This Tip Could Save You a Fortune in Watercolor Paper!

save a fortune in watercolor paper

I only realized how valuable this tip was when one of my Masterclass students sent me this comment:

This is what Cherryl told me:

“I particularly felt like the tip to not draw and erase on my good Arches watercolor paper was advice probably worth the cost of your entire masterclass!  Game changer.  I am not very good at sketching and when I attempt, there is a lot of erasing going on.  So that tip alone has been a real help.”

Some folks insist on drawing freehand directly onto watercolor paper. By this I mean they are not tracing the reference image.

And I completely understand… 

But unless you’re REALLY good at drawing you will probably be erasing and correcting your outline as you go.

This is where things get tricky! 

Does erasing damage watercolor paper?

The surface of watercolor paper is quite delicate. Most good quality paper has “sizing” on the surface (sizing helps control the absorbent properties of the paper, making it correctly balanced for painting with watercolors).

So when you erase, you’re also removing the surface sizing, which then modifies the handling properties of your paper. This effectively damages watercolor paper. Brush strokes behave differently on areas with disturbed sizing compared to untouched areas of the paper.

If you’ve ever tried stretching your watercolor paper, you may have noticed this effect? When you soak the paper for stretching purposes, it washes away some of the surface sizing. When stretched paper dries completely, you’ll see that the surface is slightly “fuzzy” and the absorbency seems different in comparison to using non-stretched paper. That’s because of the lesser amount of sizing!

So if drawing is really your thing, here’s what I suggest you do instead:

  1. Draw your subject on a separate sheet of paper first

You can do all the erasing, scraping, and modifying you like until you get it to the point where you’re happy 🙂

  1. THEN trace your “original” image onto the watercolor paper.

Don’t worry, this isn’t cheating!

Your watercolor paper will thank you.

And you can send me a virtual hug later 😉

You’ve probably figured out by now that I use a light table like this one for tracing subjects onto watercolor paper. Whatever the source, whether it’s my own sketches or reference photos, I find this is the easiest and quickest method for tracing (I don’t like wasting time!)

how to trace a picture

For those of you who are interested, I have a more in-depth tutorial about transferring reference images onto watercolor paper on my blog here.

Happy painting!


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