What Side of Watercolor Paper to Use? Best Side To Use!

You have your watercolor paint and brushes ready to go. You’ve got a brand new pack of watercolor paper that you would love to paint on. How is it best used? Is there a right way to use watercolor paper? Since you have probably been wondering this since you opened your package of watercolor paper, let’s see what side of watercolor paper to use?

The correct answer is that it doesn’t matter or more so, it depends completely on you. But they both work equally well. There are absolutely no rules about it, but there are some things to keep in mind as you’re experimenting with your painting materials. In any case, there is no right or wrong side, it all depends on what kind of techniques you are using and what kind of finished product you would want.

Has this been helpful? In this article, I show you the pros and cons of both sides of watercolor paper. I will also give you tips on how to choose the correct side of watercolor paper, and which works best – watercolor block paper or watercolor pad paper.

Which side of the watercolor paper should I use?

What Side of Watercolor Paper to Use

There are two sides to watercolor paper. One side is called the “rough” side, and the other is called the “smooth” side. The label on your watercolor paper will tell you which one is which (it’s usually printed right on the box).

But which side of the watercolor paper should I use?

But they both work equally well. When I started out, I was told to always paint on the rough side because it would hold more moisture and give me more working time before it dried out

But now I see people using each side for a specific purpose. First of all, let’s look at what makes watercolor paper different from other papers.

Watercolor paper has a surface that absorbs paint well and holds a lot of moisture without buckling or warping when wet.

This makes it ideal for painting with watercolors because it allows the pigments to flow smoothly across its surface and spread evenly.

Because of this quality, watercolor papers have a high rag content — usually between 60–100%. Rag refers to cloth fibers that have been woven together into a fabric; they’re what give the watercolor paper its rough texture.

The higher the percentage of rags in a piece of paper, the more textured and absorbent it will be.

Using the rough side

Watercolor paper comes in two surfaces: rough and smooth. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but if you’re just starting out with watercolor, I recommend using rougher paper.

Why? Because it will help you learn to paint wet-into-wet. Wetting your paper only on one side will let you see how your colors blend together as they dry.

This can be a good way to learn about how different colors interact with each other before committing to painting over them completely with a second color or glaze of paint.

The rough side of the watercolor paper has more teeth (texture). This means that it will accept paint better, and you’ll be able to brush it off more easily.

It also means that when you use a wet brush on the surface of the paper, it will create more texture and interest.

If you’re looking for smooth, flat colors, then you don’t want to use the rough side of watercolor paper. You’ll get blotchy results.

Using the smooth side

Watercolor paper comes in a variety of textures and weights. Which you choose depends on the specific painting you plan to create.

The smooth side of watercolor paper is made for textural paintings with lots of detail. It’s also great for detailed drawings and illustrations because it allows for crisp lines and tiny details without any bleeding or smudging.

The smooth side of watercolor paper allows for more pigment to be transferred onto your surface because it’s less absorbent.

This means that when you paint on top of it, you’ll get a darker color and more saturation (intensity).

The rough side of watercolor paper is more absorbent than the smooth side, which means that it will take longer for the watercolor pigment to go through it. This results in lighter colors and less saturation.

If you’re not sure which side of watercolor paper is right for your project, it’s best to experiment with both options to see which one better suits your needs!

Does the watercolor paper have a right and wrong side?

What side of watercolor paper to use? Does the watercolor paper have a right and wrong side?

The watercolor paper does not have a right or wrong side. Both parts are right to use!

The only difference between the two sides is that one side may be more absorbent than the other, depending on how it was manufactured.

But there is no difference in the quality of the paper whatsoever – both sides are equally good for watercolor painting.

Ok, so some are smooth and some are textured; some absorb more than others; some are heavy and others are light. But what is the best way to determine which surface will work best for you?

To use it and try it for yourself, of course!

You can test the paper by placing a small amount of water on it (use distilled or purified water) and then see if any color washes off or if any fibers were damaged when you rubbed it with your fingers.

If you notice any damage, it’s likely that your painting will also be damaged quickly.

Can you use both sides of the watercolor paper?

Can you use both sides of watercolor paper

So, I have discussed that you can use each side, depending on what type of technique you would like to use. So, can you use both sides of the watercolor paper?


Watercolor paper is not like regular paper. Watercolor paper is made up of a heavier, smoother surface that allows for a bolder stroke and more intense color.

It also absorbs the paint better than regular paper, which makes it easier to blend colors.

Watercolor paper comes in two sides — one side has a smooth side and one side has a rough or textured side. The smooth side is great for detail work and the textured side is good for painting larger areas.

You can use both sides of watercolor paper because it doesn’t matter what surface you choose; however, there are some advantages to using each surface differently.

The smooth side is used for fine details and detailed work because it helps the paint flow evenly across the page and provides more control over your strokes.

The rough side is designed for larger areas so you can get more coverage with less paint.

Which side of Arches watercolor paper to use?

Arches watercolor paper is one of the most popular brands of watercolor paper. It’s soft, yet durable enough to withstand multiple layers of watercolor washes and other techniques.

There are two sides to Arches watercolor paper: the rough side (or “tooth”) and the smooth side (or “smooth”).

The rough side which has a rougher surface and therefore absorbs more water when you paint on it. The smooth side has a smoother surface and therefore absorbs less water when you paint on it.

Which side of Arches watercolor paper to use? You can use either side for your painting – it’s just a matter of personal preference!

While it is known that the “correct” side of the watercolor paper is the side with the watermark, it doesn’t mean that you cannot paint on the other side.

Generally, it depends on what type of painting you’re doing.

Which side of Fabriano watercolor paper to use?

Fabriano watercolor paper is a good choice for beginners, as it is very affordable and easy to use.

This type of watercolor paper is made in Italy using 100% cotton fiber and has a surface texture similar to Arches rough paper or Canson Montval rough paper.

It’s available in hot press (HP), cold press (CP), rough (R), and smooth (S) finishes.

The CP version has a slightly textured surface that helps prevent paint from sinking into the fibers.

Which side of Fabriano watercolor paper to use?

In general, the smooth side is best for pen & ink or other dry media, and the rough side works well with wet media.

However, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, so you may need to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, what side of watercolor paper to use will likely boil down to personal preference.

Each side has its own set of positives and negatives, but ultimately it will come down to how you like to work in order for you to decide which side is best for you.

Experiment with different styles and types of paper, and see what results you get.

Leave a comment to share your experience or if you have any further questions!

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