This paper has been talked about ALL over the internet in colored pencil art groups, forums, twitter…everywhere! There has never been a paper labeled specifically for colored pencil, so when Strathmore announced their new product, we were all pretty excited. Hey, some people get excited about a new car, some of use get excited about new art supplies! I ordered mine from Dick Blick. A pad of 30 11×14″ was around $11 plus shipping. That is pretty inexpensive for the amount of paper you get. I pay about that same price for 10 sheets of Fabriano Artistico Extra White Hot Pressed Watercolor paper 140lb (seriously that needs a shorter name!). When the paper arrived I was happy to see that while it was only 100lbs, it didn’t feel terrible. It had a nice smooth surface with what appeared to be enough tooth to work well…or so I thought. I was hoping that this might be a nice low-cost alternative for newer artists who go through a lot of paper quickly.
I wanted to test this paper with all the techniques I might use including airbrushing the background, blending with Mona Lisa Odorless paint thinner, and burnishing. I started by airbrushing the background. Knowing this paper was lighter weight than what I usually use, I did not apply my masking fluid over the entire tiger to protect it from the airbrush overspray. Instead, I just outlined the edges and used frisket to cover the inner portions. Masking fluid has a tendency to warp paper. You can get it back into shape with a bit of water and a hair dryer though, so it’s not a big deal. I taped my edges down tightly as I always do when I airbrush a background or use masking fluid. The paper warped as I expected…but something I didn’t expect and had never before experienced, it would NOT go back into shape. If I wet the paper so that I could use the hair dryer to get it to reshape itself it just warped into a new bumpy shape. I even took an iron to it. This has NEVER happened before. Even when using really cheap and lightweight paper. I’ve never seen one warp quite how this did and then refuse to go back to its original shape. Ok fine, I will just tell people not to use masking fluid or an airbrush with this ONE kind of paper (even though I can use it with everything else). People have criticised me saying that “well it’s meant for colored pencil, not wet media”. Well fine, but nowhere on the label does it state “colored pencil only. Do not use masking fluid or any other wet media such as paint thinner on this paper”. If you’re thinking that is unreasonable to expect such a warning, know that canvases warn you when they are primed for use with oil paints only. It is to be expected with art supplies to have such notices if there are limitations to a product like this.
Onto the colored pencil. This is the part that matters right? I started with the tiger’s ear. This stuff was similar to working on bristol vellum in that it does not take many layers well. I could not get decent color saturation. This was REALLY frustrating. I used both Faber-Castell Polychromos (oil based) and Luminance by Caran d’Ache (wax based) for this piece. Well, at least it’s smooth right? So I won’t have the grainy colored pencil look. NOPE! I mean yes, it’s smooth, but I had a really hard time losing the grainy look. If this is a look you like, great. It’s not a look I want, however. I want people to look at my colored pencil work and think it’s a painting. That is just a personal preference. I eventually got it fairly smooth but not quite what I get with better paper. The really irritating thing though was in trying to get my color saturation right. In the end, the tiger is fine I guess, but I was trying to get a bit more bold with some of these colors. The same exact colors I use on other paper and have no trouble getting deeper oranges and browns. Even the black was a real challenge to get dark enough. That was new…and unpleasant.
Back to the warping, as I worked, I used paint thinner for areas of blending and burnishing. Both caused warping of the paper. Badly. Normally when the paper warps a bit when using paint thinner on lighter weight paper, when it dries, it goes back to its original shape. This is why I keep all of my edges taped down. It ensures that the paper goes back to its original form. Not this time! Even burnishing was stretching the paper. I’ve not seen that before. My paper is completely wavy. I can sort of fix it with taking an embossing gun to the paper. It flattens out a bit more, but seriously…why am I having to do this?! No other paper in my experience has fought with me so badly!!
In the end, I’m happy with my tiger, but it WAY longer to finish him than had I used paper that took the colors and layers better and didn’t keep warping out of shape. This is not a paper that I would recommend to anyone. If you like working on bristol vellum, I say stick to that because that stuff doesn’t warp but has essentially the same surface feel.