How To Print Onto Watercolor Paper – Smart Artists Love This Trick

Did you know that you can use an inkjet printer to print onto watercolor paper and paint over it?

It is a relatively simple process, and almost anyone can figure it out even without a lot of technical know-how.

Did you also know you can make high-quality, professional-looking art prints to sell or share with others?

If you are a teacher and you print color studies and “how to” worksheets for your students, being able to print onto watercolor paper is a useful skill to have.

You can print as many of these sheets for your students as you need year after year.

If you are not interested in creating original artwork and you simply want to do “fill in the blank” types of painting sheets, knowing how to print onto watercolor paper can help you generate all the projects that you want to do.

How To Print Onto Watercolor Paper

There are only a few simple steps to printing onto watercolor paper and they can be accomplished in just a few minutes.

1. Trim the paper

While you may be able to find watercolor paper at a standard size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches, many watercolor pages are a bit larger at 9 inches by 12 inches.

Most home printers are set up to print standard printer paper size, so you may need to trim your watercolor paper.

You can use a paper slicer, a straightedge and a razor blade, or a pair of scissors to trim your page. However, if your printer will take the larger paper, you may be able to skip this step altogether.

2. Set up the printer

Most watercolor paper is heavier than ordinary printer paper.

For this reason, if your printer is a front feed style printer which typically flips and rolls the paper 180 degrees, you may struggle with the printer jamming.

However, there is hope. Many front feed printers can be switched to a rear feed printer. You should read your printer manual to figure out how to do this. 

Also, you should remove any ordinary printer paper from the paper tray on your printer. This will make doubly sure that you won’t experience any printer feed issues.

Place a single piece of watercolor paper in the tray.

Finally, on the printer menu of your computer, select “photo quality.” This will give you the highest quality of printing on your watercolor paper.    

3. Print your artwork.

Now that you have everything set up properly, you can hit the print button and print out your creation.

You may want to let the page sit in the tray for a few minutes to allow the ink to dry and avoid smearing it. 

If you are creating a coloring book style “fill in the blank” piece of artwork, you can get out your brushes and paints and get started once the ink is fully dry.

Kinds of Watercolor Paper and How It Affects Printing

Different kinds of watercolor paper can affect the way that the finished product looks. 

Hot press watercolor paper is a good choice when you want to experiment with ink washes and watercolor washes.

This kind of paper doesn’t absorb water very well. so you can play with the colors and hues before it soaks into the paper. 

Also, if you want to simply print reproductions of your own work for sale, hot press paper would be a good option. 

Cold press watercolor paper is good if you’re hoping for your paint and ink to absorb well into the paper.

It also generates a more textured finish on the surface of the paper, increasing interest in your artwork.

Challenges to Printing On Watercolor Paper

One thing that you want to check when you are printing outline pages that you will fill in with watercolor is how water-soluble the ink on the page is.

If you want to paint over the printing on the sheet of paper, you definitely don’t want the ink to bleed or run.

Before you begin printing onto watercolor paper, print onto regular office paper and then run a wet brush over the black lines to test for how well the ink handles the water.

If the ink doesn’t smear, you are good to go. If it does smear, you will want to use another printer.

Another challenge is that very thick watercolor paper may not feed very well through the printer.

While you may prefer 140-pound watercolor paper for your original artwork, it may not work as well when you print on it. A 98-pound paper might work better. 

As 98 pound watercolor paper is hard find, you may need to use mix media paper which works just as well for watercolor artists as the paper is a mix (hybrid) paper for drawing and watercolors.

Strangely enough, I am unable to find 98-pound mix media paper that is not ring bound.

So you will need to manually cut the paper to remove the torn edge before you can feed it into a printer.

Finally, you should not use a laser printer for printing on watercolor paper. Laser printers use toner instead of ink which will not stick to the surface of the watercolor paper. I learned this the hard way.

Additionally, the high heat is not good for watercolor paper. Use an inkjet printer instead of a laser printer to print onto watercolor paper.

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