Affordable Watercolor Paper Review ✿ MozArt Pressed Watercolor Pad

Art, Review

I’d like to review the MozArt Hot Pressed Watercolor Pad, which I bought for Inktober 2018. This hardcover book comes with 50 sheets of 8.5×11″ 220 GSM hot pressed watercolor paper. I got it specifically to use for Inktober because I wanted a paper that would be smooth for fineliners, and also take ink washes moderately well. So my thoughts will be will that usage in mind, though I’ve also tried out a few other materials on this paper.
I purchased this pad myself, so all of my opinions are my own.

the cover of the mozartsupplies hot pressed watercolor pad

Let’s start with the pros:

  • For 50 sheets of paper at $13, this paper is extremely affordable for hot pressed watercolor paper.
  • This is entirely personal preference, but I love that it’s a signature-bound hardcover book. Personally, I don’t buy spiral or paper-cover sketchbooks anymore, because my own preference is hardcover, and the spiral gets in the way in my experience. The signatures also mean the book lays flat.
  • The texture of the paper is exactly what I wanted. Its smooth enough that my smallest fineliners have no trouble with skipping, but it isn’t so smooth that its slick. It has just enough tooth to make sketching pleasant while maintaining the crispness of fineliner pens.
  • Ink and watercolor glide beautifully across the paper, and for watercolors that lift, this paper handles that reasonably.
    If you’re not familiar with how watercolor paper is made, it goes through a process called “sizing” where a solution is applied to the paper to make the watercolor paints not sink immediately into the paper. This makes the paint sit on the surface of the paper longer, so you can control it better. If you’ve ever tried to use watercolors in a sketchbook or other paper not meant for wet media, and the paint bleeds into the paper’s fibers and then won’t budge, the lack of sizing in the paper is why. Sometimes you’ll get a cheaply made watercolor paper that is inadequately sized, and the paint seems to bleed into dry areas of the paper and won’t blend right. This paper isn’t perfect, but for a $13 book, it handles wet media fluidly.
  • I haven’t consistently used both sides of the paper, but both sides seem to have the same texture, and when I tested on the back side of a page, the paint seemed to work the same way as the front side. So if you’re someone who uses both sides of a page, this book should work well for that.
  • So far I’ve mostly been using inks, but on my test page, watercolors performed well, as did copic markers. With the markers there was a bit of bleeding through to the back of the page, but its thick enough paper that it wasn’t severe. I would still protect the page behind it, just in case. The paper also seemed to take colored pencil nicely, though I imagine it would quickly become too smooth for layering and blending. This isn’t a colored pencil or pastel paper though, so i’m not counting that against the paper since it’s not its main use. I think adding detail to a watercolor painting with colored pencil would still perform very well, and the pencil would not skip since the paper has little texture.
  • This is mostly an aesthetics thing, but the fabric cover of this book is beautiful and tactile, and the elastic band is great for keeping the book closed.
The difference between cold pressed (rough) paper and hot pressed (smooth) paper

Now, I really only have one con, which is:

  • The paper is too thin. It’s 220 GSM, which is much thinner than any other watercolor paper I have (though I only have cold pressed). It warps pretty significantly, as you can see in the photo below.
  • There is a mild amount of pilling. This isn’t a great paper for heavy washes or layering, and scrubbing the paper with your brush will begin to pill and tear the paper.
paper buckling after water is applied

One key thing to note about this paper that is neither a pro nor a con, because it depends on your preference, is that there is perforation about half an inch into the book. That means while each sheet is 8.5×11″ the perforation makes the workable area 8.5×10.5″
This can be a con to someone who wants to work directly up to, or even across the fold, but for me personally, it’s a neutral element that makes page removal easier.

Overall I think the sketchbook is well worth its price, and I would recommend it if you’re in search of an affordable hot pressed watercolor paper, as long as you aren’t planning on using heavy washes.
Unfortunately, it does seem to be out of stock at the moment. Here are a selection of other paper pads by the same company: