Mixed Media Paper vs. Watercolor Paper

One of the main questions that comes up when looking at adult coloring options is the type of paper an artist should choose. When shopping for adult coloring books, it can be overwhelming to see all the choices out there. You’ll hear things about thickness, tooth, tonality, and weight, but how does that affect the actual artistic expression of a coloring piece? Let’s look at the differences in detail below.

Tooth of the Paper

The tooth of the paper is the biggest difference between watercolor paper and mixed media paper. But what is a tooth about paper? This refers to the fibers that stick up from the top of the page and catch pigment. The bigger the tooth, the more the pigment will stick to the page.

Mixed media paper has a medium-sized tooth whereas watercolor paper has a bigger tooth and thus more texture. This means that mixed media paper doesn’t hold pigment quite the same as watercolor paper. This makes mixed media paper better for dry drawing utensils, like graphite and charcoal. Because these drawing utensils can be successfully used, things like depth and tone are easier to achieve on mixed media paper. Even somewhat wet applications like ink, pen, and markers work better on mixed media because the lines will be more defined because of the length of the tooth of the paper.

If you’re looking to use paints to apply even tones to your adult coloring projects, watercolor paper is a more ideal choice than mixed media applications. However, the tooth of watercolor paper can be manipulated through different preparations. Cold pressed paper acts more like a towel, soaking up drawing mediums because the tooth of the paper is so varied and pronounced. Hot-pressed watercolor paper is the paper that’s most like mixed media paper, with a medium tooth. There is also rough watercolor paper, which has the biggest variance in the tooth, making it the most absorbent choice there is.

Use caution when exploring watercolor paper as the depth of the paint color you can achieve will be less pronounced than mixed media paper. Watercolor paper is a great choice if you’re looking for a more translucent effect, whereas mixed media paper is excellent for deeper-toned compositions.

Weight of the Paper

The weight of a piece of paper does not necessarily refer to how heavy the paper is, though the weights do get heavier, but what pressure is used when the paper is rolled out at the end of the papermaking process? Rollers are used when paper is almost finished, and the amount of pressure used between these rollers on pieces of paper is what determines its weight.

Watercolor paper and mixed media paper tend to come in the same weight. One is a lightweight, and the other is a heavyweight. These weights are generally much higher than typical drawing paper which means that they can stand up to substantially more abuse and layering during the coloring process.

The higher weights available in both watercolor and mixed media paper allow for wet applications without the paper wrinkling under the strain of wet mediums, like ink and paint. If you’re looking for a paper that will withstand a messier coloring experience, heavier papers are your best bet.

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Using Wet Mediums

Both watercolor paper and wet media paper go through a process where additives are added to the paper to make the sheets of paper less porous than regular paper. If the porousness of the paper is not removed, it will act like a paper towel and absorb the coloring medium you’re using and spread it out in a manner that will ruin your piece. Sometimes watercolor paper is advertised as being made from 100% cotton, while mixed media paper cannot be found that’s made solely from cotton. This is because 100% cotton watercolor paper is designed to spread the wet pigment out, creating a looser look, while mixed media paper is designed for both sweeping paint as well as detailed line work.

Tinted Paper

Mixed media and watercolor papers come in shades other than white. It’s easy to apply an overall cool tone to your coloring piece by choosing colors like blue and grey. Warm tones, like pastel pink and cream, give the coloring piece a livelier appearance as the warm tones brighten whatever artistic tools you’re using during the coloring process.

Underpainting is a technique used by many artists to lay down a base pigment before the actual art is created on top and buying a tinted paper can help you avoid this whole process. This makes tinted paper very convenient and less boring than white paper without the added step of letting a medium dry before you can get to creating art.

Just because a tinted paper is used doesn’t mean that white cannot be a part of your composition. White is easily applied to tinted paper with white gel pens, white pencils, and white paints. The white colors that you desire should be added to the piece last to create more of a pop to your adult coloring endeavors.


Mixed media paper and watercolors are similar in a lot of ways, but their differences affect the outcome of a piece. Watercolor paper is better suited to strictly watercolor applications as the coloring piece will become more saturated with paint, creating more even tones. This is great for coloring projects that just require certain sections to be filled with color to create a great outcome. Mixed media paper allows for better shading and detail work because the drier mediums hang on to the paper better without sinking deep into the fibers and dispersing.

Which paper you choose for your adult coloring project will depend on the effects you want. Carefully consider what you’re looking for in the outcome when choosing a paper type. Your paper choice can make or break your artistic vision.

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Shawn C

Hi! I’m Shawn and I Love Coloring and Art and the people in it! I created this website as a resource to help those who are considering getting into adult coloring. My website is your one-stop destination for all the inspired instruction and resources you need to start and grow your adult coloring hobby. From geometric to floral to zen doodles and from time to time even mandala’s when I am in the mood. I have researched and gathered the information to help you in your goal of starting your adult coloring hobby.

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