Saturday, 25 June 2016

Carnation (video) and Arches Hot Press paper test

In my previous post I discussed briefly my most helpful reds. This time I would like to take a closer look at Arches HP paper. I used this paper to paint a carnation which I finished yesterday:

It was last year or even a year before when someone gave me Arches HP paper for testing. I did some tests, very simple tests, which already showed that Arches HP would not be my favorite paper. I don't know if I got a bad batch then or I had a bad time but painting on Arches HP was just terrible. 

Some time ago I got a block of Arches HP again. It was on my drawer for quite a long time but I decided to see how it would work for me now. I know there have been some issues with Fabriano Artistico paper lately and many botanical artist test other papers. I personally still love Fabriano and I have never had any problems with it.

Oh, speaking about Fabriano. Some of you probably have seen the video made by Eunike Nugroho (this video). Two spots came out on the paper while she was painting. I don't know if it is connected anyhow, but two weeks ago I started drawing zendalas on Fabriano Artistico (you can see 3 videos if you like: zendala 1, zendala 2, zendala 3). When I looked at a sheet of Fabriano against the light to check a watermark I noticed white round spots. It immediately reminded me of Eunike's spots. So maybe it's worth checking if there are those spots before we start painting. I can't check if this spot would somehow affect the painting because I have a zendala there. Just a little observation.

Let's come back to Arches. I used this block:

Before I started to paint a carnation I did some color tests. I also wanted to practise before I start something more serious. What I noticed was that on Arches paper paint didn't cover an area evenly. The colors looked as if they had been covered with a chalk. It is probably not really clear in the photos, but here is Arches:

and here is Fabriano Artistico:

On Fabriano colors seem to be stronger and washes are more even. This upset me, because I remember similar situation with Winsor&Newton CP paper. 

I did more practice and it turned out that when I applied more water at the beginning (much more water) the washes later looked really good and even. It seems that Arches likes water.

Arches is also a very smooth paper, much smoother than Saunders Waterford HP. The only thing I can complain about is the creamy color of Arches. Fabriano Artistico Extra White is really extra white next to Arches


I surprised myself and I really like Arches. 
  • The colors eventually look really well, they are very bright and strong, just as I like. 
  • Painting wet-on-wet is really nice, paint spreads out evenly with a soft edge. 
  • It is easy to lift out the paint as well. 
  • Edges are crisp. 
  • The surface is very smooth.
  • The paper cockles less than Fabriano Artistico
  • As I mentioned before, the only thing that I can complain about is the color of the paper, but it doesn't bother me much. 
All in all, I think it's a very good paper. Painting on it is a pleasure and it can be a good alternative to other papers if there's a need. I'm very happy with my painting on Arches. The flower is 20 cm high (8").


In case you were interested in colors which I used:
I've also made a video of how I was painting it. It's in to parts: part 1, part 2.


  1. Great post, very helpful. I have never really liked Arches but it is worth trying again as It has been a few years since I worked with it.
    Lovely fresh vivid colours, beautiful painting.

    1. Thank you Vicki! I've never liked it too, but I was really positively surprised when I used it in this painting. It's worth giving it a second chance.

  2. I've only used Arches in CP so will be interested to try in HP after reading your blog entry. I do like the carnation - nice job!

  3. Lovely painting. Thanks for the review on Arches.

  4. Great article (as usual), can you tell me more about your swatch coding? Triangle, square, half filled square? Thank you! Love your work!!!

    1. Thank you! You can find the key to coding on my website. Here's the link:

  5. Thank you for this. I too will have another go with Arches. Trouble is I paint dryer after the first wash. But perhaps it's just the first wash that counts. I also have found Strathmore is good.

    1. You're welcome Gaynor! :) In this painting I applied only the first wash wet on wet. Next layers were much dryer and it went really nice.

  6. I have always used Arches, but want a whiter paper. Thanks for the comparison photo! Looks like Fabriano for me.

  7. Hi Krzysztof,
    Firstly, I love your work and site, and the carnation is beautiful. I have used Arches 95lb HP for drawing and I have used 140lb/300gsm rough for landscape work. Two things put me off it: 1. The sizing is animal derivative and smells when the paper is wet.
    2.Blocks and sheets always seem to be different in both texture and colour. Some very white, and some not very consistent across the paper.
    I much prefer Saunders Waterford, Fabriano Artistico, and For landscape work, Khadi and Two Rivers Handmade. sell them.
    Take care, David.

    1. Thank you David! I didn't know about Khadi and Two Rivers Handmade papers. Fabriano and Saunders are very good and they are available here so I'll stick with them.

  8. Gorgeous work, and love how you go into detail about your methods and materials! Are you using the Arches Bright White or Natural White HP paper? If you're using the natural color, it would be awesome to know if the bright white color is closer to the Fabriano Extra White, and if it acts the same during painting. Botanical artists seem to have be very detail-oriented, so explorations like yours are fascinating reads and so helpful--thank you for sharing your experiences!

    1. Thank you! To be honest, I don't really know if the one I used here was bright white or natural white, because there is no information on the block. But I guess it was natural white, because it was really creamy comparing with Fabriano Extra White. Because of the issues with Fabriano many artists are testing new papers. I'm now waiting for Canson Heritage. We will see if it could be a good substitute for Fabriano.

  9. Hi Chris,
    I read, above at the comments, that you were interested to test the Canson Heritage paper. Same did I and I contacted for that reason Canson but unfortunately they didn't bother to reply to me at all and it is impossible to find this paper at any store here in Greece.

    Did you manage to get a sample or something to test it and if so what were your impressions from this paper? I'm talking about HP of course.

    I'm currently working on Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media 190 gsm paper. This paper is surprisingly strong for its weight and has a very nice bright white very smooth surface, ( but not extremely bright ) and I bought it in a roll that has a very good price too. But I'm still looking for something at 300 gsm.

    I'm impressed that you liked Arches. I wouldn't say that I was impressed whenever I used it.

    Fabriano Artistico case was a disaster. I haven't heard any fellow artist saying that s/he wasn't victim of the faulty batches. If Fabriano wanted to be fair it ought to refund us. ( not that something like this will ever happen of course...!! ha ha)
    Anyway.. if you have already tested the Heritage one I would be interested to read your review.


    1. Hi Marialena,
      Regarding Arches, I was also surprised that I like it, but somehow - still - maybe subconsciously I'm avoiding it. I think the reason is that it's too yellow for me.
      Now when it comes to Canson Heritage yes, I did test it. Actually I'm in the process of testing. It's slow (no time), but I am completing several sketches on this paper and I must say that I really like it. I haven't noticed anything bad about this paper and it's whiter than Arches. The only thing I can complain is the strange size of the block: 26 x 36 cm. It's bigger than A4 but smaller than A3 which is inconvenient. I usually paint botanicals at A3 size and this size fits nicely to a standard frame. Canson Heritage block 26 x 36 is too small for A3 frame and too big for A4 frame. But as the paper itself it's really good. When I finish my tests I will surely write a post about it.

  10. Thanks for the comparison photo! Looks like Fabriano for me.


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