Hahnemuehle Natural Line

Artist Alan Bickley thoroughly evaluates Hahnemühle's eco-friendly papers—Agave Watercolour, Hemp Sketch, Bamboo Sketch, and Bamboo Mixed Media. With a focus on sustainability, he explores their unique qualities, performance with various techniques and media, and suitability for environmentally-conscious artists.

For many years, Hahnemühle has been consistently working towards finding more environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to produce paper. In this present climate, and our greater awareness to protect our planet, the quest for more environmentally sourced products and materials has never been greater or more urgent. I was delighted to have been asked to try out Hahnemühle’s current Natural Line range of eco-friendly papers, and I was looking forward to testing out the range. I’ll be seeing how they hold up against the traditional papers and using a variety of different medium. I’ve not used eco papers before, so I’m starting without any preconceived ideas. For the more technical information, and in the interests of product accuracy, I’ve referred to their online literature in some instances. 

About Hahnemühle's Natural Line

Hahnemühle started to use bamboo fibres, a fast-growing and sustainable raw material, in 2008 and launched the mixed-media paper Bamboo, made from 90% bamboo fibres and 10% cotton rag. They extended the range with bamboo papers and books suitable for different painting techniques throughout the years. 

With the new paper innovations using Agave and Hemp, Hahnemühle were able to focus even more on resource-saving and environmentally friendly papers. Hahnemühle’s Natural Line integrates all of the following resource-saving papers: Agave Watercolour, Hemp Sketch, Bamboo Mixed Media and Bamboo Sketch. 

I’ll be taking a look at the Agave Watercolour range, as well as the Hemp Sketch Book and Bamboo range. 

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Top features:

  • Environmentally sustainable
  • Vegan
  • Age resistant and acid-free
  • Suitable for a wide range of mediums

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Hahnemühle Agave Watercolour Paper 

Agave Watercolour Pad

Hahnemühle Agave eco pads with some of the paints and tools that I’ve used.

The first thing to note regarding the Agave paper, is its suitability to support all watercolour medium and techniques. I often combine watercolour with a pen and ink line drawing, and had no problem incorporating either my favourite Edding 1800 profipen or using a traditional fine nib pen such as the Ackerman Pump pen, which gives a similar experience to drawing with a traditional dip pen.  

The Agave watercolour paper is natural white in colour and with a weight of 290gsm. 70% of it is made up of Agave fibre, the remaining 30% comprising of Cotton rag. It has a Cold-Pressed (NOT) surface texture, which slots in somewhere between Hot-Pressed (HP) and Rough. Based on my experience, I would classify the surface as heading towards the smoother side of NOT, so is also a suitable surface for fine detail work or ink drawing.

Test swatch using different media on Hahnemühle Agave paper. Left to right – watercolour, acrylic paint, gouache, acrylic ink, soluble dye ink, water soluble pencil, pastel pencil.

Its relatively smooth but stiff surface texture is suitable for all watercolour techniques. My brush was able to glide effortlessly across this unique 290gsm surface, making big washes and glazing techniques easy to achieve.  

Weight is often an important factor when choosing watercolour paper, and this did hold up well to some fairly robust washes. Lifting out most colours and making corrections were relatively successful, (not that I make a habit of this), showing little or no obvious deterioration to the paper surface… in actual fact, I was surprised at how strong and resilient this eco paper is when compared to the traditional papers, and that applies across the whole Hahnemühle eco range! 

Water's Edge by Alan Bickley

Water’s Edge, Hahnemühle A4 Agave watercolour pad and Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours. I’ve adopted a more direct method of painting in this summer landscape, wet-on-wet and keeping detail to a minimum – a style that Edward Wesson excelled at! 

If I’m painting in the studio, I generally prefer to adopt the ‘indirect’ technique, developing my paintings using a series of layers, wet over dry, more in the style of Rowland Hilder. When I’m painting plein air, I always revert to the ‘direct’ method, this will be the wet-on-wet technique, more of an ‘Edward Wesson’ approach. 

Brixham Trawlers in Dry Dock

Brixham Trawlers in Dry Dock, mixed media using ink, watercolour, gouache, pastel and carbon pencil in an A4 Hahnemühle Agave pad. The agave paper handled this mixed media without any issues.

I’ve used a variety of wet medium in my demonstration pieces, from watercolour, to pen/brush with ink (both acrylic and soluble dye), to acrylic paint used thinly as in watercolour, and gouache. I was impressed with how each of them performed, and compared favourable when compared to  the mainstream traditional papers. 

The Hahnemühle Agave Watercolour range consists of both block form and loose sheets, the blocks being glued on all 4 sides, which does eliminate the need for stretching. There’s a good range of sizes on offer in the block format, the loose sheets are fairy large at 50 x 65cm. 

