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Testing Paper for Journal Bookbinding + Junk Drawer Still Lifes

Junk Drawer #1, Legion Multi-Media Paper, ink & watercolor
Legion Multi-Media Paper, ink & watercolor

I used random items from my junk drawer as still-life subjects to test paper for binding my next journal.  The paper I’ve chosen is Legion Multimedia Aquarelle 300 gsm (a little thinner than 140 lb). An employee at my local Artists & Craftsman store suggested it when I was unsuccessfully seeking the Fabriano Soft Press 140 lb recommended by Shirley of Paper and Threads.

Legion Test #2
Legion Test #2

Legion Multimedia/Aquarelle

I was delighted to find that the texture of the Multimedia/Aquarelle  paper is perfect for writing on with the finest of pen points (unlike my current journal’s Arches CP paper). It took watercolor washes and multiple layers of glazes beautifully without buckling, pooling, or pilling. Color lifted off easily when rubbed with a damp brush.

The paper is nicely sized to prevent the paper from soaking up the paint, but not so extremely sized as the Arches 90 pound cold press that practically resists the ink.

It has two deckle edges and is relatively inexpensive. The Legion Multimedia/Aquarelle paper cost $2.69 a sheet at my Blick store while the Fabriano Soft Press 140 lb paper was $4.99 a sheet. Unlike the Fabriano, this paper is also available in 90 lb weight which I will try next, but I think that will have to be a special order through Artists & Craftsman since Blick only carries the 300 gsm paper.

Dick Blick’s website says about the Legion Multimedia paper:

“Use any painting and drawing media you choose on this fine quality, crisp white paper! Multimedia/Aquarelle Paper consists of 100% cotton fiber, is acid-free, and has a neutral pH. The paper is 140 lb (300 gsm) weight, and has an uneven textured surface. Available in two different surfaces — Cold Press and Rough. Cold Press is available in sheets and pads, Rough is available in sheets only, and comes in 200 lb (380 gsm) weight.”

I tested the paper for grain direction and it runs the long way, making it possible to tear it down for a journal just the size I like: 5.5″ x 7.5″, with no waste, which is not possible with the Fabriano whose grain runs the short way.

I finally was able to buy a sheet of Fabriano Soft Press (which has a similar surface texture, between hot press and cold press) and tested it too:

Fabriano Soft Press 140 lb: Test #1
Fabriano Soft Press 140 lb: Test #1

Fabriano Soft Press

The Fabriano Soft Press paper had some things in its favor but ultimately the cons outweighed the pros in my mind. It seems like good sturdy paper, and the paint lifted OK without surface damage, but it was slightly less pleasant to write on with a fine-point pen, even though the surfaces of the two papers are very similar.

Since the grain runs the short way (which means the pages will need to fold the short way) you either end up wasting some of the paper or have fewer size options for the book. Also, the paper is thicker and stiffer, which means fewer sheets per book or a thicker, heavier book. And it is more expensive.

But what bothered me the most was the sizing. According to Blick:

“Fabriano papers are synthetically sized both internally and externally so that no animal by-products are used.”

In fact, Fabriano uses an acrylic sizing as opposed to the organic sizing (gelatin) that other companies use. I found that juicy washes on this paper took forever to dry and I assume it has to do with the non-porosity of acrylic sizing.

Fabriano Soft Press Test #2
Fabriano Soft Press Test #2

Despite waiting and waiting and finally using a hair dryer before adding the next layer of glaze, the paint still wasn’t dry and glazes bled into each other.

I also tested the Arches 90 lb Cold Press in my journal (below). Washes, glazing, lifting worked fine, but just isn’t pleasant to use with a fine point pen.

90 lb Arches Cold Press test
90 lb Arches Cold Press test

I’m looking forward to binding my new book and then giving the Legion Multimedia Aquarelle paper a true test of its journal-goodness and whether it really is the “perfect” watercolor journal bookbinding paper for me.