Making a fuss about paper

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 must be quite 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 good paper will ‘take’ your intented lines more faithfully. You are more likely to ‘feel at one’ with your drawing while you draw the model.

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.

 

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Every few weeks, we'll send you an email with one to three quick and useful tips to improve your figure drawings. We'll spice the emails up with some great figure drawings to inspire you as well.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *