Testing Hahnemühle Papers

Hahnemühle sent me 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. 🙂

Three blocks of watercolor paper by Hahnemühle
Using Sakura Pigma Micron ink pens on Hahnemühle Bamboo Mixed Media paper (pen and ink tutorial is here)

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 them on Dick Blick, they’re called “pads” instead of blocks.

Mixed media paper by Hahnemühle
Adding watercolor to the pencil & ink drawing on Hahnemühle Bamboo paper
Testing pen & ink, watercolor & colored pencil on Hahnemühle Bamboo paper
Details on Hahnemühle’s mixed media bamboo paper block

Watercolor 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.

Mixed Media Bamboo Paper

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 without traveling too much.

This paper has a very subtle texture to it, so I found my brush marks and 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.

Studio Assistant Scout, waiting for the Hahnemühle paper testing to begin, so he can supervise.

Quality Craftsmanship

One of the little details I appreciate about the construction of these watercolor blocks is the glue and 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

Glue and Cloth binding on the Hahnemühle watercolor blocks

Watercolor Paper Block Quality

I’ve experienced splits in the glue while painting on other blocks, because the paper shrinks and expands during the wetting and drying painting process. This paper movement cracks the glue and separates the sheets, making them buckle. Then you have to hold the sheets to the block with clips, or tear the sheet off, and mount it to board with tape before continuing to paint.

Not so with these Hahnemühle blocks. Each of them held flat as a board while painting, drying and adding additional layers of wet pigment. Good job, Hahnemühle.

Testing two different weights of hot press watercolor blocks by Hahnemühle, each measuring 9.4 x 12.6

Watercolor Blocks for All Wet Media

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 cotton pulp in the manufacturing process. Sizing binds the cellulose and prohibits pigments from absorbing into the fibers of the paper.

Sizing 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.

swatches of watercolors on different watercolor papers by belinda del pesco
Testing paper swatches with Watercolor to understand luminosity, texture, buckling, glazing and lifting pigments

Surface Sizing on Watercolor Paper

Surface sizing is sprayed in a thin layer on the surface of the paper after it’s made.

That barrier of sizing holds the pigment granules on the surface of the paper, 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.

lifting color from watercolor paper
Lifted Viridian green (PG 18) from Hahnemühle hot press watercolor paper

Lifting Watercolor to Lighten a Passage

I found that I could lift some of the pigment (see above) on this Hahnemühle paper, 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.

Hahnemühle Watercolor Book
Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketch pad with Value Studies sketched in gray markers

Watercolor Sketch Pad

This lovely Hahnemühle watercolor sketchbook is also surface sized, and the pages handle wet washes without buckling or rippling.

The watercolor sketchbook 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 watercolor pigments lift 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.

I also found the fine texture of the paper to be very effective for drybrush watercolor (see below).

I predict that this will become my go-to watercolor sketchpad for on-site painting.

Testing Hahnemühle’s Watercolor Sketchbook with Winsor & Newton and Graham watercolor pigments

Hahnemühle makes this lovely tin of watercolor postcards with a thin-but-crisp, slightly transparent, mould-textured surface that handled watercolor beautifully!

Watercolor Postcards

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, almost completely!

Painting on Hahnemühle watercolor postcards was a delight; very little curl or ripple in the paper, and very liftable pigments.

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.

A Giveaway! (Now Closed)

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!

Hahnemühle Paper Review Conclusions

I’m sure you’ll love either one of these wonderful papers – I had a blast testing them this week! I have never used any of the Hahnemühle paper products before this post, and I loved each of the papers so much!

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,


P.S. You can subscribe to get each new post (free) as an email by signing up here.

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 and 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.

which watercolor paper should I buy?
Click the paintbrush to download a free three-page primer; Watercolor Paper 101

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60 thoughts on “Review of Hahnemühle Fine Art Watercolor Papers”

  1. love your stuff, Belinda. just came back from Provincetown, Mass. with some painting ideas. going on a big trip to Italy in Sept. could you write something on how to handle a trip painting-wise when the focus is touring and not painting? have you done that? thank, Jeanne C.

  2. As always, well said! I love my Dick, Jane and Sally zippered and water resistant pouch that is big enough for all my sketching stuff but small enough to go in another bag. It is not so much an art supply as it is an accessory, but it makes sketching on the go easily doable.

