Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Hemp Heritage Watercolor Paper: Watercolor Basics

"Premium Hemp Heritage Fine Art Paper"

I'm always interested in trying new things, especially in the world of watercolor.  I've tried Yupo (for watercolor, for alcohol markers, and with Pitt Pens) a synthetic paper made from plastic, I've dabbled with a variety of watercolor papers, and I'm always swatching new watercolor sets.  A couple years ago, I spotted Hemp Heritage Watercolor paper on Amazon and was intrigued.  I've used plastic, cellulose based, and cotton rag papers, as well as papers that are a mix, but I've never used hemp papers.

Hemp is an interesting and intriguing fiber choice that may appeal to many artists.  Those who are pro hemp claim that farming it remediates the soil and consumes excess C02, that hemp grows in a variety of climates and consumes little water (source).  "Hemp is a sustainable, biodegradable, and durable material that can revolutionize these industries!" (source) that can be used for cloth, paper, and industrial products.  Hemp is resistant to mould and mildew and is naturally microbial (source).  Hemp grows rapidly and doesn't require pesticides in its production (source). Hemp fibers are more porous than other natural fibers (which might allow for faster dry times) (source).  Hemp is extremely fast growing and '1 acre of Hemp produces as much paper as 4.1 acres of trees' (source).  Combined with lower water usage, and no need for pesticide, hemp seems like an ideal choice, although the earth environmental scientist in me thinks these all points to hemp being an ideal invasive species.  Although hemp papers aren't yet commonly available, a few are making their way onto the market, tempting artists like myself who are used to wood pulp and cotton.

Outside of the US, hemp papers are easier to find.  Hemp grown for papermaking is specifically selected to have the highest fiber content and contains none of the active chemicals of other varieties of cannabis (source)

The inclusion of recycled fibers such as recycled wood pulp can make a hemp based paper less desirable for artist use, as it can affect the lifespan of the piece (source) by altering the archival qualities of the paper.

Green Field Paper Company 'creating eco-friendly papers with a purpose since 1992'.  Their products include:

  • Grow a Note Plantable Seed Paper
  • Hemp Heritage Paper
  • A Wedding Collection
  • Custom Plantable Promotions
  • HOliday Collection for both personal and corporate
  • Envelopes- plantable envelopes and hemp envelopes
  • Business Cards
  • 100% recycled gift wrap
  • and Custom Printing

hemp paper, watercolor illustration, kidlit illustration, cute illustration, berry picking, kid picking berries

Hemp Heritage Paper includes journals and sketchbooks, stationary and office, fine art papers and pads, blank cards, envelopes, and t-shirts, custom hemp products, and large format cartons and rolls.

Within their fine paper category, Green Field Paper offers Hemp Heritage Sketch Paper, Hemp Heritage Drawing Paper, and Hemp Heritage watercolor paper in two sizes-11"x14" and 8.5"x11", and in watercolor pads 18"x24", 8"x10", and 9"x12".

The Stats: 

  • Acid Free
  • Archival Quality
  • 100% recycled material
  • 25% Hemp
  • "No virgin wood fiber"
  • 12 sheets per package
  • 110# / 300 gsm- approx 140lb

Ok, so what IS this actually made from, if it's only 25% hemp and contains no 'virgin' (unrecycled) wood fiber?

The Green Field Paper company's site's answer to this is "25% Hemp, 75% Post Consumer, 100% Sustainable." which doesn't answer the question at all.  The product page offers no insight as to what the remaining 75% is, but it goes on to promote hemp as a fantastic wood alternative.

I'm having difficulty getting a solid answer as to what 75% actually represents, but there are a few clues on the packaging that lead me to assume it's recycled paper pulp.  The package brags that it contains no virgin wood fiber- this means unrecycled or first use woodpulp.  Given how squirrely the packaging is, and how little information is available online as to the remaining 75%, I can only assume it's 75% recycled wood pulp.

Just say that, Green Field Paper Company.

You guys wouldn't believe how many cellulose based paper go out of their way to hide the fact that they're cellulose based, without claiming to be cotton rag.  This is an important distinction and one that's important for a consumer and artist to know pre-purchase.

100% hemp watercolor paper does exist (, and given that it's fairly fibrous, and used in textiles, I can assume it handles somewhat like a cross between cotton rag and cellulose, although I haven't had the opportunity to try it out myself.  Strathmore makes a hemp paper that is also 25% hemp, and 75% post consumer waste fibers.

