Which Is the Best between Hot-Pressed, Cold-Pressed and Rough Paper?


Hot-pressed, cold-pressed & rough: it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose. Each has a unique surface texture and characteristics, and all three suit different styles of painting. Whilst the paper you choose is down to personal preference, your desired painting style and subject, this article will take you through the pros and cons of each type of watercolour paper.

What is a Paper’s ‘Tooth’

When we talk about how textured watercolour paper is, we often talk about ‘tooth’. Tooth is simply another way of describing how textured or rough the surface of watercolour paper is. The less toothy a paper is, the easier it will be to get detailed and straight lines, as the paintbrush won’t be moving over a bumpy surface. The more toothy a paper is, the more it will amplify textural effects, like dry brush techniques and granulating pigments.

Hot-Pressed Paper

Surface Texture

Hot-pressed watercolor paper has a smooth and fine-grained surface. It is created by pressing the paper fibers between heated metal rollers, resulting in a flat and even texture. The easiest way to remember the difference between hot and cold-pressed is to imagine hot pressed has been smoothed out with a hot iron.

The surface is relatively non-absorbent and offers minimal tooth or texture, providing a smooth and crisp painting surface. This texture is ideal for detailed work, precise lines, and smooth washes. Hot pressed paper is generally more expensive than cold-pressed paper.


Due to its smooth surface, hot-pressed paper has less absorbency compared to cold-pressed paper. The paint tends to sit on the surface longer, allowing for better control and precise detailing. Hot-pressed paper is often preferred for detailed and intricate work, such as botanical illustrations, fine line work, or precise renderings. However, it can be less forgiving for certain techniques like scrubbing or wet-on-wet blending, as the paint may not spread as easily.

Cold Pressed Paper

Surface Texture

Cold-pressed watercolour paper has a slightly textured surface with a more pronounced tooth. It is created by pressing the paper fibers without heat, resulting in a textured surface with soft visible peaks and valleys. The texture of cold-pressed paper provides more surface grip for the watercolour pigments, allowing for better pigment absorption and diffusion. It is versatile and widely used for various watercolour techniques, including both detailed work and textured washes.


Cold-pressed paper is more versatile and widely used by artists. It can accommodate a range of techniques and styles, from detailed paintings to expressive and textured artworks. It is a popular choice for landscapes, still life, and traditional watercolour techniques. Cold-pressed paper has greater absorbency and can hold more water compared to hot-pressed paper. The textured surface helps the paint distribute more evenly, making it excellent for techniques like wet-on-wet blending, washes, and creating various textures. The tooth of the paper allows for better pigment adhesion, giving more depth and richness to the colours.

Rough Paper

Surface Texture

Rough watercolour paper has a highly textured surface with pronounced peaks and valleys. It has a rough and grainy texture that gives a unique character to the artwork. Some artists consider this a speciality paper, as it is so textured. Given how toothy it is, it isn’t a good surface for high-detail work.


Rough paper has the highest absorbency of the three types. Rough paper is favoured by artists who enjoy expressive and textured watercolour painting, as it’s ideal for creating bold, loose, textural effects. This paper will emphasise the characteristics of granulating paints, and works well for landscapes, seascapes, and artworks that aim to capture the spontaneous and raw qualities of watercolour.

Summary: What’s the Difference between Hot-Pressed, Cold-Pressed and Rough Paper

The paper you choose depends on how you paint and what your subject is.

  • Hot-pressed paper is perfect for high-detail work
  • Cold-pressed paper offers versatility
  • Rough paper adds texture and character to the artwork.

Most artists experiment with different papers and textures until they find one that speaks to their style. This is a great opportunity to experiment, and many brands sell multi-pack samples of watercolour paper.

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