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How to Remove Pages from Watercolour Blocks and why you should try them!


I get a lot of questions from students about Watercolour blocks and often first time watercolourists buy one and unsure how to use it. Like most art supplies, they rarely come with instructions! 

I have good news though, they are actually quite easy to use and really great for Plein Air painting. 

What are Watercolour Blocks?

Watercolour Blocks are pads of watercolour paper with the edges gummed together. If you have ever used a notepad with glue at the top fastening the pages, this is the same idea, but the pages are gummed all the way around. Depending on the brand, some are gummed on two edges, and some four. 

This helps prevent the paper from rippling, and if you are using a lot of water or heavy washes, it prevents subsequent pages from becoming wet and marked up, like they might in a sketchbook.  

They come in various sizes, though generally smaller than 11 x 14.  Arches makes a popular high quality watercolour block in various sizes and finishes.  I also love the Fluid Brand 100% cotton line. It is a bit more affordable and I find it to be great quality. These come in 140 lb and 300 lb, Hotpress and Coldpress and they also make a non-cotton line as well. In my video above, I'm using the 300lb Coldpress 8 x 8 inch block. 

Why Use Watercolour Blocks?

The gummed edges lets you use the paper without stretching it or taping it down. Unlike a sketchbook, it allows heavier washes and also allows you to remove the pages cleanly after you finish painting. You can also work right to the edge without any marks from tape or clips. 

For Plein Air painting and painting on the go, they are super convenient. They allow you to work directly on the block, without the need need to carry an extra board and tape and it keeps your unused pages protected. 

Watercolour blocks do tend to be more expensive and you have to complete one page before moving onto the next, however they often have higher quality paper than what you find in many watercolour sketchbooks. 

How to Remove the Individual Pages

When you are ready to remove the pages and start a new painting, find the gap between the glued edges. Some brands have one side of the paper completely open, and many brands have a 1 or two inch gap. Into this gap, insert a knife or flat sharp(ish) object(a palette knife works great, but in a pinch I've used a ruler or a credit card). Then slide the knife around the block, "slicing" through the glue and releasing the page. There's a full video above of me doing this on my Youtube Channel.  

Be very careful as you remove the pages and try to wait until your painting is completely dry. I've ripped quite a few pages removing too eagerly. 

Final Thoughts

If you do a lot of plein air painting or travel and want to paint smaller watercolours  with little prep or fuss, watercolour blocks are great! However, they cost is higher than traditional paper or pads, so I generally don't recommend them for studio painting or practice. 

People that enjoy a lot of sketching and like to keep their work in one place might prefer a watercolour sketchbook. 

What do you think? Watercolour Blocks or Pads? 


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