For paper to be suitable for use with watercolours it must have a certain degree of absorbability but must also have enough moisture resistance that its surface texture will hold up and the paper fibres will not pull free when exposed to wet watercolours. Such paper must also absorb paint evenly and, in instances when the surface has been dampened, the paints must be able to run into one another evenly and cleanly. The sizing of the paper is the main way that these attributes are regulated. Unsized paper (e.g. blotter paper), for example, is so absorbent that it can hardly even be used for painting and writing at all.
The higher the quality and the thicker the watercolour paper is, the "wetter" it can be worked with. But even the best watercolour paper will wrinkle and warp if only dampened on one side. The best approach, then, is to wet both sides of your paper with a sponge before you begin to paint on it.
Our offer: Our hand-made paper comes from small paper mills where paper is produced as it was before the advent of industrialisation. For this purpose, fibres (usually cotton but also flax, hemp, etc.) are shredded in a so-called beater and thereby broken down into cellulose. This “fibre brew” (pulp) has water added to it and the resulting mass is then placed in a vat (hence, vat paper) and stirred vigorously so that the fibres are kept dispersed and form a suspension.
When making the paper, a mould (a frame with a wire mesh within it) is lowered into the vat containing the evenly distributed fibres and brought back out as soon as the mould is covered with the right amount of fibres for making a paper in the desired thickness. In a slightly different version of this process the watery fibre suspension is poured onto a mould which has been placed in a vat containing water and the fibres are then evenly spread across the mould. Every sheet of handmade paper is therefore always a unique creation having irregular (deckle) edges and slightly different sizes.
For the drying process the wet sheets are stacked between wool felt blotter sheets and subsequently compressed and then air dried. Depending on the planned use, the paper can then be sized after drying, then compressed and dried again so as to produce a surface that will have the right absorbency for water colours or some other medium. Paper with a rough untreated surface will take on the texture of the drying felt – this is referred to as the so-called “felt mark”. Matte paper is compressed between zinc plates and acquires thereby a smoother surface texture.
Khadi paper is made in India at the “Khadi Paper Mill”, which was jointly founded in 1994 by paper enthusiasts from England and local Indian partners in order to produce high-quality artist paper for the European market. Meanwhile, Khadi Paper is the only Indian paper mill capable of producing large handmade vat paper made from cotton rags that is good enough to satisfy high artistic standards. In 2005 the mill employed 50 workers from the immediate area. In addition, more jobs were created in numerous businesses which grew out of the delivery needs as well as the ancillary processing needs of the mill.
The Khadi mill also takes all the ecological issues that attend paper production very seriously and are extremely conscientious in dealing with them. The first of these concerns is water because paper production must use extremely large amounts of it – Khadi uses up to 40,000 litres daily. This water comes from their own well and is recycled up to 8 times before it is then used to water their own farmland. The fresh water is first used in the production of the white papers, then, after that, for the lighter colour tones and then for the dark colours. The final use of the water is for making other more basic types of paper.
It goes without saying that Khadi never uses any chlorine or bleaching agents. The dyes for the coloured paper come from European producers and comply with all the German and European environmental norms. Not only that, but all the paper is sized in bulk (in the vat) using pH neutral, synthetic size. White paper is given an additional surface treatment with gelatine in order to produce the perfect surface for water colours.
Khadi uses for its paper production only cotton cuttings which come from a local T-shirt manufacturer because using just such so-called “cotton rags” with their longer fibre enables better, more compact and sturdier varieties to be realized than could be achieved with the short fibred cotton linter which comes exclusively from cotton seeds. Please keep these signs of quality in mind when comparing Khadi paper with handmade paper made from cotton linter.
In contrast to the kinds of paper made from wood pulp (cellulose) that are often marketed with the claim “acid-free”, cotton based paper really is acid-free as long as it is not exposed to damaging environmental influences.
The given paper dimensions are only approximate because real handmade paper has irregular deckle edges on all four sides. In general, there is no running direction for handmade paper because the fibres in the vat are completely chaotic in solution and so are correspondingly chaotic in the sieve.
