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Hot Press vs Cold Press Watercolor Paper

hot press vs cold press watercolor paper

Choosing the right kind of paper is important when you are making drawings or paintings. However, it is of the utmost importance if you are using watercolors. In this regard, you will be choosing between hot press vs cold press watercolor paper. Which of these two should you choose and is one better than the other?

You should not just use regular sheets of paper when using watercolors. You will not like the results. In addition, some watercolor painting styles are impossible to do with regular paper. This article will teach you how to choose the right kind of paper so that your watercolor paintings will always look the way you want them.

Overview of Hot Press vs Cold Press Watercolor Paper

Those who are not in the know think that you can use regular paper for watercolor painting. Technically, you can use regular paper, but don’t expect your painting to look as good as you thought it would. You will need to use proper watercolor paper so you can get your desired effect.

Now, when you’re shopping for watercolor paper, you will be met with two choices: hot-pressed and cold-pressed paper.

Hot-pressed Watercolor Paper Defined

The term “hot-pressed” refers to the process that the paper went through. In this case, the paper passed through heated rollers to remove the water from the pulp. This results in a paper with a surface that is quite smooth.

Cold-pressed Watercolor Paper Defined

Just like hot-pressed paper, a cold-pressed watercolor paper goes through a similar process. However, instead of heated rollers, the rollers are cold.

What they do is wring the extra moisture out of the paper, but without ironing them to a smooth surface.

What Makes Hot-pressed Watercolor Paper Different from Cold-pressed?

hot press watercolor paper

Here are a couple of factors that you can use in differentiating the two:

Surface Texture/Feel

The biggest difference between these two types of paper is the smoothness of the surface. Because hot-rolled watercolor paper passed through heated rollers, the resulting pages have smooth surfaces. Just like what a clothes iron does to damp clothes.

On the other hand, the cold-pressed watercolor paper has a textured or rough surface. Hundreds of thousands of tiny bumps and dips are on the surface of the cold-rolled paper. This gives the resulting watercolor painting a distinct and textured look and feel.

Absorption Capability

You can also differentiate the two based on their absorption capabilities. Hot press paper is famous for its slow absorption of paint. The reason behind this is its smooth and highly compressed surface. This is the reason it takes longer for the paint to seep into the paper.

One more thing to know about hot press paper is that it is capable of drying paint faster. This results in a shorter amount of time through which you can work on and use the paint.

Meanwhile, cold press paper is capable of absorbing paint faster. The result is increased paint layering. It is mainly because it is easy for paint to absorb with ease into the cold press. You can also attain more complex and deeper colors if you paint over a section at least once or paint over a section using a different shade or color.


In terms of durability, cold press paper seems to be the winner. The reason is that it can absorb higher amounts of water and paint before you will notice it tearing or warping. With that, cold press paper is definitely ideal for those who intend to saturate paper using plenty of paint or work using a heavy hand.

  Hot-pressed Cold-pressed
Surface texture Smooth as regular paper Has a bit of texture
Absorbency Still absorbent, but still allows the mixing of colors Very absorbent, you need to work fast when painting
Colors and Details Pigments mostly sit on top of the paper, making details and colors quite intense Pigments are absorbed into the paper, giving softer edges and slightly muted colors

Which is Better: Hot-pressed or Cold-pressed?

cold press watercolor paper

When deciding between the two, it is crucial to really examine their individual characteristics. This means you have to know what its good qualities are so you can better make your final decision. So what are the main characteristics of the two? Let’s find out next:

Characteristics of Cold-pressed Paper

Based on popularity, more people prefer using cold-rolled watercolor paper. The surface texture of the cold-pressed paper is ideal for almost all types of watercolor painting styles. The bumpy texture gives watercolor paintings a unique feel. This uniqueness in texture is one reason why it would be impossible to replicate these paintings completely.

The pigments used by watercolor paints turn into small granules and they settle into the grooves on the surface of the paper. This gives watercolor paintings their unique characteristics.

Another thing that you might like about cold-pressed water paper is that it does not wrinkle even when you soak the entire sheet with water. This is a problem with hot-pressed paper. It tends to warp when wet, so you need to tape it down on your drawing surface.

However, one of the problems with cold-rolled watercolor paper is they tend to absorb pigments quite a lot. This results in the colors losing a lot of their intensity. On the other hand, many artists like this because it makes their watercolor paintings look a lot softer.

Characteristics of Hot-pressed Paper

The biggest difference between hot-pressed and cold-pressed watercolor paper is that the former has a smooth surface. This means that you are getting basically the same kind of drawing surface as regular paper but it will not disintegrate with water. Because of the smoother surface, hot-pressed paper is ideal for paintings with a lot of details.

Another characteristic of hot-pressed paper is that it does not absorb water and pigment quite as fast as cold-pressed paper. This also adds to why you can paint strikingly accurate details using watercolors when you use hot-pressed paper.

In addition, because the hot-pressed paper is not quite as absorbent as cold-pressed, it makes it easier to correct mistakes. If you catch your errors quickly enough, you can blot out the mistakes using a bit of tissue paper.


Choosing the right paper for watercolor painting is almost as important as choosing the paints themselves. When it comes to hot press vs cold press watercolor paper, it will depend on what style of watercolor painting you do.

If you want more detailed drawings, choose the hot press paper. If you prefer softer edges and lighter colors, go for the cold press paper. However, if you are a beginner at watercolors, you should choose hot-pressed watercolor paper as it is more forgiving.