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Arches Watercolor Paper and Blocks ARE Different!

I was sure Arches cold press blocks are rougher than the sheets, too rough for me. But Arches and Google say no, they are exactly the same. Today I figured it out–I’m right–and I’m mad! That’s why I’m….

Arches watercolor sheets and blocks in my flat file drawer

Every time I’ve tried to paint a portrait on a block I’ve failed. I became convinced it’s because the cold press blocks are rougher than the sheets, too rough for me. But Arches’ website and Google say no, “they are exactly the same.”

Today I figured it out–I’m right–and I’m mad! And that’s why I’m posting this little PSA post. I hope others will find this when they’re questioning their sanity after being told they’re the same.

The two sides of Arches 140 pound cold press paper are different. When they are pressed in the mold, one side is pressed against a wire screen and the other side is pressed against a felt mat. The latter produces a smoother surface for painting.

Theoretically, Arches watermark/logo is on the side that is meant to be painted on, since if it shows in a painting, it should be readable, right? That side is the smoother side and it’s the side on which I’ve always painted.

But blocks, which are glued on all four sides and to a hard cardboard support on the bottom to prevent buckling, can only be painted on the top exposed surface. And they are bound with the ROUGH side up! Also they have no watermark.

Therefore, they ARE DIFFERENT! It’s not me, it’s the paper!

I guess I will save the blocks for landscape paintings, or peel a sheet off and use the back when I have used up all my sheets.

8 replies on “Arches Watercolor Paper and Blocks ARE Different!”

Hi Jana, Not giving up and not giving in!! You are a true artist!! So proud of you and your research!! God bless, C-Marie

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What about taking the cardboard support off the back so that you can then paint on the surface you prefer? You could re-attach the support to the “front” ie the paper surface you do not like maybe losing one sheet.

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That is a great suggestion. I did try it and unfortunately when I took the backing board off a half-used block, the stack of paper lost it’s firmness. I couldn’t think of a way to reattach the backing board. Did you have any ideas how to reattach it?

When I use an individual sheet I tape it down to a sheet of thick plastic which somewhat prevents buckling and also provides a nice border. With the altered block I’d have to use a clamp to hold it to my board, which means I’d probably have to put a tape border around the outside edges to cover the area where the clamp goes.

I guess I could try that and see how I like it but I also have a feeling that paper in blocks takes longer to dry than one sheet taped to a board. Any thoughts on that?

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I guess you could potentially sacrifice the last WC sheet and attach it to the backing board with PVA glue around the margin which could mean that the last sheet was still partially usable ie the non-pva glued central area.

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That’s a brilliant idea and I think it would work! Thank you so much!!!! I’ll try it and let you know. Do you use blocks? If so do you think they take longer to dry than single sheets taped to a board? This could be good for wet into wet painting but not so great for wet on dry if it means having to wait forever for it to dry.

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