The trouble with watercolor

I dreamt of an all letterpress, watercolor painted book. Turns out, that’s not really technically feasible. The short version is: there’s a reason why there’s watercolor paper. And the paper intended for letterpress text isn’t the same.

I tried a few experiments but the Mohawk paper warps easily, even with a little bit of water. Not using water is somewhat counterprodutive to painting with … *ahem* watercolor.

I tried the traditional method of soaking the paper to keep it from warping but that ended up letting the pigment bleed through the paper.

Tipped in

Then I thought of tipping in the illustrations. This might still be possible, but not in the magnitude I originally thought. Watercolor paper is heavy weight, even in its lightest incarnations — I use 110# Arches hot press — and presents issues when glued to the lighter 80# Mohawk superfine. Having 11 images would pose a technical issue, on top of adding a lot of thickness to the book.


So I arrived at what I think is the best solution: offer a single illustration, hand-drawn and painted onto the book’s endsheets. People will get to choose which one they want. I’ll use a light table for production. We’ve done that before, and we know that Arches works well as endsheets.

Perhaps down the line, if this proves fruitful, I’ll pursue an option that’s four-color printed and all the illustrations are done in watercolor. It’s just not what I want right now.