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All About Hahnemühle Watercolour Papers with Tony Paul

Posted on Fri 13 May 2016

On 27 February 1584 the Herzog of Braunscheving granted the right to build a paper mill to papermaking craftsman, Merten Spiess. He and his descendants operated the mill until August 1769, from when its ownership passed through several companies until, in 1886, when it was bought by Carl Hahne.

In 1902 Hahnemühle became a limited company, which merged with Schleicher & Schuell, the latter becoming the sole owner in 1927.

On 1 July 2002 the company was renamed Hahnemühle Fine Art GmbH and in 2004 it separated from Schleicher & Scheull and has since operated independently.

Up until the end of the 19th century Hahnemühle existed as a small paper manufacturer with less than 15 employees. Its products included the finest handmade writing paper and high-quality filter papers. The mill expanded and in the 1920s there was a workforce of more than 120.

Industrialisation brought in specialist machinery for the production of Artists’ papers. A cylinder mould-making machine was installed in the 1920s followed by a high production Fourdrinier machine. Alongside these mechanical paper processing machines went the handmade papers. The making of these continued until the 1960s.

Today Hahnemühle not only produces high-quality papers for the artist, but is also prominent in the manufacture of inkjet and other printing papers. In the history of papermaking, it is unique that Hahnemühle produces its output from the same, albeit expanded premises as when it first produced paper over 430 years ago.

The inside of Hahnemühle’s paper mill with the different paper types in stock

Paper production: Foudrinier papermaking machine.

In-house quality control at Hahnemühle for mould-made watercolour paper.


Four types of Hahnemühle watercolour paper were sent to me for review.

The first two are Leonardo and Cézanne, which are top-of-the-range, mould-made and 100 per cent cotton, of a quality suitable for the most fastidious of watercolourists.

We then move on to Bamboo mixed-media paper. This underused material was a surprise to me, and it proves to be just as suitable as cotton for a watercolour painting. I defy anyone to be able to tell the difference against a standard 100 per cent cotton paper.

And finally, I tested Hahnemühle’s budget paper, a wood-free cellulose paper of superb quality and handling properties. The following is a report on each of the papers and how they handled. All prices quoted are rrp and include VAT.


Hahnemühle Leonardo mould-made watercolour paper is a 100 per cent cotton rag paper, which is available in three surface finishes: Rough, matt (NOT or Cold-pressed) and Hot-pressed.

The Rough paper has a wonderful, random and fairly deep texture, making it ideal where expressive watercolour effects and dry brush are required.

The back of the paper is quite different to the face side, being almost of Hot-pressed smoothness. Both sides are sized similarly and will take colour equally well. The thickness of the 600gsm (280lb) paper means that the need for stretching is eliminated.

The matt (NOT) surfaced paper enjoys the same random quality as the Rough, but the texture is less pronounced. It has enough grain to hold colour, creating interesting paint textures, but gentle enough to allow detail to be included painlessly.

The HP (Hot-pressed) surface has a satin smooth finish, ideally suited to the most detailed of subject matter.

Leonardo, which is sized in the pulp and when in the sheet, surface sized, is a natural, creamy white, acid-free, lightfast paper and extremely resistant to ageing. These qualities create a surface that offers excellent flow and brightness of colour, great for all watercolour techniques, especially wet-in-wet and glazing. The double sizing creates a more robust paper, able to resist harsh treatment, repetitive wetting and lifting out. It is also ideal for pen and wash, gouache, tempera and acrylic work.

The paper is available in the following forms and sizes (all three surfaces are similarly priced):

Blocks 10 sheets of paper gummed all round: 12x10in. (24x32cm), £19; 12x16in. (30x40cm), £31.50; and 14x19in. (36x48cm), £40.90.

Single sheets 22x30in. (56x76cm), £8.10.

Tom, watercolour on 600gsm (280lb) Leonardo matt (NOT) watercolour paper, 16x12in. (40x30cm)


Leonardo paper was easy to work on, and the texture great for giving vitality to the brushstrokes. The double sizing – in the pulp and sheet dip sizing – gave a hard board-like character, which took paint well, sitting more on the surface, with no sinking in. This allowed me to use my usual technique of lifting off to soften and create form in otherwise flat washes.

Overlaying wash on wash, as in Tom’s jacket collar, was simple and effective, and all the colours dried clean as planned. I did some lift out and the colour was removed easily back to the white of the paper. As expected there was no distortion in the paper, even where I worked quite wetly, lifted off and repainted, and when the painting was dry it remained flat.

All through the painting the paper was a delight to work on. It was as if it was trying to make my job easy. This has to be one of the best watercolour papers I have used.


