Budget Friendly options for Watercolor Paper – Canson Montval and Fabriano 1264 (video)

Canson Montval Vs Fabriano 1264 Watercolor Paper

In this video, we take a close look at the differences between Canson Montval and Fabriano 1264.

Why these papers?

Because a cost-effective paper that isn’t frustrating to use can be a bit of a unicorn chase for the budget-conscious artist! Has someone finally figured out how to balance price and performance?

Both of these papers seem to be in direct competition aiming to capture the attention of artists looking for a moderate price and moderate performance cellulose paper that fills the need for a study paper, while still offering better-than-student lifting and layering potential.

See how each paper holds up as I measure layering capability, durability, lifting capability and performance in painting.

Watch the Video

Lately I found myself wanting to sketch more freely, more frequently, and in a small and manageable format. I’m not really up for the pressure of a 100 a day project, but I did have visions of a small sketchbook, filled with 5×7 postcard sized landscapes in watercolor and gouache.

I didn’t want to be disappointed if some of the paintings in the book wind up awful, and I didn’t want to pay a lot for the ongoing foray into process, so I found myself considering two watercolor paper books at about the same price.

Why not get both and see which one I’d have told myself to get if I had a time machine?

Photo showing two watercolor paper pads, canson montval and 1264 by Fabriano on a woodgrain tabletop

So here it is: a look at both Fabriano 1264 and Canson Montval.

I’ve used the Montval before, but the Fabriano was new to me and I was hoping to love it.

What tests did I design to evaluate both papers?

  • Durability of the watercolor paper under tape and masking fluid.
  • Transitions between watercolor washes in a flat gradient
  • Ability to lift watercolor using a scrubber brush and absorbent dabbing.
  • Layering with wet on dry and integrity of wet on dry layers.
  • End-to-end painting of quick landscape studies.

Something I’ve noticed is that while my favorite watercolor paper is a cotton rag paper, the paper I use the most by volume is not. Without the ability to freely “waste paper” it would be impossible to develop skills, visual vocabulary, and different preliminary versions of an idea. 

(I’ve definitely talked about this before in this post – you might like to check that out.)

Reasons that watercolor is the way to advance your painting skills, even if you use other media

  1. Watercolor is the best for portability and convenience.

    While watercolor can rise to the occasion of large scale work, it’s essentially the best paint for portable, spontaneous expression.
    It loves pairing up with drawing, ink, and chalk – the most direct route to color in drawing.

  2. Watercolor is the key to really understanding color.

    Transparency and optical color mixing is key to understanding color, and watercolor demands our participation in understanding both. Working from light to dark and reserving whites may not be identical to how you set up your opaque paintings, but everything you learn about color layering and interaction will feed your skill set in opaque paint. You’ll be able to anticipate the interactions of transparent colors with a great degree of accuracy and you’ll develop an appetite for the unexpected interactions of transparent layers – in watercolor and beyond.

  3. Watercolor is fun and fanciful and keeps you painting.

    Even a neutral-obsessed moodypants painter like me can’t resist the prism-like color that you can get out of watercolor. Its un-mitigated out of the tube nature is frolicsome at heart, more so than anything else I’ve used. When you have fun painting, and when you let yourself have some fun painting, it keeps you going.

  4. Watercolor teaches you what you need to know about control.

    First of all, control is OK. There is nothing wrong with wanting control, and watercolor can give you the tightest of control. You can use watercolor with a dry brush and re-create reality down to its finest eyelash. You can also approach each painting as an event and an experiment, generated entirely by chance. You can paint somewhere in between.

    But watercolor is the best bringer of constructive chaos. Should you choose to go out of the constraints of tight control, you are playing in the realm of fluid dynamics. You’ll cement your relationship to surprises, and how much you like them or don’t like them.

  5. Watercolor has a democratizing tendency, and communal possibilities.

    A lot of art critics have always treated it as “the lightweight.” We’ll keep things G-rated here and call those people “gatekeepers” but I’ve got some synonyms.

    Watercolor has historically been accessible to hobbyists, women, and cultural “outsiders” when other media were less so. It’s reasonably safe for teaching and using around small children. It can be (and has been) brought to every kind of place – from cafes and parties, to outpatient infusion rooms, to active battle fronts, to schools, to the Antarctic research station (switching vodka for water.) If you want it to connect you to the workingest world of working artists, it will – it is the immediate human imprint – pigment, life, and water.