Basic Breakdown

Cotton vs Cellulose

Basic Breakdown: Cotton vs Cellulose


Watercolour paper comes in a number of different varieties with cellulose (Wood Pulp) and cotton being the two most popular. This blog aims to highlight the pros and cons of both and showcase the differences between them. 

Cellulose is made from a wood pulp that is chemically treated to work with watercolour paints. The paper is thus quite inexpensive and is often looked at as an alternative to the higher quality cotton paper. Yet despite this paper being lacking in quality it makes up for it in affordability being a favorite of amateur artists and students alike. For single layer work this paper works well but for more complex, layered works the paper can cockle and warp, showcasing its lack of durability. 


Clairefontaine Paint On; Multi-Technique

Clairefontaine Paint On; Multi-Technique 100% Cellulose Paper

By contrast 100% cotton paper is often high-end and looked at as an artist grade paper. The cotton construction proves a high degree of stability and is far more durable than its cellulose counterpart. The cotton absorbs water easier and can handle a higher load of colour, giving access to more techniques on one sheet. 100% cotton paper is also often acid-free which prevents yellowing and discolouration of your paintings over time. However cotton is more expensive than cellulose and is seen as more of an investment or artists tool rather than a standard work surface. 


Arches Traditional White Single Sheet Watercolour Paper

Arches Single Sheet 100% Cotton Paper


Both types of paper are available on our website for purchase. 


Image Credit:

Sandra Manchester