This paper is similar to the Leonardo range, being made on a cylinder mould machine, each sheet having two deckle and two cut edges. The cylinder mould machine creates a tougher paper in which the fibres mat fairly randomly, reducing the cockling that happens more readily in paper produced on the faster, high output Fourdrinier machines. These tend to align the fibres more. Paper fibres when wetted tend to expand widthways more than lengthwise so, if aligned when the paper is heavily wetted, they will distort it more than those with a higgledy-piggledy arrangement.

The difference between the Leonardo and Cézanne ranges is that the Cézanne range is of a lighter weight of paper, 300gsm (140lb). This makes for a top-quality paper at a more economical price. Unless the paper is to be heavily wetted during painting, stretching is unlikely to be needed.

Cézanne watercolour paper is available in 10 sheet gummed blocks in Rough, Matt and Hot-pressed surfaces, all similarly priced and in single sheets.

Blocks 10 sheets gummed all round: 10x12in. (24x32cm), £14.90; 12x16in. (30x40cm), £21.10; and 14x19in. (36x48cm), £25.60.

Single sheets 22x30in. (56x76cm), £5.30.

Bamboo Mixed Media

Bamboo Mixed Media paper is the first paper by Hahnemühle to be made of highly renewable bamboo grass fibres blended with 10 per cent cotton, making it a resource-saving paper. The result is a warm white paper that is extremely age resistant, with a unique NOT surface, which is suitable for different painting and drawing techniques, such as watercolour, acrylic, pastel and drawing with charcoal and red ochre. The high-quality paper is acid free and its sizing promotes good contrast, helping to retain brilliant and luminous colours.

The paper is 265gsm (125lb), which is just a little lighter than the 140lb weight paper that is most commonly used. The literature does not state that it is mould-made so I would assume this paper is Fourdrinier made. This is reinforced by the price, which is comparable with wood-free papers. So, if you work very wet it may be advisable to stretch it to be on the safe side.

Bamboo Mixed Media comes in the following formats and sizes:

Pads 25 sheets, gummed top and bottom: 10x12in. (24x32cm), £14.50; 12x16in. (30x40cm), £29.20; and 16x22in. (42x56cm), £39.70.

Sheets 20x26in. (50x65cm), £1.60.

Rolls 4x41ft (1.25x10m), £61.30.

Rastafarian Cyclist, watercolour on 265gsm (125lb) Bamboo Mixed Media paper, 12x8in. (32x24)


I wondered how the bamboo paper would work with pen and wash so gave it a try. I needn’t have worried. The pen work was sharp, with no bleeding out of the lines and the colours were bright and clean.

Keeping in mind that this paper is slightly thinner than the usual 300gsm, I didn’t use the watercolour in too wet a consistency. It was hardly necessary given the simple washes employed. The gentle NOT surface was ideal for line and wash.

Anniversary Aquarell

This wood-free paper is a high-quality watercolour that is pulp-sized, acid-free, matt (NOT) surfaced paper of 425gsm (200lb) weight. It is lightfast and extremely resistant to ageing and is suitable for all water-based painting techniques such as watercolour, gouache, tempera and acrylic.

Being a wood-free paper this is competitively priced. The texture is classed as matt (NOT) but, unusually, the texture is more open than a typical NOT paper such as the Leonardo or Cézanne papers. Nevertheless, it is gentle and quite random. As with the other papers, the reverse side is smooth in texture.

Anniversary Aquarell is available only in 15 sheet blocks: 10x12in. (24x32cm), £8.40; 12x16in. (30x40cm), £13; and 14x19in. (36x48cm), £15.70.

Cottages at Castle Rising, watercolour on Anniversary Aquarell watercolour paper, 10x12in. (24x32cm)


The 425gsm Aquarelle paper was fine for this small study of these cottages. Despite the fact that the paper was only sized in the pulp, it proved tough, putting up well with the wet-in-wet work without complaint or distortion, no doubt in part due to its thickness of 425gsm (200lb). The colours dried bright and clear, and lift off was satisfactory. As a budget paper this excels; it’s great quality at an economical price.

To find out more about these papers and other papers made by Hahnemühle, please visit

This feature is taken from the June 2016 issue of Leisure Painter

Click here to purchase a copy


All About Hahnemühle Watercolour Papers with Tony Paul


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  • the work tries to exist but not transmit feelings of the author. In a way it pretends to be a work that exists independently of reality, carrying the meaning of the abstract. I want to recommend my favorite artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frida Kahlo, Roberto Matta Gabino amaya cacho and Pablo Picasso.

    Posted by heidy barted on Thu 14 Sep 05:25:40