Watercolor paper--what works?
The good news is that most student papers are now pH neutral or acid-free, so they won't discolor or soften over time. The bad news is that they make streaky watercolor washes and soak up the paint so even relatively non-staining colors can't be lifted. More experienced painters use them without problems, but they're frustrating for beginners. My students have a hard time with Strathmore pads, Winsor & Newton Cotman and Canson Montval papers. I've always liked Montval, but it's too smooth for beginners, who need a paper with more tooth that will hold water on the surface longer. When Watchung, Capri and Archette disappeared, I switched to Bockingford, which was also relatively smooth but still made good washes. Guess what. Bockingford is gone, or at least no longer imported into the U.S.
If student artists stick with 140# or higher papers they can paint on both sides and cut the cost in half. I've noticed a trend toward my students working smaller now that paper prices have escalated and that's too bad. There isn't anything wrong with doing small paintings, but the freedom and spontaneity of working with watercolor on half sheet or larger size papers is missing on a small format.
Here's my short list of favorite papers (140# or 300# cold press):
Arches--tough and scrubbable, off-white
Winsor & Newton--whiter than Arches, a little less tough, but a lovely paper
Fabriano Uno--a little off-white, less rough and tough, but a nice paper
Langton by Daler-Rowney--good paper, a little less expensive, but not easy to find
Whatman--long a favorite of many watercolor painters in the U.K. and U.S.; a good paper
There are many more papers available, but I haven't tried them all--too many papers, too little time. Here are some comments I've heard from students and other artists about other papers.
Twinrocker handmade papers--elegant, expensive
Yupo--synthetic "paper" fun to work on but can be frustrating
Fredrix watercolor canvas--gaining in popularity. Why use expensive watercolors on canvas instead of acryics?
Claybord textured panels--haven't tried them yet
Kilimanjaro--problems with washes
Crescent Watercolor Board--smoother than my favorites, like the backing support
Crescent or Bainbridge Illustration Board--only in CP or rough, medium-weight or heavy
What are your favorites? Good or bad experiences with paper? I'm still looking for a reasonably priced 140# cold press paper for beginners.