I like using watercolors because I don’t have to be bothered with a canvas. I can easily carry around a few sheets of watercolor paper or even a watercolor block inside my storage easel. I can’t do that with a canvas unless it is very small.
But, there are times when I would rather be using acrylic paints instead of watercolors. The question to be asked here is:
Can You Paint Acrylics on Watercolor Paper?
The answer is yes! Heavy watercolor paper is an ideal surface for acrylic paints because it is very absorbent and it doesn’t bend easily.
Keep reading to learn more about using acrylic paints on watercolor paper.
Watercolor Paper Vs Acrylic Paper: Is There a Difference?
Before we get into how to prepare watercolor paper for acrylic paints, I would like to talk about acrylic paper, which is somewhat different from watercolor paper.
As a rule, watercolor paper is thinner than acrylic paper. Watercolor paper is also more absorbent than acrylic paper.
Because watercolor paper is more absorbent, there is a good chance that it will buckle and warp more than acrylic paper. But, the paint is going to dry faster than it would on acrylic paper.
Acrylic paper is thicker and much less absorbent. This is why it is specifically used for heavier paints and mixed media art. This heavy paper is also tougher, so it can stand more wear and tear than watercolor paper.
How to Prep Watercolor Paper for Acrylic Paints
While watercolor paper can be used for acrylic painting, the paper must be properly prepped before you can begin painting. First and foremost, make sure you are using heavy-weight watercolor paper, at least 140-pound paper.
The heavier the paper, the less likely it is going to be to warp and buckle. I wouldn’t advise using anything less than 140-pound watercolor paper if you are working with acrylics.
The first thing you will need to do is lightly sand the surface of the watercolor paper. This will create a rough surface that gives the paint something to adhere to.
This step isn’t necessary if you are using rough watercolor paper. But, if the paper is smooth you will want to create that roughness.
The next step will be to prime the paper with a high-quality primer that is made for acrylics, such as gesso. You only need to apply a thin layer of gesso to prep watercolor paper.
This will ensure that the paint adheres to the paper, and it will also make the surface nice and smooth for painting.
Once the primer has dried, you can begin painting. One of the problems I had when I first started using watercolor paper for acrylic painting is that I have a heavy hand.
You need to use a light touch when applying paint. Too much paint will cause the paper to buckle, no matter how heavy the paper is. You will need to use more acrylic paint than watercolor paint, but you don’t have to go crazy with it.
Other Papers to Use With Acrylic Paints
There are a few different types of paper that can be used for acrylic painting. For instance, cold-press watercolor paper is ideal for beginners.
Cold press paper has a rough surface, so the paint will adhere to it. This paper is also less expensive than other types of watercolor paper, so it is perfect if you are on a tight budget.
Hot-press watercolor paper is also good for acrylic painting. While it is smoother than cold press paper, this can be a benefit if your painting has a lot of detail.
Of course, there is a paper that is made specifically for acrylic painting. This paper has a textured surface which gives the paint something to adhere to.
Some people will use sketchpad paper for acrylic painting, but I don’t recommend this. The paper is thinner and smoother, and it is ultimately going to buckle and warp. Stick with watercolor paper or acrylic paper when working with acrylic paints.
What about Acrylic Pour?
You might be surprised to learn that you can use watercolor paper for acrylic pour projects. It is important to use paper that is at least 140 pounds.
The heavier the paper, the better it will react to the paint and not end up buckling and warping. For paint and pour projects, the paper should be smooth instead of rough.
You will also need to prep the paper with gesso before you begin pouring any paint onto it. This is going to keep the paint colors from bleeding through to the other side of the paper.
If you are using paper that is less than 140 pounds, I suggest using at least two layers of gesso before you begin painting.
Can You Use Watercolor Paper for Oil Painting?
We’ve discussed how to use watercolor paper for acrylic painting. But, I thought it would be a good idea to mention oil painting as well. Can you use watercolor paper for oil painting?
I wouldn’t advise trying to use oil paint on watercolor paper. A lot of sizing (animal glue) goes into watercolor paper. This is what helps the paper repel water so the paint has something to adhere to.
When working with oil paint you really should have a porous surface. Otherwise, the paint will not adhere properly.
If you try to use oil paint on watercolor paper, you will find that the colors take on a chalky appearance. Also, the finish won’t be nearly as smooth and shiny as it would be if you were painting on a canvas.
If you have your heart set on doing an oil painting on paper, I recommend using actual oil painting paper. This is available at most art supply stores.
Oil painting paper has a rough surface texture for the paint to cling to. It is designed for oil painting, so it is the best option.
Now you know that you can use acrylic paints on watercolor paper. You just have to make sure that you use the right weight of paper, and that you prime the paper before painting on it.
I have used watercolor paper for acrylic painting when I didn’t have any canvas available. It worked fine, although I did have to take steps to flatten the watercolor paper out once I finished painting and the paint had dried.
If you want to give it a try yourself, go for it. You may be surprised at what you can create using acrylic paints and watercolor paper.
*image by Tihon6/depositphotos
Sari Green is a semi-professional artist and professional writer. She has been hosting paint & sip parties for the past couple of years, and truly enjoys helping other people to create their very own masterpieces. She loves to create, and you never know what she’s going to come up with next!