Not all watercolor paper is created equal. In fact, the differences even between the professional grades of paper can be startling. Each paper has its quirks and in turn, its best uses. What follows is my experience with the 140lb. watercolor paper of a few of my favorite brands.
Arches is considered by many to be the paper, not without reason. It’s a good paper to work with, nice texture. It’s very durable and can handle a lot of reworking. On the practical side though, Arches can be a bear to erase pencil marks that help guide the original work, especially with the 300lb. Some people don’t mind the pencil marks that may show in the final painting, but if you do, take care to make those marks lightly. Also, compared to many brands, the watermark on Arches is rather large. If you cut full sheets of paper to size like I do, the large watermark on a 4 x 6" piece of paper can be distracting.
Lanaquarelle is a lovely paper. I really like this paper a lot. It feels like high quality paper. The name Lanaquarelle sounds delicate to me, and indeed it is. It bruises easily. Masking fluid must be removed promptly as well, otherwise bits of the paper will come up too. I find that using my fingers and rolling areas of masking fluid off rather than pulling it off minimizes the damage. I should say, masking fluid comes off easily except for the rough. Seriously, if you mask, don’t mask any bit of Lanaquarelle rough. There will be damage. Careful if you try to lift off paint too. Sensitive Lanaquarelle will show the effects.
Fabriano Uno (now Artistco) is another paper I frequently use. The rough paper has a marvelous texture that I love to use with the texturing effects I like. In fact, this is probably my favorite paper. Fabriano, in general, is easy to work with. It erases easily and masking fluid comes off hassle-free. If you want to try something different, try their cold press paper, very similar to their own soft press paper. It has a very different grain, almost linen-like. It is visible in the finished product too. The paper handles wonderfully though in all respects. Truth be told, the grain is very different from any other you may have tried. Take a close look before you use it to be sure it’s something you’ll want to work with.
Finally, if you’re not doing it now, buy your paper in full sheets and cut it to size. You’ll save a lot of cash. It’s not hard to cut watercolor paper with an Exacto knife and a ruler. The expense of watercolor blocks is way too much for the convenience. Cut your own, tape it to a hard board, and paint! Just make sure that tape is the blue masking tape. It won’t leave a residue and is much kinder to paper.