Thursday, September 15, 2016

Selecting papers for watercolor ACEOs

As I now have tested 32 different watercolor and mixed media papers, here are a few tips for selecting papers for watercolor ACEOs. Painting small format art is for me a way to awaken my creative flow! So of course I also tested how well suited these papers are to small format art, or in this case ACEOs.

ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. It is a small piece of art, only 2.5”x3.5” (64x89 mm), the same size as standard trading cards such as baseball cards. An ACEO may be sold, whereas its subcatecory ATC (Artist Trading Cards) may only be traded.

Testing papers for watercolor ACEOs
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Two of the most important factors to consider when painting watercolor ACEOs are paper cockling (a distortion of the paper in areas with a lot of water or paint; curl, warp, waves, etc.) and texture.


I generally cut my ACEOs to size prior to painting. If the paper cockles too much during painting, it will curl around the centerline or diagonally, causing the paint to pool either in the center or along the edges. If you cut the paper after painting, you may instead be dealing with waves or ripples across the entire sheet unless you pre-wet and stretch it.

Most papers cockle during painting, often in relation to the amount of water used, but the main question is which papers curl too much. Note that I used a lot of water for my tests, so if you use less water, your results may be different.

The following papers curled the most during painting causing paint to pool along the edges: Arches Watercolour rough, Fabriano Artistico rough, cold press and hot press, Canson Moulin du Roy hot press, Canson Montval, Winsor & Newton Cotman 200 lb., and Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media. Again, note that I used a lot of water - and note that this applies specifically to ACEOs, not larger format art!

In general, the papers that curled the most were rough papers, hot press papers, thin papers (less than 140 lb), and hard sized papers.

Several of these unfurled once dry, but the Fabriano and Arches papers remained the most curled, especialy the rough and hot press.

For a rough surface with less curl, try Strathmore 500 Series Gemini rough or cold press or Arches Watercolour 300 lb. (640 gsm) rough or cold press.

For the least amount of curl, I recommend Strathmore 500 Series Illustration Board or Illustration Board for Wet Media. An alternative is to try to keep the amount of water down!


Texture is another important factor as a distinct grain will look even more prominent in a small format. Some art may benefit from a more textured look, but there were a few papers I thought had a texture that distracted from the art itself. The papers I thought had too prominent textures were: Fabriano Artistico rough, Arches Watercolour 300 lb. hot press(!), and Winsor & Newton Cotman 200 lb.

The paper textures that I thought worked well with a small format were:
Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor, Strathmore 500 Series Ready Cut cold press, Strathmore 500 Series Gemini rough and cold press, Arches Watercolour cold press, Canson Moulin du Roy cold press, Strathmore 500 Series Illustration Board, Strathmore 500 Series Illustration Board for Wet Media, and Strathmore 400 Series Acrylic Paper.


Of all the papers I tested, the following are the ones I would primarily recommend for ACEOs, having less cockling and less prominent textures:

For best results, use less water and keep removing paint or water that cause pooling. Good luck!

En ACEO är ett litet konstverk, bara 64x89 mm, samma storlek som ett idolkort. ACEO står för Art Cards, Editions and Originals, och kan alltså vara antingen ett original eller ett print i begränsad upplaga. En ACEO får säljas, medan en ATC, Artist Trading Cards, enbart får bytas.

När jag testade akvarellpapper så testade jag även hur de fungerade till detta lilla format och fann då att två av de viktigaste egenskaperna var papperets ytstruktur samt tendens till buckling. Notera att jag använde mycket vatten till mina tester och skar till formatet innan jag målade, dvs jag fuktspände inte papperet.

De papper jag tyckte bucklade mest var Arches Watercolour grov gräng, Fabriano Artistico grov, fin och slät gräng, Canson Moulin du Roy slät gräng, Canson Montval, Winsor & Newton Cotman 425 gsm, och Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media. Obs att detta enbart gäller ACEOs, inte större format.

I princip kan man säga att de papper som bucklade mest var de i grov gräng, slät gräng, papper tunnare än 300 gsm och hårt limmade papper.

En del av dessa slätade i viss mån ut sig igen, men de papper som behöll mest buckling när de torkat var Fabriano och Arches, främst grov men även slät gräng.

De papper jag tyckte hade en alltför prominent ytstruktur var
Fabriano Artistico grov gräng, Arches Watercolour 640 gsm slät gräng(!) och Winsor & Newton Cotman 425 gsm fin gräng.

De papper jag tyckte passade bäst till ACEOs, dvs bucklade minst och hade en inte alltför iögonfallande ytstruktur var:

För bäst resultat, använd lite vatten och torka snabbt upp vattenpölar på papperet med penselspetsen. Lycka till!

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