Over time I have learned a very good lesson about where to spend a little more money, and where I can be thriftier when it comes to my art supplies. Paper is the one material that I never hesitate to spend more for the best quality I can afford.
The most important thing is to find a paper that is 100% cotton. Papers made from wood pulp can vary greatly in quality, and can be a source of frustration when the quality is lacking. Colors tend to appear duller when dry, and the paint can streak and doesn’t move quite as freely on the surface when it doesn’t have the appropriate sizing for watercolor. The most affordable way to buy paper is in large, Imperial-sized sheets, which are usually 22 x 30 inches. You can tear or cut the sheets down to smaller sizes as necessary.
When selecting your paper surface to work on, work within your budget, and also with what appeals most to your own personal sense of beauty. Even if you choose whatever paper you already have on hand, take a moment to appreciate its unique texture and beauty. I wrap my tiny bundles of paper in a soft cloth or tie it up with a pretty ribbon for storing it in between painting sessions. This small bit of care keeps it away from sunlight and dust, and allows me to take a moment to honor it as one of my three beautiful tools.
* 100% cotton cold press watercolor paper in sheets is readily available at art supply stores and online. Brands such as Arches, Canson, Strathmore, Stonehenge Aqua and Saunders Waterford are all excellent choices when selecting full sheets.
* For a luxury paper that is exquisitely beautiful and surprisingly affordable, I love the 50-pack sets of Amalfi paper. The texture is smoother than most cold pressed papers, but they are so delightful to paint on and come in a very soft ivory or a delicate ivory-pink hue.