Review-The Vintage Paper Co Watercolor Papers @VintagePaperCo #Watercolor #WorldWatercolorGroup

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The Vintage Paper Co (VPCo)is a mail order supplier of vintage papers, vintage-inspired papers and bookbinding supples, based on the island of Orkney, just off the northernmost tip of Scotland.

Some of their papers were made in the 1850s! As you might guess, some of these papers are expensive.  But they do have trial size packs that are affordable, if small and the shipping and handling is reasonable.

I had to buy some of these papers.  Of course, I did.

I ordered two of the trial packs and William, the company's founder, kindly sent me some extra samples, as well, one small sheet of WSH 150 Cold Pressed and 2 small sheets of WSH Rough in two different weights.

And, most exciting, I also received one small sheet of  J Whatman Handmade Antique Paper made at the Turkey Mill in Kent, England back in 1864!

What they had in common 
All the papers were pretty absorbent so the paint dried quickly, but it dried bright.  The color flows well, but you might not get as much coverage as you are used to from your usual pigment/water load. According to the site, most of their papers are best for dry painting.  Where I had more than one sample, I did try some very juicy washes and the paper did well, but did perform better with dry painting.

With one exception, noted below, I didn't pre-wet, stretch, tape or do anything to keep the paper flat while I painted, but none of the papers curled or buckled.  There was little dimpling, none in some cases. This surprised me, as some of the papers are a 72 lb weight. Even though that's light they are not in the least flimsy.

I pushed in lifting color and scrubbing to see how far I could go.  I was able to get to white and repaint with minimal damage.

The site also warns that some of the vintage paper may have marks due to age.  I had a slight crease on one set of paper but other than that my sheets were clean.

Whether hot pressed or cold pressed, there isn't too much tooth.  Texture is visible and more even than you would normally associate with 'handmade'.

J Whatman - Antique Paper  
Antique paper pack Description from site: The packs contain mainly smooth, hot pressed and very lightly textured papers suitable for detailed art work such as botanical watercolor and fine line drawing but may also come with a few textured sheets.
Sheet Size - 197 x 170 mm / 7 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches
We have tested these papers for inkjet printing with very pleasing results - see images.
Originally made for drawing, watercolour and printmaking these will be suitable for other varied techniques including dry painting. Try it out and see.
Please note that some of the sheets may contain age-related flaws such as marks, spots or discolouration to the edges.

I have to admit that I had a bit of blank paper anxiety with this paper.  It's 153 years old!

The information didn't give a weight or indicate if the paper was cold pressed or hot pressed.  My guess is 150-200 lb and probably hot pressed.  Whatever it is - it is extremely sturdy.  I had intended to be gentle and not do my usual color lifting test but I got caught up in trying to get a translucent look.  The result was more lifting and repainting than I originally meant to do.

This paper did not buckle or curl AT ALL.  The colors flowed, they stayed bright through-out and though this is an expensive paper, but I'm going to see if I can talk Santa into buying some for me.

Description from site: A medium-weight paper suitable for dry painting, this was handmade in the 1950s using pure cotton rag and sized with gelatine. It has a particularly smooth (Hot Pressed) surface which lends itself to detailed watercolour (Botanical art etc) work as well as various forms of printmaking (works well with letterpress) , inkjet printing, ink and drawing.
8 sheets
200 x 145 mm, 7 3/4 x 5 3/4 inches
150gsm / 72lb

This paper is only 72 lb, which seems rather light by today's standards, but it is stiff enough that is has body.

My sheets did have a slight crease. This could have happened in the mailing or be a result of the age.  It wasn't enough to cause problems with my painting and only shows if you hold the paper to the light in a certain way.  This was the only damage on any of the papers.

Although, I don't usually paint in a hyper-realistic style I like to do so on occasion.  Based on the description, I thought this would be a good paper for it.  I wanted to concentrate on how the paper handled, so I followed an Anna Mason tutorial and let her make the compositional and color choices.

The site recommended dry-painting and that's what I did for this painting, letting each layer dry completely before I painted the next layer.

Even though this is a hot pressed paper, and feels smooth to the touch, it has some tooth, and held up well to several glazes, lifting of color and even some scrubbing.  Those highlights were painted, scrubbed and re-painted four or five times without pilling.  I finally got some damage on the single cherry and quit at that point.

There was a slight amount of dimpling, but not enough to interfere with painting or to allow the paint to pool.
 For my second try with this paper, I went wetter.  I still kept to a dry-painting style for the most part, but used juicy washes for the background.

