Drawing Papers

Paper is essential to drawing. Most papers are made from plant fibers and cotton is the most archival.

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Types of Drawing Papers

  • Bristol Board (named for the town in England) is a smooth and heavier paper, much like card stock. It is know for its durability and versatility. It is suitable for a variety of media and features two different types of “tooth”, both of which are fairly smooth, which comes in two-ply, one ply (for tracing) and vellum finish, suitable for colored pencil or pen and ink. 
  • Cellulose Fiber Paper is the most common type of paper, made from wood pulp. Paper made from cellulose fiber are acidic but is good for plenty of erasures. It will yellow after a few years so it is best for practice only.
  • Charcoal paper has a slightly textured surface which is called the "tooth" of the paper and the amount of texture or "tooth" varies among different brands. The texture allows the paper holds the tiny particles of the charcoal so that it adheres better to the surface. Handmade paper is usually very delicate and very absorbent so it is best used for collage. Be sure to test it first before investing in a large quantity. 
  • Cotton Rag Paper is made from cotton and comes in a variety of weights, textures and hues It is the best for serious endeavors, including printmaking and is great for wet drawing media such as ink or watercolor washes. 
  • Sanded Paper for Pastels is made with a coated abrasive. It has a rough texture and is used for pastel or pastel pencils. There are many varieties of sandpaper, with variations in the paper or backing, the material used for the grit, grit size, and the bond. The higher the grit number the finer the paper.
  • Handmade Paper is very delicate and very absorbent but may offer different surfaces with textural qualities for the artist.
  • Newspaper is made from wood pulp, which is acidic so it is not archival and will yellow after a few years so it’s best suited for practice sketches. Perfect for those 5 minute gesture drawings that will be throw out eventually.
  • Vellum is a smooth paper that is created by combining plastic with cotton or wood pulp materials.  The material is translucent making it suitable for tracing.  This type of vellum paper should not be confused with Bristol paper that has a “vellum” surface. It is suitable for pen and ink.

Types of Finish

  • Unfinished or rough, this finish is not smooth and retains a certain amount of texture. Rough or textured paper has a strong tooth and can grab smooth materials such as charcoal or pastel. 
  • Cold press is smooth. It is less textured and has a slightly weaker tooth than rough paper.
  • Hot press is completely smooth because it has been ironed. This type of finish allows for the most detail or smooth gradations. Great for polished sketches or finished drawings. It is also best suited for printmaking.

See Also

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