  3. Hahnemuhle is one of the papers I’ve yet to try when doing drypoint but after your review I probably will have to buy a couple sheets. I’m still using Caligo Safe Wash ink for linocuts, and Akua inks for drypoint, along with a recent purchase of a Japanese Artist Paper sampler from Legion so I can try chine colle.The fun never ends!.

    1. Hi Sasha – Yes, the fun never ends and the experiments are a domino effect towards new ones. Lucky us, eh? 🙂 I haven’t tried Caligo, but I’ve got it in the studio now, freshly purchased for testing. Do you add anything to it for linocuts? And does it re-wet if you add media to it after the print is dry?
      I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the Hahnemühle printmaking paper, since I’ve only tried the mixed media and watercolor paper so far. Come back and let us know!

  4. Great review, Belinda. I’ve been experimenting with Fabriano cold press paper after using Arches for years. There’s something about the way the pigment sits on the Fabriano that appeals to me — it looks so fresh. But I still like Arches for its toughness when working on studio paintings. Based on your tests, it seems like the Hahnemühle papers would also lean toward Fabriano’s characteristics. I will try to find some to play with.

    1. Hi Kristen, I bet you’ll like the Hahnemühle, since it seems like we like the same papers. I use a lot of Arches and Fabriano (lately playing with Artistico), as well as Sennelier Hot Press and Strathmore plate-finish Bristol paper. So many options to play with! 🙂 Let us know if you like the Hahnemühle after you find some.

  5. You are my favorite! I paint in watercolor, but like to mix media too. I always do figurative/facial subject matter. Watercolor blocks are my favorite because they stay rigid so you can move around with them. I’m liking a smaller format lately and admire how well you work with that. I’m also curious about experimenting with hot press watercolor paper.

    1. Hi Claudia! Thanks for that nice compliment. I bet you’d like the hot press, if even for the difference in the way it holds media on the surface. Give it a try, and come back to tell what you thought about it. You can get Sennelier hot press WC paper in small blocks. I have one that’s 9.5 x 4.5 and it’s wonderful.

        1. Hi Claudia – It’s such a different format, I find it fun! It’s very similar to the moleskin and travel journal sketchbooks and watercolor pads that open to form a looooong-skinnnnnny view, like this and this. Have you ever tried one?

  6. Love your posts and videos and always look forward to receiving them. It’s no wonder this company asked you to test and review their products! I trust your findings and look forward to trying these new papers. Could you speculate on which paper might be used for printmaking? Thanks for the opportunity to participate in a give-away!!

  7. Hi Belinda: A wonderful critique by you, and looks like I’ll have to order some postcards. They look wonderful! One of my favourite items to paint on, is Arches 140 lb block. It is so convenient. I’ve only been painting for 4 years, and am in love. I always am looking forward to your blogs, and have enjoyed your full length video on painting the house. I’ve never won anything before, so this would be an awesome treat! LOL

  8. Great review! I am definitely going to try this paper now. Paper and its many beautiful qualities has been my favorite medium….leading me to explore with watercolor, collage, graphite. I like watercolor pencils for travel….a good brush and great paper. Thanks again!

  9. I would love to try these papers! Thank you for the review. I can’t say I have a favorite art item. I like trying different things.

  10. Great review Belinda! I get all my giclée prints done on Hahnemuhle paper and didn’t know they also made papers to paint on! My favorite art supply, I couldn’t live without my Escoba Perla brushes!

  11. Bobbi Stegora Bina

    Hi Belinda,
    It’s always such a treat when I see a new blog posting or video from you. Love your work and I always am inspired by whatever you are sharing!
    I’ve recently discovered Copic Multiliner pens and have fallen in love with them! Refillable and they have replacement nibs. Also really like the feel of the aluminum body!

  12. Thanks for experimenting and sharing all this information! I love all your samples above, too. Especially the first one. I love the colors in it! I just tried Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress for the first time this week and enjoyed using it too. A fellow artist said she had switched from Fabriano to the Stonehenge – she just uses the Hotpress instead. It has no stamped mark like Arches or Fabriano ! So no worry if you want to use the whole sheet in one painting. It puckered in the spot I used the most water on, but the next morning it was completely flat! Acid free too. My favorite brush is the da Vinci Cosmotop Mix B. It has natural and synthetic fibers.