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The Packaging:

For an eco-friendly product, Hemp Heritage Watercolor Paper comes wrapped in shrink plastic, with a paper belly band- not so eco-friendly.

The Front Reads:

Premium Hemp Heritage Fine Art Paper
Green Field Paper Company | 8.5x11 (12) sheets per pack
Acid-Free/Archival-Quality/Heavyweight 110#/300GSM
Dual surface:  classic laid finish, recommended for watercolor and printmaking.  Compatible with inkjet printers

I have a feeling this paper is intended more for prints than for painting, but many of the Amazon reviews mention a difficulty in getting this paper to run through the printer.  I tried on both my Canon Pixma Pro and my Dell toner printer- the Pixma Pro had no problem (but it has handled any paper I threw at it), the Dell couldn't pick it up.

The Back Reads:

Green Field Paper Company
Hemp is a fast-growing alternative to trees that has been cultivated to make textiles and paper for thousands of years.  Like the original hemp paper, our Hemp Heritage is made with North American Grown hemp.  The surface of each sheet is heavily sized and the result is a premium quality paper that excels for watercolor and printmaking.
Acid-free/ Archival Quality / 100% Recycled / 25% Hemp / Tree-Free: Contains no Virgin Wood Fiber
Green Field Paper Company
Given what we recently learned about recycled pulp changing the quality of the paper and reducing its lifespan, I wonder what was added back in to reduce the paper's pH and help make it more archival.

Initial Thoughts:

The paper is a light brown in color- quite a bit lighter than Kraft paper, and contains noticeable speckles- reminiscent of a handmade paper, but the paper's surface is very much a machine made paper- hardly any surface texture at all.

I ran this paper through my Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II inkjet printer in order to print the bluelines and encountered no printing issues.  That said, the Pixma Pro has never given me trouble with printing on heavier, 140lb watercolor papers, cotton rag papers, or Bristols, so it's not surprising that it could handle something only slightly heavier than most cover stock weights.

I encountered few issues with penciling either, but if you're like me and like to pencil with a mechanical pencil, beware of the speckles- they can catch on your pencil and tear the paper.

When stretching, the water seemed to stay on the surface, rather than soaking into the paper.

Which led to some buckling as I stretched this illustration.

This isn't that uncommon- the Hemp Heritage Watercolor Paper stretches like any cheap cellulose paper- moderately well and really benefits from the extra support.

Inkjet ink washes out quickly- I was concerned that it might stain the paper, as it has with some papers.

I allowed it to dry fully before applying my initial wash.

If you're enjoying this review of Hemp Heritage Watercolor paper, why not stick around and

watercolor tutorials, watercolor instruction, watercolor lessons, watercolor artist, watercolor course, watercolor classes

located in the Watercolor Basics section?  Head on over and check it out, and let me know what you think using the contact form!  If there's a topic you'd like to see covered in Watercolor Basics, I'd love to know!

Field Test:

Initial wash didn't go as well as hoped- water sits on surface of the paper, ends up pooling and soaking under the tape.

Washes are somewhat difficult to control on this paper, perhaps due to the extra surface sizing.

When applying a wash, it handles like a very cheap cellulose paper- like Blick Studio watercolor paper.

Despite stretching, paper buckles and bounces like very cheap student grade, and absorbs the water like cardboard- in that water just pools on top.

When wet, everything blends out all over the place- like painting on chipboard or toilet paper, rather than watercolor paper.  This reminds me of some other mixed content papers- sure, it blends like cotton rag, but it's difficult to control, like a temperamental cellulose.

This paper also takes A LONG time to dry once it's fully wet.

This paper does not lift easily- which is frustrating given this paper handles water strangely and large washes can be difficult to control.

Once painting begins to get tighter, paper handles a bit better.  This is probably because we're not dealing with large amounts of water.

Randomized speckles (some are fairly large chunks) can interfere with small illustrations, comic pages, as they're fairly noticeable.  There's a large chunk on Kara's face in this illustration.

Slight tone to paper is almost like painting on a toned paper, which can be fun- there aren't too many toned watercolor papers on the market.  Unfortunately, the paper quality is like painting on construction paper.