The blocks have a good stout backboard, so perfect for those plein air excursions! 

In terms of overall performance, this Hahnemühle Agave watercolour paper has to be up there with most other premium grade papers that I’ve used over the years, in comparison with similar weight papers. For the environmentally conscious painter who is looking for a sustainable paper, the Hahnemule Agave watercolour range should fit that need adequately, and definitely worth checking out… I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Prices from £2.70

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Hahnemühle Hemp Sketch Paper

Hahnemühle Eco Hemp sketchpads with some of the mark-making tools and materials that I use. Don’t limit yourself with your selection, experiment and get creative!

I found the hemp sketch paper to be surprisingly robust for its weight, the pads are 80gsm and made up of 60% Hemp fibre, and 40% Cotton rag. 

Hemp Sketch Swatch

Test swatch on Hahnemühle Hemp eco paper - using a selection of different media. Left to right – graphite pencil, carbon pencil, charcoal pencil, willow charcoal stick, Promarker pen. The Promarker pen is fine on small areas, but be aware that is will bleed through this 80gsm paper.

Hemp Sketch is suitable for all dry techniques such as graphite, chalk, coloured pencil, charcoal and a whole host of other medium, and I experimented using a good selection of dry medium. It is a natural white paper, and has a fine tooth which I found particularly suitable for both carbon and graphite pencils, in fact, pretty much any dry medium you may want to draw with.  

Winding gear of a vintage steam crane at Summerlee Industrial Museum by Alan Bickley

Winding gear of a vintage steam crane at Summerlee Industrial Museum at Coatbridge, B and 2B Wolff’s carbon pencil on a Hahnemühle A4 Hemp 80gsm eco sketchpad. I consider these carbon pencils to be the perfect drawing tool for Hemp eco paper. Just enough ‘tooth’ to give your drawing that all important sparkle!  

Hemp Sketch is a first-class drawing paper and comes from a sustainable source. By using fast-growing hemp fibre, slow-growing resources are conserved. It stood up well compared to my usual drawing paper. 

All Hemp Sketch sketch pads contain 80 sheets and are glued at the top. There are three sizes of pads available, A5, A4, and A3. 

As with all the Hahnemühle Eco paper products, this is also acid-free, age-resistant and vegan. 

Prices from £9.40

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Bamboo Sketch Pads

These 105gsm bamboo sketch pads are made of highly sustainable Bamboo fibres, and available as a sketch pad and a hard-back sketch book. The natural warm toned white paper is extremely age resistant has a rough surface which is suitable for sketching and drawing techniques. Available in A5, A4 and A3 sizes, each containing 30 sheets. 

Royal Exchange by Alan Bickley

Royal Exchange, Promarker pen sketch in an A4 Bamboo sketchbook.

The Bamboo Sketch Books which are also 105 gsm consist of bamboo (90%) and cotton (10%) fibres. These bamboo sketch books are available in portrait formats A5 and A4, each containing 128 pages.  

Prices from £5.30

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Bamboo Mixed Media

Bamboo Mixed Media

Redundant Bottle Kilns at Burslem, in a Bamboo mixed-media 265gsm block pad, mixed media including acrylic ink, watercolour, gouache and soft pastel, 91/2x121/2in (24x32cm).

Bamboo Mixed Media 265 gsm is available in blocks, sheets and in a 10-metre roll. The unique surface of this natural-white artist paper is very well suited for a variety of both drawing and painting techniques, as well as mixed media work - I found it to be a sturdy paper that didn’t distort when a wash was applied to small areas - a great paper for all watercolour, acrylic and pastel techniques. The blocks come with 25 sheets of paper, glued on all four sides, so no need for stretching. Each mixed media block has a sturdy backboard, making it the perfect plein air support. 

Prices from £2.70

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Bamboo Carnet de Voyage Spiral Bound 

Carnet de Voyage

Bamboo mixed-media spiral-bound Carnet de Voyage sketch pads with a selection of materials that I’ve used. Pad size 6x93/4in (15.3x25cm).

Bamboo Carnet de Voyage spiral bound is a 265gsm, 90-per-cent bamboo fibre, 10-per-cent cotton rag cold-pressed paper. The ring binder is the latest addition to Hahnemühle’s successful range of bamboo products. It comes in landscape format 6x93/4in (15.3x25cm), with coil binding. The natural-white artist paper, with a unique surface, is very well suited for different drawing, painting and mixed-media techniques. I found it to be a perfect and practical size for my plein-air sketching trips, and the 265gsm weight took a decent watercolour wash with very little distortion.

Price £10.80

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