Friday, June 06, 2008

Saunders Waterford Hot Press - pros and cons for coloured pencils

Not all professional watercolour Hot Press papers behave in the same way.

I've been using what I think is Saunders Waterford Hot Press for coloured pencil drawings in my Drawing a Head class at the Princes Drawing School this term. It's a completely different experience from drawing on any other sort of paper and I thought I'd provide some feedback about what it's like.

Drawing a Head 5th June 2008
pencil and coloured pencils
on Saunders Waterford Hot Press
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

First a little explanation.
  • I know it's Saunders Waterford because of the watermark and embossed mark - which seems to suggest it's part of the Professional watercolour series - according to their specification.
  • I 'think' it's Hot Press because it's very smooth.
Saunders Waterford Embossed Mark

However I got the paper from that available at the School (in the drawer marked Saunders Waterford Cold Press!) and I did actually wonder whether it might in fact be Saunders Waterford Printmaking Paper. The specification for that says it has two watermarks and no embossed mark. So I then checked my Somerset Pastel paper and the Somerset watermark is very distinctive. Moral of the story - if it hasn't got the embossed mark it isn't Saunders Waterford professional watercolour paper. So - given that fact mine has (see right) - I've concluded I have in fact been using Saunders Waterford Hot Press!

Last night I was using a mix of different pencils - but mainly from the Faber Castell Polycromos and Lyra Rembrandt ranges. These are both oil based pencils which always seem to work very nicely together.

The pros
  • the paper is s incredibly soft. It's surface sized with gelatine
  • colours blend and blur remarkably easily which means you get very soft transitions which is wonderful when drawing faces and using lots of colours for optical mixing
  • erasure (using my battery powered eraser) is super simple - even dark colour lifts off cleanly (see the erased streaks in her hair). This is - which is really odd given the way the colour sinks into the paper (see below).
The cons
  • the colour sinks into the paper really, really fast. So fast I keep expecting to wake up in the morning to find I have no drawing left. However, it does stop after a little while and gets no worse over time.
  • it's impossible to get any really dark darks - no matter how hard you try. The trick is just to accept this and to go down a different route in terms of what sort of drawing gets produced. This one is very soft.
  • very precise hard edges are not easy. This is not a paper for being very precise.
The odd thing is that I think the Saunders Waterford HP in blocks behaves slightly differently - so I'm now wondering whether they might be sized differently.

I reckon Saunders Waterford Hot Press would make an ideal paper for drawing babies, small children and young people where you want a very soft effect. In my view, it wouldn't be so good for drawing lined faces or faces which should look 'strong'.

I'm thinking about taking some Zest-It and a brush in with me to class and doing a very rough coloured pencil underdrawing of value shapes only in colours then 'zesting' this and then working on top - to see what happens.............

Note: When trying to find the link for the people at Inveresk / St Cuthberts Mill who make Saunders Waterford I found that it took less time to go to my information site Paper and Supports - Resources for Artists than to try searching through Google results! Google would have come up trumps though if I'd input Inveresk........

PS Don't forget that it's Drawing Day tomorrow

PPS Does anybody know why Google has got Las Meninas as an overlay today? Is there a Velaquez day?


  1. Velazquez was born on 6 June 1599 so today is his birthday, so to speak (do you still have birthdays when you're dead?!).

  2. So interesting, Katherine, to read this about the different effects of different papers. Your head drawing is lovely. The subtle tones have a very luminous quality---and now I know why, although knowing the kind of tools you used doesn't fully account for the glowing results. The same tools in other hands would not produce such wonderful results. I need to refresh my memory re Drawing Day. Thanks for the reminder.


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