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What are Watercolour Paper Sizes

Watercolour Paper sizes can be a bit of a puzzle. You’ll likely have found yourself weaving through a mix of imperial and metric sizes. Sometimes with the occasional A size thrown in for good measure! Needless to say, it’s a journey that can leave you feeling a tad lost, especially if you’re new to watercolour painting. To add to the confusion, paper size standards in general vary all over the world. Take the UK and the US for example. Each region has their own set of favoured paper measurement systems. For instance, when you explore brands imported from the United States, you’ll encounter a number of inch-based sizes that don’t quite neatly fit into either the A or imperial standards.

Feeling confused? Read on and we’ll guide you through the world of watercolour paper sizes.

Exploring Traditional Imperial Sheet Sizes

Historically, paper has been available in an astonishing array of shapes and sizes. A degree of order came when Britain adopted the Imperial System in 1836. The Imperial System encompasses a whole range of paper sizes. It includes some unusually named measurements like the Elephant, Double Elephant and Foolscap. There’s a chance you may come across these names when you’re searching for large sheets of paper, but most of them have fallen out of favour in general use. Although the Imperial system has mostly been superseded by the metric system, we still use imperial measurements to refer to the size and weight of fine art papers.

Loose Watercolour Paper Sheets

Sheets of loose watercolour paper fanned out

Most of our loose watercolour paper sheets are available in full imperial sheets. We can also cut the majority of them down into smaller sizes free of charge. On the product pages for our watercolour paper packs these are the sizes you’re likely to find:

  • Full Imperial – 22” x 30” (559 × 762 mm)
  • Half Imperial – 15” x 22” (381 x 559mm)
  • Quarter Imperial – 11” x 15” (279x 381mm)

It’s worth noting that when paper is cut down it loses some of the characteristics of a full sheet. Most full imperial sheets of watercolour paper are finished with deckled edges and a watermark. Cutting down a sheet will change the number of deckled edges per sheet, and also the number of sheets with a watermark.

A detailed photo showing the watermark and deckled edge of a Fabriano Artistico Watercolour Paper Sheet
The deckled edge and watermark of a Fabriano Watercolour Paper Sheet

For example, a single sheet of Arches Aquarelle Watercolour Paper has four deckled edges and a watermark in the bottom right corner. Cutting this in half will give two sheets, each with three deckled edges, but only one sheet will have a watermark. Cut in half again and you’ll only have two deckle edges per sheet and three sheets will be without a watermark.

Although we consider these to be standard sizes, there are some ranges of paper that come in a little smaller than a standard imperial sheet. For example, a full sheet of both Botanical Ultra Smooth and Fabriano 5 measure approximately 19.6” x 27.5” (500 x 700mm).

Watercolour Paper Pads and Blocks

A group of watercolour paper blocks and pads in various sizes

When you’re buying watercolour paper, you’ll notice that pads and blocks often come in a different range of sizes compared to full and cut sheets. They’re available in a range of convenient sizes, usually measured in inches. Among the most common sizes are 7” x 10”, 9” x 12”, 10” x 14”, 12” x 16” and 14” x 20”. Sometimes your options won’t stop there – some brands offer sizes up to 18” x 24”, and occasionally you’ll find square and panoramic formats.

Variou sizes of Arches Watercolour Paper Blocks
Arches Watercolour blocks in assorted sizes (left to right, top to bottom) – 7″ x 10″, 9″ x 12″, 10″ x 14″, 14″ x 20″ and 12″ x 16″