Review: Strathmore 500 Series Imperial Paper

I’m almost devoted on using HP and Mixed Media papers. So today I’m going to review another HP watercolour paper, this time the Strathmore 500 series Imperial watercolour paper 300 gsm.

Strathmore Imperial watercolour paper belongs to the Premium Strathmore 500 paper series and it is according to the manufacturer an

100% cotton, archival, professional watercolour paper known for its hard surface sizing which provides excellent water hold out, colour lifting and blending. It is made with 100% cotton and has two deckle edges.

What  I noticed though as soon as I unpacked this paper is that it has a rather rough surface compared always with other HP papers that I have used, from Strathmore or other companies.

This paper has two distinct surfaces on its  sides.
The front one  looks like this.

while the other side – the felt one – which  has a repeating machine made pattern as you can see below.


The repeating machine made texture makes suitable for painting only the front side of this paper. You can work on it of course with various types of media on the felt side, as you can see on the images below,  but this is not the kind of surface that you should expect from the felt side of a HP watercolour paper.


Now the supposed HP side is imore like a smooth Cold Press surface with enough tooth  to work decently with pencils and colour pencils, but way too much tooth to comply with the standards of HP papers.

As a result the front side turned out to be unsuitable for my botanical illustrations as it is not smooth enough.

It turned out though that it is usnuitable for the other subjects that I like to paint, for another reason as well. The paper doesn’t allow the watercolours to defuse properly and flow well on wet on wet washes creating this way hard lines that are difficult to remove, while the colours for the first washes look faded and dull  after drying.

The additional wet on wet washes work as they should on this paper but …. the problems of the first washes are visible as you can see on the sketch below.

Sketch on Strathmore 500 series Imperial HP paper
Sketch on Strathmore 500 series Imperial HP paper

Please download the sketch on HR scan from HERE ( along with all the other images of this review)   and check how visible are the hard lines on the dark sky washes, how visible are the additional washes and how faded it looks the dark chromatic black on the bottom of the sketch.

I don’t know what causes this odd behaviour on this paper, but I wouldn’t say – always according to my experience on different papers- that this is a problem caused by a  defective sizing.
The sizing is fine. It seems to me that this paper isn’t what it is marketed to be, in other words a smooth premium quality Hot Press paper

So to conclude:
Unfortunately the Strathmore 500 series Imperial HP paper it is not in the first place a HP paper. It is way too rough to be a hot pressed paper while it has only one painting surface. The odd rather hard sizing doesn’t allow wet on wet washes to defuse properly creating this way hard lines during the first colour washes, while it makes the colours look dull and faded after drying.

I would recomment this paper only to those who are looking for a medium quality smooth CP paper for use with pencil or colour pencils, for sketches and practicing but not to those who are looking for a premium quality HP watercolour paper.

Though I’m a big fan of Strathmore papers I was left very dissapointed from this particular one.

I would be interested to know your own experienses with this paper on the comments section below.

Thank you for visiting my website and reading this review. 🙂