press with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Strathmore 500 Series Imperial hot press with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Paper texture


The texture belongs to the same family as Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor and Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut. To the touch it feels softer, more like the 400 Series Watercolor. Similar to Ready Cut, the hot press paper texture is really more like a softer cold press than a smooth hot press paper. Both papers, but especially the cold press, show beautiful granulation patterns.


Paper sizing and absorbency


This is a hard sized paper with some backruns. Paint edges as well as pen lines appear a bit jagged due to the sizing.

Strathmore 500 Series Imperial cold press with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Strathmore 500 Series Imperial hot press with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Paper cockling


Yes, similar to Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut if used unstretched.


Pencil/pen/brush and ink


Pencil lines appear dark and sink in a bit so marks remain after deleting. Pen lines appear a bit jagged due to the sizing, more so on the hot press paper. Ink strokes look less black and glossy and dry a bit unevenly.


Cost and availability


Strathmore 500 Series Imperial is available in sheets.
  • List price for one 22”x30” sheet is $7.95, online it can be found for about two dollars less.


History and continuity


This paper was introduced in 1949 as Artist, and was indeed the artist counterpart to Strathmore’s Student paper (later 400 Series Watercolor). The name Imperial was introduced in the early 1980’s. This paper is still made in the United States. For more information about Strathmore, see this post.


Conclusion


Both the Imperial cold press and hot press are good choices if you like Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor but are looking for a 100% cotton option. Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut, cold press and hot press, are two other options which are also hard sized.

There used to be a very nice sampler pack available from Strathmore with Imperial, Gemini, and Aquarius II, which I would love to see brought back to the stores, including Ready Cut! I am a big fan of sampler packs, because how else will you easily and without a great expense discover other great papers?!


Översättning. Strathmore 500 Series Imperial är ett amerikanskt akvarellpapper som lanserades på 1940-talet liksom deras 400 Series Watercolor. Då var 400 Series Watercolor studentalternativet medan Imperial var konstnärsalternativet.

Som tidigare nämnts så påminner Imperial till ytstrukturen mycket om Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor, liksom Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut. Både Imperial och Ready Cut är bra alternativ i 100% bomull till 400 Series Watercolor. Liksom Ready Cut så är den varmpressade grängen mer av en mjukare kallpressad yta. Papperet är hårt limmat, så blomningar är mer framträdande speciellt om mycket vatten används och tuschlinjer kan bli lite ojämna.



Strathmore 500 Series Gemini


  • Finish and weight: Rough and cold press, 140 lb. (300 gsm)
  • Composition: 100% cotton, acid free
  • Manufacturing: Cylinder mould
  • Website info


Paper color


A creamy white color, the darkest/most yellow of the papers tested.


Watercolor brightness


Colors appear more subdued on this paper, due to less contrast between colors and paper and also since this is a more absorbent paper.

Strathmore 500 Series Gemini cold press with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Strathmore 500 Series Gemini rough with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Paper texture


The cold press texture is similar to both Strathmore 500 Series Imperial (see above) and Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut, but the surface is rougher.

The texture pattern of the rough surface is too pronounced for my taste if you use large granulating washes, as a diagonal direction then becomes visible. The surface feels almost felt-like to the touch.


Paper sizing and absorbency


This paper is very thirsty, so although water sinks in, the colors keep spreading. It has less sizing than Imperial so no backruns. Still, there are jagged paint outlines similar to Imperial, especially with the cold press.
 
Strathmore 500 Series Gemini cold press with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Strathmore 500 Series Gemini rough with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Paper cockling


The cold press cockles similar to the other watercolor papers if unstretched and the rough paper cockles more, as is usually the case with rough papers.


Pencil/pen/brush and ink


The surface is rougher than Imperial, so pencil lines are darker, sink in more, and indentations remain after deletion.

The paper is too absorbent for some of my pens. Brush and ink work better, albeit not turning out as glossy as some other papers. The rougher paper surface is visible through the ink surface. Jagged edges are due to the coarse texture.


Cost and availability


Strathmore 500 Series Gemini is available in sheets.
  • List price for one 22”x30” sheet is $9.29, online it can be found for around $5 per sheet.


History and continuity


The current grade of this paper was introduced in 1989. This paper is, together with Strathmore 500 Series Aquarius II (see below), one of only two of Strathmore’s watercolor papers which is made in England. For more information about Strathmore, see this post.


Conclusion


This is a creamy white paper, the darkest of the papers tested, and a rather rough and thirsty paper with an almost felt-like surface. The paper is too dark, absorbent, and textured for my purposes, but I think it would work well as a softer background for portraiture, figure painting, or landscapes, for example. The manufacturer states that it takes scrubbing and abuse well, something I did not test.



Översättning. Strathmore 500 Series Gemini är ett amerikanskt akvarellpapper i 100% bomull som har funnits sedan 1989 och som har en mörkare yta än Strathmore 500 Series Imperial och Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut. Ytan är grövre och papperet törstigare. Ytans dovare färg och högre absorption gör att färgerna ser mer dämpade ut. Detta papper är alltför mörkt för mig, men jag kan tänka mig att detta papper skulle passa bra som en mjukare bakgrund till porträtt, figurmåleri eller landskap.



Strathmore 500 Series Aquarius II


  • Finish and weight: Cold press, 80 lb. (170 gsm) 
  • Composition: A blend of cotton and synthetic fibers, acid free
  • Website info


Paper color


White.


Watercolor brightness


This is a very absorbent paper so the colors appear a bit more subdued. If you like to try this paper, try using more paint and less water than I did!

Strathmore 500 Series Aquarius II with watercolors, pencil, pen, brush and ink
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.




 

Paper texture


The surface feels fairly flat and almost fabric-like to the touch, yet not completely smooth. Despite its relatively smooth look, texture is visible with granulating colors.


Paper sizing and absorbency


Due to its composition, this is a very absorbent paper, with slight feathering seen in pen lines.

Strathmore 500 Series Aquarius II with watercolors
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

 

 

Paper cockling


The fiber blend is made to resist buckling without stretching when using light and medium washes. I, however, used a heavy wash as I worked with pouring of colors and water and experienced cockling of the unstretched paper similar to the other watercolor papers.


Pencil/pen/brush and ink


The paper surface feels quite soft, so pencil lines sink in and indents remain after deletion. With pen, some feathering can be seen due to the absorbency, especially with Pigma Micron. Ink strokes are more gray due to the absorbency.


Cost and availability


Strathmore 500 Series Aquarius II is available in sheets.
  • List price for one 22”x30” sheet is $7.29, online it can be found for about three dollars less.


History and continuity


This paper was first introduced in the early 1980s and is, together with Strathmore 500 Series Gemini (see above), one of only two of Strathmore’s watercolor papers which is made in England. For more information about Strathmore, see this post.


Conclusion


For my purposes, Aquarius II is too absorbent. It may be worth testing if you don’t use too much water and are looking for a paper that resists buckling. However, you will need to use more paint and less water in order to get vibrant colors since the paper is very absorbent.


Översättning. Strathmore 500 Series Aquarius II  är ett amerikanskt akvarellpapper som introducerades i början av 1980-talet. Det är tillverkat av en blandning av bomull och syntetiska fibrer för att motverka buckling, men bucklar ändå om man använder så mycket vatten som jag gjorde i mitt test. Ytan är mycket absorberande vilket gör att färgerna ser blekare ut. Om du är nyfiken på detta papper så rekommenderar jag att använda mindre vatten och mer färg än jag gjorde.

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