Hahnemühle sent a few pads of watercolor and mixed media paper to test and review in my studio. I’ve heard about Hahnemühle fine art papers, but never tried them. I’ve been happily enlightened. 🙂
Bamboo Mixed Media Paper
I used graphite, ink, watercolor and colored pencils on Hahnemühle’s bamboo & cotton blend mixed media paper, and I loved it! The surface is natural white, very sturdy (125 lb) paper, and it has just enough tooth to catch colored pencil beautifully. The paper handled micron pens without any bleed, erased pencil with no pilling, and held passages of watercolor up on the surface brilliantly. Their Bamboo mixed media paper is acid free and designed for Watercolor, Pastel, and Acrylic, sketching and Mixed Media. Are you interested in trying it? If you look for it on Dick Blick, they’re called “pads” instead of blocks.
I also tested two pads of Hahnemühle mould-made hot press watercolor paper; the Leonardo block, with 280 lb paper, and the Cezanne block with 140 lb paper. Both blocks performed very well with graphite sketches, wet in wet and dry brush watercolor. The surface of the paper felt very robust under my brushes, and layering pigments 3-5 times never compromised the surface.
Hot press papers often show lots of mark-making in brush strokes. The pigments sit suspended on what is often a slick surface, and they dry where they were laid. This paper has a very subtle texture to it, so I found my brush marks & pigment track edges softened and feathered out by the time the paper dried. For folks who like a smooth surface, but no visible brush tracks, this paper might be a good option for you.
One of the little details I appreciate about the construction of these blocks is the glue & cloth edge-seal. Watercolor blocks are glued around the edges to hold the paper flat while you paint, which saves you from having to mount each sheet to a board with tape or staples. Hence the term “block” – you’re holding a stack of watercolor paper mounted to a stiff board, glued on four sides. When your painting is finished and dry, use the wedge-tip of your paint brush or a paper folding rule to slide around all the edges, under your painted sheet, to gently break the glue seal. Your new painting is released from the block, and a fresh sheet that was underneath it is ready to go – Shah-Zam! ✨ These block pads are perfect for painting on location, sitting in your garden, or starting something spontaneously in the studio, because you don’t need to mount the sheets before you begin to work. #GetToIt
I’ve experienced splits in the glue while painting on other blocks, because the paper shrinks and expands during the wetting & drying process, which cracks the glue and requires adding clips, or tearing the sheet off and mounting it to board with tape before continuing to paint.
Not so with these Hahnemühle blocks. Each of them held flat as a plate while painting, drying and adding additional layers of wet pigment. Good job, Hahnemühle.
Hahnemühle lists both watercolor blocks for wet-into-wet painting with Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera and Acrylic. I confirmed with the Hahnemühle rep that each of the pads are surface sized (and the Bamboo mixed media paper above has internal sizing).
What is Sizing?
Sizing is usually made from starch or gelatin, and it’s added to the pulp in the manufacturing process to bind the cellulose and prohibit pigments from absorbing into the fibers of the paper. This increases the durability of the paper, and keeps the colors from bleeding out into the fibers, the way they would if you painted on a paper towel. Internal sizing is mixed into the pulp while it’s still twirling around in a vat of liquid and fibers. Surface sizing is sprayed on the paper after it’s made, and that barrier holds the pigment granules on the surface, so they’re illuminated by the protected white of the paper underneath. Surface sizing also keeps the pigments from spreading or “bleeding” past your brush strokes, and it allows you to lift color with a clean, wet brush when using non-staining pigments.
I found that I could lift some of the pigment (see above), but not as much as other brands of surface-sized papers I’ve tested. Still, though, this is good paper, and I was pretty tough on it while scumbling around with stiff brushes and layering pigments on the test paintings above. I’m looking forward to painting on each of these blocks again.
Watercolor Sketch Pad
This lovely watercolor sketchbook is also surface sized, and the pages handle wet washes without buckling or rippling. The book opens to a generous 8.25 x 24 inches, and the paper is natural white, crisp but light weight, and acid free. The pages have a fine grain texture that reminds me of cold press watercolor paper, and color lifts from the sheets beautifully. I used Tombow Gray Scale brush markers to sketch value studies (see above) with no bleeding or feathering out into the fibers whatsoever, and I found the fine texture to be very effective for drybrush watercolor (see below). I predict that this will become my go-to watercolor sketchpad for on-site painting.
The Hahnemühle watercolor postcards are not like any I’ve tried previously. The surface is finely textured, but slick under the brush, and the cards themselves are crisp and robust, despite their delicate translucency. Watercolor glides on, stays on top of the surface, and after it’s dry, you can change your mind and lift it off.
According to the folks at Hahnemühle, you can purchase their papers at Dick Blick, WetPaint in MN, DaVinci Artist Supply in NY, Flax Art & Design in San Mateo, Binders in Atlanta, Talas in NY and Blue Rooster in Los Angeles.
Great news! In exchange for this review, I asked Hahnemühle to offer a giveaway, and they happily agreed! (Domestic shipping only – thanks for understanding!) Five lucky U.S. commenters will each receive one of the items I reviewed in this post. Distribution of who-gets-what will be a surprise!
Simply leave a comment here telling us what your favorite art supply is, and next weekend – July 30, we’ll announce five winners drawn from the comment section.
Be sure your name in the comments is linked to your blog or website so we have means to get in touch with you when you win. If you don’t have a blog or a web site, include your email address with your comment. Mark your calendar to check back here for a new blog post announcing the winners next Sunday (July 30)! The good folks at Hahnemühle will be sending your goodies directly from their facility!
Let’s review: we’ve got up for grabs, one of the 140 lb watercolor blocks, one of the 280 lb watercolor blocks, one mixed media bamboo block, one watercolor sketchbook, and one tin of watercolor postcards. I’m sure you’ll love either one of these wonderful papers – I had a blast testing them this week! Put your lucky socks on, and leave a comment below! Good luck!
Thanks for hanging out with me today, and I’ll see you in the next post, when we announce the winners!!
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NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. Hahnemühle sent me paper samples to review, but I was not paid to test them. The samples didn’t culture any bias towards their products; I tested & reviewed each paper based on my own painting preferences. I’m sharing the results here with the hope that my observations are helpful to you in your art-making adventures.