I didn't lift color as much, but did use the method to soften edges, using a kleenex while the paint was wet, and a brush once it was dry.  I also created the reflections with this method.  The highlights on the jar were also done this way - I had hoped to get harder edges.

Description from site: Made in England by hand. These natural white sheets have been hot pressed making them smooth yet still retaining an interesting mildly textured surface. Developed for 'line and wash', VPCo Watercolour has been crafted to capture detail.  

Archival, strong, durable and dimensionally stable. Made with long-fibred cotton and gelatin sized.
We offer a true artisan material inspired by the papers made in the golden age of British hand papermaking but which can withstand the demands of contemporary fine-art in the 21st century. 
Sold in packs of 4.
Material - 100% long-fibre cotton, gelatine sized. 
Surface - Hot Pressed, Wove
Size - 4 sheets, 8 x 11 inches, 205 x 255 mm (approximately)
Weight - 400gsm, 200lb

This isn't a vintage paper, though it is handmade.  I felt a little freer to test, but still - with only four sheets to play with, I didn't go quite as wild as I usually do.  This is also a hot pressed paper but it isn't as smooth as the WSH 150.

 I decided to try some wet into wet, and soaked this paper thoroughly before starting.  I didn't tape it down or do anything to keep it flat.

The paint flowed well. While still wet, I lifted color with a kleenex and then added paint and that's how you get backruns, but I was able to smooth them out.

Once all this dried, I did several glazes, drying between each layer.  Then I lifted color.  In some places, I just lifted enough to show the color beneath.  In others I worked back to white.  I did some repainting, re-lifting and scrubbing.  You can see there is a bit of damage in my starburst, but it took me a while to get there.  This is a nice paper for lifting.

I used a splatter technique for texture, splattering water with a small brush, and then dabbing with a kleenex.

With my first painting, I used more opaque colors, and dulled them a bit with all the lifting.  

For the second painting, I went with more transparent colors, and less lifting.  I did lift to get the marbling effect in the background, glazing Alizarin Crimson over a dry layer of Cobalt blue, and dabbing to lighten the Alizarin, without taking away the blue.  

I lifted a little to get the highlights but let the colors on my water-lily stay nice and bright. 

Note: This is one of the extra samples that I was sent.  

Description from site: Premium quality paper handmade in the 1950s.  This paper is better than anything made today in terms of quality and value and available at prices cheaper than inferior quality, modern machine made paper.  WSH Handmade is useful for many fine-art disciplines including: Inkjet, Watercolour, Pen & Ink, Drawing, Letterpress, Silkscreen, Marbling, Ink, Pencil, Bookbinding.  Made with superior quality cotton rag and gelatin tub-sized. No grain direction so excellent for hand bookbinding making sketchbooks. 
Sold in packs of 10 and 20
150gsm 72lb Cold Pressed (slightly textured)
148 x 210 mm, 5.83 x 8.27 inch (different sheet sizes available)

Although this is cold pressed paper it didn't have a lot more tooth than the two hot-pressed papers that I used above.  It was easier to get soft edges and more difficult to lift color.  Hard edges occurred in the form of those dark halos around the eggplant pod, and I finally used a white ink to recover the highlight on the eggplant.  

Both of those things were the fault of my technique. If I weren't testing, I would have used the white of the paper, and a lower concentration of pigment to begin with. I like lifting color (can you tell?) for special effect and texture, but now I know I can't use this paper to do that.

The surface of the paper gives the finished painting almost the look of fabric.  Even though I can't lift color, I have other paper to do that with, so I bought more of this one to do other effects with.

This was another of the 72 lb papers, and I didn't stretch or tape it down.  Still it did not curl at all.  It barely dimpled and it took a lot of scrubbing.  

I still have the WSH 180 Rough 90lb, and the Rough 167 lb to try out, and you'll be seeing what I do with those in the near future.

Colors stay bright on all of the papers.  

Color  lifts well on the WSH hot pressed, very well on the VPCo hot press and so-so on the WSH Cold-pressed.  

The site warns that some of the older papers might have some age marks, but all the sheets I received were very clean.  The WSH 72 lb hot-pressed has a slight crease.

I live on the West Coast of the United States and the Vintage Paper Co is based in Orkney, an island off of Scotland, but it only took a little over a week for me to get my order.  

 The novelty value shouldn't be under-estimated, but only you can determine what it is in your case. 

I highly recommend visiting the Vintage Paper Co site. There are tutorials on book binding and tons of information on vintage paper in Britain. If you're like me, you'll find this a wonderful place to window-shop and you might find a holiday gift or two.