Painting A Simple Still Life On Hot Press Paper

This watercolor lesson is really about exploring the qualities of hot press paper. It is a tricky surface with both strengths and distinct weaknesses.  Our subject is a simple still life sitting on a table and catching light from a nearby window. We use a low intensity color palette and simple techniques.

Watercolor Painting On Hot Press Paper

In this lesson we’ll be painting a simple still life. But, our most important goal for this lesson is to get a handle on hot press paper.

As it’s name suggests, hot press paper is pressed between hot rollers during manufacture.  The process compressesses the cotton-rag fibers, making the surface very smooth and very un-absorbent. Washes flow around on the surface much longer than on cold press or rough paper.  Once the washes are dry, the pigments are sitting on the surface rather being drawn down to settle into the paper fiber.

These two qualities make working on hot press paper a unique adventure every time!


Simple Watercolor Painting Subject and Techniques

The good news is that a couple basic watercolor painting techniques work just fine on hot press paper.  We’ll use the wet-into-wet and dry-in-wet techniques to good effect.  Since the surface of the paper is not absorbent, wet-in-wet washes will flow very freely over the surface. This means you can get away with somewhat less water in the washes, but you’ll still want them to flow freely. It’s the key to getting two of the best things from hot press paper.

Our subject is a group of objects on a table top – a suguar bowl, a creamer, four brown eggs and a glass vase with the stems of a bouquet showing through. What we’re really trying to capture here is the light coming in through the window, lighting the table and the objects.  The objects are simple shapes that are easy to draw. We’ll use a set of low intensity colors to help create a look of soft interior light.  And we’ll capture light by contrast warm and cool colors and darks against lights.

Transferring the Drawing Layout

The downloadable layouts are done with heavy lines to make it easy to see and copy onto your watercolor paper. It is best not to draw the lines too heavy on your paper, especially in the sky, since there is a good chance the lines will show through the paint. It’s not a deal-breaker, but those heavy pencil lines are sometimes a distraction.

What you’ll need

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