So, here are my thoughts on both papers and don't forget to check out Gayle and Katherine's posts as well (And a very gracious thank you to Katherine for mentioning my work in her post!)
Referencing an old painting, I did small (6"x8") arab head studies on both surfaces. Overall, I think that both papers are great supports, and I will give a little of my feedback BUT, (here's the but), please take into account that I only used Faber-Castell and Berol Prismacolor coloured pencils on these surfaces. Other mediums may work differently with the surface, so I would still urge anyone interested to get some samples and try them out with your own mediums and techniques. :-)
A fairly firm, hard surface. The mat is a card stock weight, textured on one side. It took loads of layers and the texture stood up well to pencil pressure. Circular strokes, directional strokes or flat colouring worked equally well on this paper. The colour went on true, but not as vibrant as on the Fisher paper. I liked the fact that I could blend with a stiff brush or stump, but finger blending didn't work well here.
I could also burnish surfaces with lighter colours, giving areas a glazed look, which helped in graying down or brightening up colours. For another use, this surface easily handled a light application of solvent to melt and blend colours (not shown on Arab Head study left)
Lighter, more paper-like, This paper works well taped down onto a board for support. The texture is similar to extremely fine sandpaper. My pencils went on super creamy, and the surface ate them up quickly. Quite a lot of dust created as well, which is something I am not used to and had to take extra care in keeping my work surface clean.
The colours blended wonderfully, and went on vibrant and bright. The surface took a number of layers before becoming saturated, and it was good to see that any saturated area did not take on a "waxy" look that I have experienced before.
Textured held up well to pencil pressure. Colours were easily blended with brushes (use softer ones than on Pastelmat), stumps or fingers. This surfaced worked better for me when I used strokes to fill in areas as opposed to circular strokes or flat colouring.
It was nice to change up what I have been doing and play with these surfaces, which I might remind everyone, are NOT available in Canada
I ordered both from the TSC company in Britain. First time dealing with them and I was very happy with the service and product, but be prepared to pay for the shipping :~)
If you can place an order with another artist or group of artists, it would be more economical and TSC currently has a sale on the Fisher 400 .
Please check out these other artists who have used both papers and have their own reviews on them:
Nicole Caulfield -who creates amazing (and large scale) portraits and still life coloured pencil paintings with Fisher paper and Derwent coloursofts pencils.
Gayle Mason - who just put up her own review with some beautifully done cat paintings. Her pieces show (much better than mine) the detail one can achieve.
Mary Hubert- who works exclusively on Fisher 400 now, and has a paper review page. And don't forget to check out her amazing demo videos