Consider these two paper selection situations:

Situation 1: you see, through a window, a lovely bird on the branch of a tree in the garden. You grab a discarded junk mail envelope and a ballpoint pen from the table and quickly sketch the scene. This emergency drawing on an envelope becomes one of most memorable drawings you’ve ever drawn.

Situation 2: you go to a life drawing class without bringing your own paper, so you use the provided at the class. You realise soon enough that the paper is not very good, and you can’t make marks and lines as well as you do normally. You are frustrated during the class, and tell yourself you’ll never forget to bring the paper of your choice from now on.

We aren’t recommending high quality paper because we are paper snobs. For life drawing, you should be little fussy about your choice of paper, because using a suitable piece of paper actually makes your practice sessions more productive. This is not just because the right paper results in good looking drawings, but because the right type of paper will ‘take’ your intended lines more faithfully. You are more likely to ‘feel at one’ with your drawing while you draw the model. Note that the ‘right’ paper is not necessarily expensive paper!

 

A longer 45 minute drawing using rougher paper

A 45 minute drawing using rougher paper which takes the media well and is great for longer drawings

10 minutes drawing on smooth paper which is good for quick drawings

10 minutes drawing on smooth paper which is good for quick drawings

10-minutes-1

We recommend you buy individual sheets, rather than sketchbooks or pads. The latter is more convenient to carry, but the sizes and types of paper are limited and tend to be more expensive per sheet. Unfortunately not many street art shops stock sheet paper. So we encourage you to explore good online art shops – they tend to have good selections of paper sold as sheets or even rolls!

So what is good paper? Where can you find it? To help you, we have made some swatches of different types of paper for your reference below. They are grouped into those good for pencil and chalk and those good for pastel and charcoal.

For pencil, colour pencil, chalk:

Fabriano Academia

Academia paper

Academia paper

Surrey cartridge paper

Surrey cart paper

Surrey cart paper

Strathmore 400 drawing paper

Strathmore 400 cream paper

Strathmore 400 cream paper

Arches Hot pressed. This is actually watercolour paper, but is excellent for pencil. It’s very expensive though.

Arches HP paper

Arches HP paper

 

For pastel and charcoal

Fabriano Ingres. ‘Ingres’ is a general term for paper with a fine stripy texture. The feel varies by manufacturers.

Fabiano Ingres paper

Fabiano Ingres paper

Strathmore 500 Charcoal. This is excellent but expensive paper.

Strathmore charcoal paper

Strathmore charcoal paper

Daler Rowney Ingres

Daler Rowney Ingres paper

Daler Rowney Ingres paper

Sugar paper (very cheap but take charcoal/pastel well. Not suitable for building layers though)

Sugar paper

Sugar paper

Wrapping paper. This is not for everyone, but some people use this very cheap paper wonderfully.

Wrapping paper

Wrapping paper

Fabriano Tiziano (Pastel paper)

Tiziano paper

Tiziano paper

Ultimately, the best answer for your depends on your style and preference. We all use different pencils, pastels, paints, techniques and hand pressures to draw. So what is best for some might not be the best choice for others. Also the availability of specific paper differs by the country you live.

We hope that the selection outlined above is a useful starting point as you figure out what paper works best for your style.

Update – take a look in the comments below – there are some great additional insights into paper!

 

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3 comments

  • Ted de Clercq July 20, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Kenzo, I would like to add a few things I think are important when choosing paper and what type of paper to buy.
    It is important to use a paper that does not have a high acid level. Acid will cause the paper to self destruct in a relatively short time, especially if it is exposed to sunlight. Newsprint is a paper that has a high acid level for example. It is also important to use a paper that has not been made using steel blades to make the pulp. Tiny bits of steel will be left in the finished paper and in time they will rust with the humidity in the air causing brown spots to appear on the surface. Foxing as this is called is not something you want to appear on the finished drawing especially after it has been framed.
    The tooth of the paper is also important . Tooth is the texture and newsprint comes in two styles. The newsprint that is sold in pads for artists usually has a fairly heavy tooth. The newsprint that is used for printed newspapers has a very low tooth and feels smooth to the touch. If you buy newsprint by the ream for drawing from art supply stores it is usually the smooth form like the daily newspaper. Each type has its qualities and good for different mediums. Vine charcoal is much better on a heavy toothed paper as smooth paper doesn’t grab much charcoal and drawings tend to be very pale. Compressed charcoal sticks work better on smooth. A heavy tooth pulls a lot of charcoal and there is a tendency to get drowned in pigment and it becomes more difficult to get subtle gradations. It works the same way for pastels. The problem can be somewhat addressed by hatching or cross hatching but is is a lot easier if you want subtle to use paper without much tooth.
    It is also important to know the hardness of your paper. If it is soft it will absorb the line in a different way and make it harder to adjust the line or remove it altogether. The hardness of the paper depends on how you want to build your drawing. and the results you are looking for.
    I go through a lot of paper and usually buy it by the ream. It is a lot cheaper. I use a drawing board that is slightly larger than the paper and use three bull dog clips, If you only use two your paper with often end up on the floor when you are adding or removing paper. Using three clips solves that problem. It is also important to put enough paper on the board to give so cushion as you are drawing.

    • Kenzo July 31, 2016   Reply →

      Wow Ted thank you for this comment. I learned a lot from it and I’m sure the other readers will as well.

  • Juliet Green November 16, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you for the latest newsletter. Paper is very important to me sometimes I feel very obsessed by the subject.

    The following has helped calm my down.
    Ian Sidaway: The Watercolourist’s Guide to Art Paper
    Every sample is tested with pencil and ink as well as water colour.

    The example given in the news letter by Kenzo are that same sample I am fond of.

    Thanks for that.

    Go well to you all.
    Juliet and Luke (the dog)

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