Andre Jute investigates whether a vintage paper remade has a decidedly modern purpose.
In Part 1 of our review of Millford, we discovered that, as a watercolour paper, it isn’t much chop for a watercolourist in a hurry like, say, a sketcher seeing rainclouds approach, though a studio artist with plenty of time to watch glazes dry might like its easy lifting. Now we’ll investigate what else Millford is good for.
MULTIMEDIA WITH MILLFORD?
From Part one of the review we know that what screws the pooch with Millford is it’s hard surface sizing. However, modern multimedia is often conducted on papers that are too soft, so that the pigment is sucked up and the end result is too pale to satisfy. A test was simply a matter of reaching out for my pencil multimedia kit.
An additional consideration tending towards the choice of a harder paper multimedia built around pencils is that water-soluble colured pencils would likely sit on top of Millford either dry, which is obvious, or wet, which is not. Ditto for graphite aquarelle too. Perhaps Millford’s attractive texture would add something.
TOOLS TO TEST MILLFORD’S MULTIMEDIA CAPABILITIES
Multimedia can be done with a wide variety of media and implements. But what specifically gave me the idea to try the Millford with pencils was that my go-to colour pencils are Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle, which are very highly pigmented, get along well with graphite aquarelle pencils, and is very easily soluble with only a little water so that we can avoid the long drying times of Millford.
A pair of inked artist’s custom fountain pens also lay on my desk, waiting to be cleaned, so I tested one of those as well. It is a Sailor Fude de Mannen, which is a 40 degree flip-nib fountain pen intended to render Japanese Katakana characters usually drawn with a brush and an ink pot. The ink is J Herbin’s Ambre de Birmanie, which is very beautiful but will fade even in a closed sketchbook, so don’t rush out to buy a bottle if you intend using it for sketching or drawing or even calligraphy meant to survive past the wedding hangover.
MILLFORD AS A MULTIMEDIA PAPER
You may want to download the image in HR on your desktop because we’ll be referring to it constantly.
The fountain pen at 9 is a particularly difficult test, because the nib is designed to pass a tremendous amount of ink by fountain pen standards, the nib section in contact with the paper being well over 1mm long and near enough a millimetre wide — compare the minuscule contact area of a Western-style fountain pen nib. Here the hard sizing of the paper which frustrated our watercolour tests really shone positively. There is no bleeding. Try that on the best standard papers and about half of them will bleed, for sure, especially if they are as textured as the Millford, which, I remind you, is a cold press paper, not smooth at all. The Ambre de Birmanie ink’s colour is nicely reproduced by the Millford, as is the ink’s modest tendency to shade, desirable for graphic art if not always for calligraphy.
Still another factor in Milford’s favour for pen and ink work is that it gives back some colour, as you can see at 10, where I easily stroked out some of the Ambre de Birmanie with a damp squirrel brush after the ink was already dry.
While the ink was drying thoroughly I turned to the pencils at 11. Let’s dispense first with the graphite. Nobody in his right mind will pay this much for CP paper to do graphite work. But Millford texture in multimedia and soluble graphite work can be either very pleasing or toned down in stages. For the graphite a Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelle 8B pencil was lightly stroked on the Millford at the righthand side of the little block at 11. At the bottom it was wetted with a soft squirrel brush. I didn’t want to lose the underlying pattern of the paper, so I didn’t take another pass with the brush, but it is clearly possible, by comparison with the three colour blocks to the left of the graphite, to control the forwardness of Millford’s distinctive grain under pencil.
Next, still at 11, I applied light rubbings of Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle red and blue pencils, part of the blue overlapping part of the red to check the on-page blending. Again, the lower halves of these rubbings were stroked with the soft squirrel brush, with pleasing and controllable results. Notice in particular how the red could be smoothed out, the blue tint varied to almost nothing, and how the blue and the red blended rather attractively. A deep purple should also be possible but I didn’t bother fetching pencils to blend it from my big studio box because anyone who uses Millford for coloured pencil work probably has a selection of violet through to deep purple pencils.
The multimedia tests throw up an altogether more impressive result on Millford than the watercolour tests.
FINAL VERDICT ON MILLFORD
If Millford is a paper intended to provide easy lifting for beginning watercolourists, forget it. The cost in accompanying downsides is just too high. In fact, I would say Millford is a paper only for the highly experienced and expert watercolorist in perfect control of his craft, and those would mostly possess the nous and confidence to choose Saunders Waterford from the same mill instead.
Perhaps Millford has a future as a specialty multimedia paper: that was by far the most successful and impressive part of our test. But what the multimedia test also proves is that Millford is schizophrenic: a watercolour paper on which you can’t put a lot of water without inviting disaster or at least very substantial delay, but which handles the lesser amounts of water used in multimedia with watercolour and watersoluble pencils, and also with pen and wash, with inspiring aplomb.
It is difficult not to conclude, probably in proportion to how faithfully Millford mimics its inspiration Whatman, that Whatman was withdrawn because superior alternatives became available.
Andre Jute is a painter and a writer. His most recent book on aesthetics is GRIDS the structure of graphic design (Rotovision, Switzerland). More about Andre at
Text and photographs copyright © 2020 Andre Jute