Watercolor paper gone bad? Sizing surface coating problems Arches, Bee, Strathmore white spots dots specks.

I've run into a lot of problems with uneven wet washes, splotchy absorption or white speckled dots where watercolor paint will not sink into the surface coating (sizing) of the paper. It appears that Arches cold press cotton watercolor paper has been having an increased rate of sizing failure in 2020-2021. It is possible that during the pandemic supply shortages something changed with their core ingredients to make this paper more susceptible to this issue.

signs your watercolor paper has gone bad white speckle spot texture arches cold press surface sizing problem

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Watercolor supplies - list of waterproof ink, pens, paint brushes, paper (both cellulose and cotton, affordable student to pro quality options), swatch card creation and storage, lighting, basics of top-down video making for artists and crafters including camera holders, free and low cost editing software and other tools!

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  • Rebecca - January 21, 2024

    Sad to hear that this icon of “quality” paper is having this problem. However, be reminded that when the sizing on any paper goes bad, you CAN re-size it. Internal re-sizing is iffy for hobbyists, but external sizing is easy to do and quite effective. Better than writing off your expensive paper entirely and tossing it! Holbein makes a sizing liquid to buy, or you can do what we old-timers would do and buy technical gelatin to resize with ( Natural Pigments carries it ). I suspect you can achieve similar results with W & N Lifting Preparation. And now there are several companies making “Watercolor Ground” with which you can coat your paper and consider it sized, as well! All is not lost. This shouldn’t happen from such an established company, but when it does, we are not helpless victims, and we can make a better, more informed choice when we make our next paper purchase.

  • Frederick Brosen - October 05, 2023

    To follow up: 3 out of the 3 large sheets, Arches 300pd. CP, were defective. If you stretch your paper when wet you can see the irregularities if you hold the sheet up to the light. Uneven blotches or light circles indicate the uneven sizing. I will contact Blick for a refund, but let’s see. They may tell me to contact Arches directly.

  • Frederick Brosen - October 04, 2023

    The 300 CP larger sheets, 29″ × 41″, look fine until pre-wet. Then you see a swiss cheese like spots when the paper is wet. I use large washes of gradated color that require very even repeated washes. I cannot risk the paper speckling, so I threw out this very expensive sheet. I assume if you see these holes when wet that the washes would dry unevenly. Am I correct in this assumption?

  • Daniel Meehan - March 17, 2023

    Thank you for this blog. I have painted with Arches, full sheet 22 X 30, 300 and 400 pound papers for many years, always with good results. About 3 years ago I had purchased 5 sheets of 400 pound cold paper and had problems with the way it absorbed the pigments. The problem showed up when using washes in backgrounds, they would not absorb evenly, and puddled and left a line, in a place where I did not want one. I lost several good paintings with this problem, it was very frustrating. Sometimes I could work around the problem, but it took a lot of time and effort, and some unwanted experimentation. I emailed Arches several times, but never had a response. This blog helps me get a better understanding of the problem. I hope this a temporary Arches problem, the paper was outstanding and very fine.

  • Tipi Punnett - February 27, 2023

    I am so glad to have read all these comments. I have almost given up on painting with .
    watercolour for the very same reasons. All the paper I have which seemed to have worked before just acts like blotting paper. I am totally fed up and maybe should stick to acrylics!

  • MrsGwennD - November 25, 2022

    Dang. I read the comments. I have been having awful results with the Arches 140lb coldpressed the last few years. I thought it was me. Glad to know it isn’t, but I want my old Arches back. My work is crap without it.

  • Hermione - November 20, 2022

    I’ve been having the white speckling issue A LOT lately with expensive cold pressed paper. A new pad of Arches, a new block of Lanaquarelle, a block of Baohong, sample sheets of various other brands.. The paint looks ok when wet and then as it dries it turns chalky and the speckles appear. It also causes edges to look very jagged. It’s extremely frustrating when an entire block is unusable. What is going on with the sizing these days?

  • Tonya - October 24, 2022

    Purchased my 300# Arches in May. 20″ × 30″ (2 sheets) and 4 other sheets about 1/2 that size. Cut my 20″ × 30″ down. Spent all of Ian hurricane tracing my beautiful peony that I planned to paint with a tutorial. (I was saving my paper for a “special project” I loved. Water on plain white area . . . soaked right through to the back. Looked like holes in a sponge. I couldn’t tell how much paint I was laying down as these speckles were so dark in color. I’m so upset. Notified Dick Blick. Another gal in the class was experiencing the same issue with her 300# Arches. This was the first time for both of us to invest in such an expensive paper to paint with. Urrrrr

  • Cindy Chauvin - September 07, 2022

    I bought and used Arches watercolor CP 100% cotton paper for the first time this summer. I have been very disappointed with the way my watercolor paint looks or behaves on it. I am also very surprised because everyone praises Arches paper. I will not be buying this brand again.

  • Rana Shehata - August 18, 2022

    I just got a large sheet and it immediately absorbs any water and pigment . It almost makes my watercolor pigments behave like ink. It stays where it is laid down and absolutely no blending or lifting possible. I’ve had arches paper that has gone bad before and it definitely speckles. But this is nothing like I’ve never seen before . Worst part is I used that sheet for a leather bound sketch book . 🙁

  • Sandra Jones - August 01, 2022

    I’ve been having bad issues with Arches and the sizing actually lifting and mixing into my watercolors causing a muddy dull look. I switched to new brand and have had NO issues. It’s really upsetting when I’ve just purchased a couple pads and full sheets…what a waist and very disappointing.

  • Clara - June 29, 2022

    My brand new Arches CP looks exactly like this! I’m glad I found this article because I’m a beginner and it’s my first time using Arches so I didn’t know what to expect. Which I didn’t like and it’s disappointing because I’ve only heard good things about them. I also get jaggy edges when I paint wet on dry, is it also due to bad sizing? It’s like when it’s wet it looks like a straight smooth line but as it gets dry it starts getting rough and jaggy. I’ll try the gum arabic strategy and see how it goes.

  • Wendy - February 21, 2022

    I too have been noticing my 140lb cp paper is not handling watercolor paint well. On a recent painting, there were ‘dead’ spots and a few speckles of white …where I didn’t want them. I finally, well into my painting realized that the paper was defective. I have had it maybe a year. I accidentally splashed just a few drops on a clean 140 hp paper. I quickly dabbed it with a towel and it did not lift leaving 3 spots! Thank you for your discussion. I have been searching for a sizing solution (pre-made). Daniel Smith has the paper ground but I was hoping to find liquid. Holbein has one but do you recommend any others?

  • Gabrielle - January 28, 2022

    Thanks for your useful blog. I also have this white speckles issue with my watercolor paper. Both Arches and Fabriano artistico from different brand new packages! I suppose it is an issue with the storage at the store… I will return some of it but still tried to figure out how to solve this. Soaking the paper helps, but simply applying a solution of 1/10 gum arabic and leaving it to dry restored the paper perfectly. Too much gum arabic would make layering difficult as paint would lift too easily, but 1/10 was great in my tests

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