We specifically call your attention to these rarely appearing signs of quality because nowadays there are products sold under the name “vat paper” which are actually made by machine. Even the term “deckle edge” is often employed by other vendors to describe paper that is actually simply torn and thereby has a fibrous edge.
In the following text you will find explanations for certain terms that are always coming up when watercolour and other types of artist paper are being discussed.
Alkaline buffered: In order to make a paper that is permanently acid-free and therefore aging resistant, calcium carbonate (chalk) is added at the sizing stage. Calcium carbonate neutralizes harmful acidic substances in the air and ensures that the paper will remain permanently alkaline.
Aging resistance: Paper and cardboard that are rated as "highly resistant to aging" conform to the highest service-life class defined under DIN 6738 as well as ISO 9706, which means that their essential attributes will stay intact for at least hundreds of years. The aging process, which can never really be completely stopped, is, however, slowed down by the use of wood-free raw materials like cotton fibres or alkaline macerated pulp with very low lignin content. In addition, aging resistance can be built in during the manufacturing process of paper: the sizing process must be done in a neutral way and calcium carbonate can be added as a buffer against acids.
Real "handmade" paper: What in English is called "handmade paper" is in German called "Büttenpapier", which actually means paper made in a "Bütten", which is a special kind of vat, a large container in which the paper pulp is prepared and then subsequently removed with a screen in the old-fashioned way!
For our purposes, "handmade" paper will include any paper that has been made in this basic way even if the actual removal of the pulp by the screen was powered by a machine the most important thing is that it is only in this way that the well-known "deckle" (uneven) edge is organic to the production of a sheet of paper. This characteristic deckle edge comes about through the thinning of the wet pulp on the edge of the skimming screen. Because the final size of a handmade paper is determined by the size of a frame on the screen itself, deckle edges will always be produced on all four sides. Authentic deckle edges cannot be made ex post facto or modified in any way.
In contrast to the old-fashioned process of skimming the pulp out of a vat, making paper with a modern fourdrinier machine consists of pouring or squirting a mixture of water and fibres (the slurry) onto a continuous web (screen). Fourdrinier paper is always produced on rollers in a continuous web and cut into sheets after production. That is the reason why authentic deckle edges cannot be made with this process. In addition, the fibres making up any paper made on a fourdrinier machine are almost all laid out in the running direction of the screen. On the other hand, in the case of paper made with a circular screen, the fibres are distributed evenly in both the length-wise and cross-wise directions much like the distribution seen in a real handmade paper. This, it should be noted, produces a higher degree of dimensional stability and dimensional accuracy in the resulting sheet of paper. These attributes are particularly important for watercolour paper where the painting process involves a great degree of wetness.
Rags: "Rags" (refers to non-lignified plant fibres from cotton or linen) are, because of their long-chained fibres, the best basic raw material for making paper. Paper made with (cotton) rags or with a percentage of rag content is more aging resistant and sturdy than paper made out of cellulose. In the field of watercolour painting, rag paper has proven itself to be very useful especially when the painting is particularly wet in application.
Stock sizing: Stock sizing means that the sizing agent is added to the "stock" (pulp mixture or slurry) in the vat before it is formed into sheets, which enables a complete and even sizing of all the fibres. When painting on such paper, the paint will permeate it.
Neutral sizing: In order to make a paper that is aging resistant and acid-free, the sizing agent must be alkaline in configuration; namely, the pH must be under 7.0. By adding calcium carbonate (chalk), the paper will remain alkaline for a long, long time - and that is the prerequisite for attaining a high degree of aging resistance.
Surface sizing: In the case of surface sizing, the sizing agent is applied to the dried surface of the sheet of paper after the production process. Surface sizing allows a paint to permeate the paper less quickly and enables you to make more frequent corrections.
Circular screen machine: see: Real "Handmade" Paper above.
Acid-free paper: see: Neutral sizing above. A more comprehensive exposition on paper can be found under Information about PASSEPARTOUT + MUSEUM MOUNTING BOARD.