Paper: St Cuthberts Mill Saunders Waterford Watercolour Blocks (review)

When I was in an art shop in the city sometime last year, I saw some Saunders Waterford watercolour blocks on their shelves. I quite like my Arches blocks (mostly because blocks save you the effort of having to tape down all the edges to prevent or reduce buckling) but they are quite pricey, so when I noticed that the Saunders Waterford ones were a little cheaper for their size, I decided to get a 5X7 inch one to try.

The more watercolour paintings I’ve done, the more I’ve realised that rough press papers are my preference, a feeling that has been confirmed by my use of the Saunders Waterford rough press block. I also like thicker papers (again, to reduce buckling under heavy washes) so I got the 300gsm block. They also come in bigger sizes and in different weights, and in plain pads as well as the blocks.

Like many watercolour papers, Saunders Waterford is more of an off-white, ivory colour (even though it’s marketed as ‘white’). You can buy truly white watercolour paper but those seem to be more expensive (maybe because they have to be processed more? I don’t know). A lot of watercolour painters like this ivory colour as it helps provide a warm cast to their paintings.

In terms of the paper itself, I can safely say it’s one of my favourites, easily equal to Arches. The rough texture makes it easy to produce broken, dry brush effects, but still allows smooth washes when you want them, and the paper is sturdy enough that it can tolerate a fair bit of lifting (a technique I used quite a lot in the first and second paintings below). Even though some of my paintings required dense watercolour washes, I didn’t notice any buckling in this paper.

Here are a few paintings I’ve done using the Saunders Waterford rough paper (most of these have appeared in previous art supply review or demonstration posts).

St Cuthberts Mill Saunders Waterford blocks are excellent for watercolour artists who want a high quality paper in a convenient format. The smallest size seems to be hard to find in Australia – though I found my original block in a city art supply shop, no one seemed to carry them when I wanted more, so I had to buy some off eBay – but bigger sizes are obtainable easily enough online, if not in store. It’s definitely worth trying this paper out for yourself; you won’t be disappointed. And if you can get one of the smaller blocks, it’d be great to put it in your plein air painting kit.

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