  13. It all sounds so interesting. Especially the watercolor sketch book! I will be looking for one very soon.

  14. Thank you for this informative review. I would like to know if these items are widely available at most art stores.
    I would love to try some of the Hahnemuhle products. My current favorite art supply is my M. Graham watercolor paints. Bright colors and a dream to use.

  15. Hi Belinda, thanks for this review. I am currently trying out some new papers to find a new “go to” watercolor paper. I got some samples of Stonehenge Aqua to try next and I’d love to give the Hahnemühle a try as well.

    1. Hi Carolyn, Good for you on the paper testing… they’re all *so* different, I think trying papers with your painting style, your paints, your brushes and under your own hands is so impactful to successes in the adventure. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the Stonehenge Aqua – I’ve wondered about that stuff. Good luck with the giveaway!

  16. Hi Belinda,

    Thanks for all the great info about these papers. Understanding their properties is so helpful for those of us who skip around with different media. I can tell this experiment excited you (love the boat picture, by the way). While I watercolor frequently and like heavier weight paper, I would be interested in trying gouache on the Hahnemuhle paper. I am working both en plein air and in the studio with gouache to learn its secrets.

    1. Hi Tina,
      I like what you said about learning the secrets; they don’t reveal themselves till we’re hands-on, do they? No amount of reading, watching demos or marinating on painting with watercolor will enlighten us. Poor souls that we are! 🙂 I think you’d enjoy the bamboo paper for it’s flexibility. I’ve already sketched another still life on it, and I’m itching to get started. Good luck with the giveaway!

  17. Donna Thibodeau

    My current favorite art supply is my Micron pens. I am a transparent watercolor artist doing plein air weekly in a sketchbook and have found that embellishing paintings with ink brings it up a notch. I really enjoy scribbling with my pen. I feel like a kid again!

    1. Hi Donna – me too! Something about pens and sketchpads and transparent watercolor feels free and loose and expressive, without the cautiousness of straight watercolor. I think you’d love the watercolor sketchbook for your on-site painting adventures. Good luck with the giveaway!

  18. Fingers crossed to try new printmaking paper. Thx, great review. Marvelous insight, lovely “tests”. Prolific, you are!

  19. Debb Campbell

    I haven’t heard of Hahnemuhle water color paper until I read this comprehensive review. Now I’m
    Itching to try it. I travel with my well worn metal Schmincke palette, favorite brushes and small format blocks whenever I travel. I’d love to try this high quality paper after reading your blog. Today I tried a 6×6 Cottonwood Arts cold press withround corners. I’m in the mood to experiment 🙂

  20. Hi Belinda, as always you have a most informative and easy to read post. I have followed your blog for years now and I am never disappointed with the information you give as well as getting the chance to view your beautiful work. I paint watercolors and oils mostly but on a retiree’s budget I don’t often get the chance to try the better quality papers. I would love to have the opportunity to try the Bamboo Mixed Media paper. It just might be the thing to get my artistic juices flowing again as, sad to admit, I have been in a bit of a slump.
    Much regards,
    Carol Blackburn

    1. Hi Carol,
      What a kind note – thank you so much for this encouraging feedback. I’m glad you find these posts useful, and I’m sorry you’re in a bit of a slump right now. I wish you a falcon’s speed to get back to your brushes, and good luck with the giveaway! 🙂

  21. Catherine Root

    I really appreciated your review of the Hahnemuhle products. Currently using Arches watercolor block, but I’m interested in trying Hahnemuhle’s.

  22. Hi, Belinda! I am transitioning (or trying to) from oils to a quicker-drying and instant-gratification medium. I have been tinkering with ink and watercolor pencils but am still trying out different papers, currently trying sketches and embellishments on watercolor notecards. Just returned from Spain and Portugal, with tons of inspiring photos and memories.

    1. Hi Kendra! Oh, your work in watercolor and gouache would just SING! How fun to be exploring a new medium, and with so much freshly-experienced travel fodder as inspiration! I bet you’d really love these papers… they’re each quite different, but the quality is great and the surfaces are forgiving for experimentation. Good luck!

