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What is the best watercolor paper for framing?

Choosing the right watercolor paper for framing your artwork can make a huge difference in how your paintings look when displayed. The texture, weight, and finish of the paper will impact the vibrancy of the colors and how much detail is visible in the painting once it’s behind glass. In this guide, we’ll go over the factors to consider when selecting watercolor paper for framing and review some of the best options currently available.

Key Considerations for Framing Watercolor Paper

Here are the main things you’ll want to think about when selecting the best paper for displaying your watercolor paintings:

Paper Weight

Weight is one of the most important factors as it impacts the paper’s durability and resistance to buckling in the frame. Lightweight papers below 140lb are more likely to show rippling or waves when subjected to humidity changes. Heavier weight papers of 300lb or more will stay flatter for better viewing.

Paper Texture

The texture or “tooth” of the paper refers to its surface roughness. Rough watercolor papers allow paint to seep into the nooks and crannies for vivid washes and bright colors. But too much texture can also obscure fine details. Smoother papers showcase crisp details but absorb less pigment.

Mold Resistant

Mold resistant papers treated with an antimicrobial solution will prevent mold growth behind the glass even with changes in humidity. This helps preserve the artwork.


Acid-free paper has a neutral pH so it won’t yellow or become brittle over time. This is essential for long-lasting preservation of your artwork.

Paper Color

The underlying color of the paper impacts the look of your finished painting. Bright white shows off colors cleanly. Cream or natural papers provide a warmer antique look. Colored papers allow creating interesting backgrounds.

Reviews of the Best Watercolor Paper for Framing

Here are some top recommendations for high-quality watercolor paper that is optimized for framing and displaying paintings:

Arches Aquarelle

Weight 140lb, 300lb
Texture Rough
Key Features – 100% cotton rag content
– Acid-free
– Natural white tone

Arches is considered the gold standard for watercolor paper used by professionals. The rough, textured surface allows for vibrant washes and excellent control. Heavy 300lb paper remains ultra-flat in frames. The acid-free formula guarantees long-lasting preservation. Available in cold press, hot press, and rough finishes.

Fabriano Artistico

Weight 140lb, 300lb
Texture Rough or Soft
Key Features – 100% acid-free cotton
– Extra white tone
– Excellent age resistance

Another premium 100% cotton paper made in Italy. Fabriano Artistico has a very soft, smooth surface available in hot press and rough options. The paper has a brilliant white tone that makes colors pop. The acid-free formula guarantees artwork will last for centuries without yellowing or deteriorating.

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour

Weight 140lb, 300lb
Texture Rough or Smooth
Key Features – 100% cotton rag
– Acid-free
– Extremely durable

Winsor & Newton produces premium-grade paper tailored for their artist paints. The surface is high quality 100% cotton rag with excellent wet strength and durability. It’s available in hot press, cold press, and rough textures. The bright white tone displays colors clearly. Remains ultra-flat and warp resistant in frames.

Canson Heritage

Weight 140lb, 300lb
Texture Rough or Smooth
Key Features – 98% cotton/2% OBA additive
– Acid-free
– Resists yellowing and aging

Canson Heritage offers an excellent quality-to-price ratio. Made of 98% cotton with just 2% OBAs for brightening, this paper features a luminous white surface. The textured finish allows for vivid washes and great control. It’s lighter than 100% cotton papers but still suitable for framing.

Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor

Weight 140lb, 300lb
Texture Rough or Smooth
Key Features – Acid-free with pH neutrality
– Cotton rag content
– Good dry strength

A step down in price, Strathmore 400 Series is ideal for intermediate artists. It offers decent quality for framing at an affordable price. The acid-free formula maintains archival properties. Available in cold press, hot press, and vellum surfaces and a range of sheet sizes.


Weight 250lb, 360lb
Texture Rough
Key Features – 100% cotton rag content
– Smooth white finish
– Extreme durability

Stonehenge paper is excellent for framing because of its extra heavy 250lb and 360lb 100% cotton rag construction. The natural white, acid-free surface has a fine texture that allows for detailed painting. It remains perfectly flat in frames and the thick cotton paper is extremely tough and durable.


Weight Heavy 148gsm
Texture Non-porous polypropylene
Key Features – Waterproof and stainproof
– Extremely smooth surface
– Vibrantcolors with no fading

Yupo paper is a synthetic polypropylene surface that is naturally waterproof and non-porous. Paint sits on the surface allowing for unique techniques with vibrant colors. The heavy 148gsm paper is suitable for framing. Make sure frames are completely sealed to prevent humidity building up behind non-breathable Yupo paper.

Hahnemühle Bugra

Weight 285gsm
Texture Fine textured linen surface
Key Features – Natural white linen texture
– 100% alpha cellulose
– Museum-grade acid-free

Bugra paper by Hahnemühle offers a fine linen texture applied to an alpha cellulose base. The natural white color is excellent for rich colors. The fine surface allows for detailed painting. It’s fade and moisture resistant for archival framing and storage. Suited to watercolor, gouache, ink, and light mixed media.

Saunders Waterford

Weight 300lb, 140lb
Texture Rough or satin
Key Features – 100% cotton rag
– Acid-free
– Exceptional durability

Saunders Waterford paper is renowned for its 100% pure cotton texture and bright white tone. The rough surface allows dynamic expressive washes. Hot press sheets have a satin smoothness perfect for detailed work. It remains perfectly flat in frames. The mold-resistant paper prevents deterioration.


Weight 300lb, 140lb
Texture Rough
Key Features – 100% cotton rag
– Acid-free
– Effortless washes

Bockingford rough watercolor paper is loved for its luxuriously soft 100% cotton texture that allows colors to bloom and flow. The cold press finish has enough tooth to allow for dynamic expressive washes. The 300lb and 140lb sheets remain consistent and flat when framed to showcase all the paper’s unique character.

Tips for Framing Watercolor Paper

Once you’ve selected the ideal paper for your style of painting, here are some tips for professionally framing and displaying your watercolor art:

Choose acid-free mats and framing materials.

Use conservation grade, acid-free matting and framing supplies. Acid from low quality materials can discolor paper over time.

Use UV protective glass or plexiglass.

UV light can also cause fading. Opt for glazing that blocks 99% of UV rays.

Seal the frame backing carefully.

Use archival tape and framing techniques that completely seal the back of the frame. This prevents humidity and bugs from damaging paper.

Add spacer strips if needed.

Spacers help separate paper from glass to allow breathing room and prevent condensation or moisture damage.

Hang frames out of direct sunlight.

Direct sun exposure will accelerate fading. Hang framed art on interior walls away from windows.


Choosing the right paper is crucial for displaying vivid, archival watercolor paintings. Look for acid-free papers with enough weight and texture for your style of painting. Top quality 100% cotton rag papers from trusted brands like Arches, Fabriano, and Saunders Waterford are great choices for framing. For detailed works, smooth hot pressed papers showcase fine lines. For expressive washes, rough cold press papers allow colors to bloom. Pair with UV protective glazing and acid-free matting and frames for professional results.

With a framed watercolor painting, you’ll be able to admire and preserve your artwork for many years to come.