As you can see, colors feather out wet into wet like they would on cotton rag paper.

Colors dry fairly muted and unimpressive.

 You can see the white speckles coming through.

Although lifting is possible on this paper, it's not particularly effective.

With darker colors, weird white flecks appear after the color has dried.

As the painting progressed, I found it difficult to build up contrast with lighter colors, perhaps due to the fact that the paper itself was a natural midtone.  For those of you who enjoy sketching on Strathmore's Toned Tan paper, you may enjoy this paper for color pencil work.

The finished, color corrected scan.  Note the seepage at the bottom of the paper- initial washes didn't soak into the paper, just under the tape.

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The Verdict:

No thanks.

Hemp Heritage watercolor is a pulpy paper that's no fun to paint on.

If you're interested in a 100% recycled watercolor paper for ethical reasons, this is an option, but if you're interested in an interesting watercolor paper with unique properties, this is not the paper for you.

Would I be interested in reviewing other hemp based watercolor papers?  Sure!  Especially the 100% hemp papers, which eliminates iffy recycled woodpulp.

Second Opinions and Outside Resources: 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Masking Frisket and Markers: An Easy Tutorial to Up Your Art Game

Earlier this month, I shared an overview of masking techniques for alcohol markers.  I covered several techniques briefly, but wanted to share my most used technique, which involves adhesive masking frisket, in more detail.

This technique has been used multiple times on the Nattosoup Studio Youtube Channel and allows me to mask larger, or more intricate areas quickly and easily.  It can be used at the beginning of the marker process or at any point during, and only really requires one specialty product- the frisket itself.

Materials Needed:
Masking Frisket (I'm using Grafix Masking Frisket)
The Piece You Wish to Mask

Materials Recommended:
Permanent Marker (fine tip, ideally)
Paper towels
Cutting mat or scrap chipboard (like the back of a sketchbook)
Light table or light pad (if you don't have one, and would use it rarely, Crayola makes a decent little light box.  I haven't tested this one yet, but it also looks promising)

Masking Frisket is also used by airbrush artists, and is a great technique if you enjoy using aerosolized inks like the Copic Airbrush System (link), or other alcohol marker airbrush options like the Ranger (link) or the (link), or if you enjoy using alcohol inks in misters or straight from the bottle, as well as if you enjoy using Copic Wides to lay down areas of color.   I do not recommend using this type of frisket for watercolors, as water reacts with the adhesive and leaves a residue that is difficult to remove.

How to Use Masking Frisket with Markers

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Tutorial: Using Brusho Watercolors with Alcohol Markers 

Masking frisket can be used at multiple stages of your marker process.  Here you see an early application of masking frisket to mask Kara off from the background.  In this photo, I've already applied a layer of alcohol ink (via spray) and am preparing to apply a layer of flicked acrylic ink.

You can see how well the masking frisket protects the masked area in the photo below, where the masking frisket has been removed.

From this point on, I used a reverse mask- I masked everything but a small area of the image, and applied Brusho and water.  The bubbling you see in the frisket is just the result of lazy application- once I secured the areas adjacent to the area I wanted to apply Brusho to, ensuring a seal, the rest is just for cover.  You could get a similar result, and waste less frisket, if you simply traced the area you want to mask, created

Unfortunately, masking frisket plus water is a bad combination.  The water seeps under the plastic and reacts with the adhesive leaving a sticky residue on the paper.

Since there was seepage along her neck, I used Copic Opaque white to cover the blue, then went over it with Copic Marker to better blend it in.

Although the blue is still somewhat visible, the correction job is an improvement over the seepage.

In the below example, I use masking frisket to protect a finished figure from the background.  Given Brusho's staining properties, I saved the background for the end rather than risk ruining my markers.

ArtSnacks June 2016 Challenge 

Other Pieces that Utilized Masking Frisket

Finished Artsnacks challenge piece shown in above video.  Mixed media.

 Alcohol markers and alcohol spray inks.  

 Spectrum Aqua watercolor markers.  Dye based.

 Alcohol markers, Copic Opaque White, Spray alcohol inks.

 Alcohol Markers, Brusho

 Alcohol Markers, Spray Alcohol Inks, Acrylic Inks

Alcohol Markers, Color Pencils, Spray Alcohol Inks

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You can read 7" Kara at or, or order the first volume through the Nattoshop.