  23. I love using different media and I refuse to be pegged into one slot. When plein air painting, I frequently use oils. But when travelling by plane I may take gouache or watercolors as my chosen medium. Due to the ease of clean up and set up, my chosen medium will be watercolors especially when my painting time is limited. From the article you wrote, I am most interested in trying out some of the heavier weight watercolor blocks to experiment with really saturating the paper first. Thank oh for continually sharing your processes, knowledge, experience and your amazing artwork.

    1. Hi Sandy! Thanks for leaving a comment here – I hope you win something! And I’m with you on the ease of use and clean up with watercolor and gouache – especially for plein air. I bet you’d love these mixed media and watercolor blocks. 🙂

  24. Wonderful review and beautiful painting, as always. Good sign when manufacturers have a wide range of offerings and promote their goods (& thus art) in tasteful ways.

  25. Thank you for the Hahnemühle reviews, going to have to try out some of their products but as far my favorite watercolor materials I am still learning, that is why I appreciate the your demos and sharing your knowledge.

  26. I’ve enjoyed your generous video demos on youtube (to which I’m subscribed!), and am happy to read your review of the Hahnemühle papers. Their inkjet printing papers have been favorites of mine for years for printing my photographs. Over the last few years, I’ve been experimenting with mixed media, and dabbling in watercolors as a more hands-on form of artistic expression. A little at a time, I’m gathering materials to play with, so these papers look very intriguing!

    1. Hi Marti! Thanks for this note, and your sub to my youtube channel! And good for you on the watercolor and mixed media dabbling! You’re in very good company, and I can just imagine how the foray into that playtime has informed and influenced your photos and vice versa. Good luck with the giveaway, and thanks for your compliments. 🙂

  27. Jeffyn Peterson

    Thanks for the comprehensive review, Belinda. I love to try out new supplies for watercolor, acrylics and printmaking, and will definitely add Hahnemühle papers to the list.

    1. Hi Jeffyn! Good luck with the giveaway – and I think you’ll love the quality of the Hahnemühle papers! I’m having fun trying different media on them this week. 🙂

  28. I love watercolor! I’m a newbie, so every one is an adventure. I’m trying on lots of styles these days.

    1. Hi Lisa! Welcome! We love watercolor newbies, because we’ve all been there! Good luck with the giveaway, and I hope you win some wonderful new paper to experiment with!

  29. I work quite a bit with polymer clay but as we are planning to move, it’s mostly packed away. I’ve been learning linocut printmaking and encaustic also and have been an illustrator for many years. I haven’t packed up my Pan Pastels though and it would be great to try them with these papers. Also, pen & ink (which I love, and probably the first medium I ever took seriously) with watercolor or alcohol markers. I can’t tell you how much I admire your work in watercolor! Beautiful. Thank you for offering this opportunity and for all of your helpful advice.

    1. Hi there Nancy! Thanks for stopping by! Wow, you work in such a great variety of art-making! I think the pan-pastels would adhere *beautifully* to the bamboo mixed media block. And pen and ink is like a meditation on hot press paper. I’ve never tried alcohol markers.. which brand do you use? Thanks for your kind compliments on my watercolors, and lots of luck to you in the giveaway!

      1. Thank you, Belinda! I do try to stay focused on one medium at a time but they each present a different way of thinking and I enjoy that challenge. I thought that about the Pan Pastels on the bamboo also when I read your description of it. Win or not, I will definitely try some of these papers. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise in a very approachable way. Also, “pen and ink is like a meditation…” is a lovely description and I can completely relate to that! (I use Spectrum Noir markers which are less expensive than the Copics which I started out with and every bit as good.)

        1. Hi Nancy! I so agree with you on the myriad challenges of working in several media… I often think I should focus on just one, but after 10 minutes of that sort of logic, I usually shake it off with a “Nahhh, it’s just too much fun to hop around!” So, I clink my coffee cup to yours in a toast to experimentation. And thank you for the name of your markers – I’m going to look them up right now. #moreartsupplies 🙂

          1. Dick Blick has their own line of alcohol markers now but I don’t know much about them. Also, Winsor Newton has introduced watercolor markers which I am very curious about.

  30. I do a lot of plein air so I like watercolor blocks. This review was really informative and I will definitely try out the Hahnemühle paper!

  31. Your posts are always so informative & generous. So much to learn here!
    My favorite art supplies are my watercolor paints, especially palettes filled with color.
    Your sky and clouds painting is luminous!
    Thanks for the opportunity to enter a give-away,

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