Can You Use Cold-Pressed Paper for Line and Wash?


Can You Use Cold-Pressed Paper for Line and Wash?

Line and wash (also known as ink and wash or pen and wash… how original) is a painting technique combining the use of an ink pen and watercolor paints. The pen's job is to define the contours, structure, and sometimes the value of the subject while the watercolor “wash” adds color and essential value to the painting. It also, at least at this moment in time, just so happens to be my favorite medium.

The end result of a well executed line and wash painting is a captivating, eye-popping, vibrant watercolor that is enhanced from the contrasting black ink. However, the choice of paper is crucial when it comes to achieving the certain results.

There are three types of watercolor paper surfaces that you’ll need to consider: rough, hot-pressed, and cold-pressedRough, like it’s creative name suggests, offers a coarse, varied texture which is great for deep layers of color. Hot-pressed has very little “tooth” or surface texture, it’s the smoothest of the three. Finally, cold-pressed is in between rough and hot-pressed and provides the best of both worlds. 

But, which paper is best for line and wash..? Would the smoothest surface be best? Can you use cold-pressed paper for line and wash for deeper color absorption? The answer is yes, you certainly can. In fact, some of my favorite line and wash paintings have been on cold-pressed paper, like Wait Chapel below:

Although the surface is still considerably rough, cold-pressed paper offers the best pigment absorption while sacrificing the least amount of pen quality. If you’re not using a quill pen with Indian black ink, I'd recommend using high quality fine-liner pens like Sakura Pigmas. I love mine. They provide long-lasting comfort, predictability, and of course water resistance.

The highest quality, most reasonably priced watercolor paper brand is Arches. I'm kicking myself for not using their products from day one.. The hot-pressed and cold-pressed products are likely the only two I’ll ever use for line and wash. The professional cotton paper quality is unmatched and perfect for not just watercolor paints, but the famous line and wash technique.


All the best,

Sam Bell