The type of drawing paper or sketch paper you use depends on the medium with which you work. Charcoal, colored pencils and pen and ink require different kinds of paper to create a final work of art that is sustainable and holds the true colors and lines of your work. Many types of paper will also work for watercolors or acrylic paint.
The bond and sheen of the various types of drawing paper also contribute to the final look. Experiment with different types of drawing paper and art supplies to work with at your easels. This gives you the opportunity to find the kind that gives your work the matte and finish you desire.
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Fibers and characteristics of drawing paper
Paper is made by pressing different kinds of fiber together and rolling it out into sheets. The least expensive paper is made from chemically processed wood pulp, while art paper made from cotton and linen tends to be a higher quality paper that is more expensive, holds color better and lasts longer.
Wood-pulp paper and woven-fiber paper are hot pressed to make a shiny and smooth surface. Hot-press paper comes in different weights and is a good mixed media paper for ink and pencil. It isn't coarse enough to hold chalk or charcoal drawings. Heavyweight papers are more forgiving and do not crumble after repeated erasures.
Coarse paper is made from a cold press. It provides a grainier surface that holds chalk well and also makes a good charcoal paper. Thicker coarse paper is also ideal for use as a watercolor paper and can withstand slight washing without curling and buckling.
Coarse, mixed media drawing paper
Ingres paper is a kind of coarse drawing paper that holds graphite medium well. Vincent Van Gogh used Ingres paper for many of his watercolors.
Arches is a brand-name paper that comes in 140-pound weights and is coarse on one side and smooth on the other, allowing the artist to work in a variety of mediums.
Vellum art paper
Early artists used goat and sheepskins for their drawings. These translucent parchments were the precursor to the modern vellum drawing paper that is used for tracing paper, calligraphy lettering and drafting.
Vellum can be made from both wood and cotton. Processing involves boiling and rolling the fibers into thin layers. Textured vellum is not limited to white paper. It is also available in bright or pastel colors to add variety to an artist's work.
Acid-Free drawing paper
Acid-free paper is used to store and archive drawings. It is made from cotton or linen fibers and uses no chemicals in the finishing process. The paper does not yellow and curl over time. Environmentally friendly paper companies support acid-free paper production and utilize other materials such as hemp to produce a high quality drawing paper.
Acid-free paper preserves a high Ph level after being immersed in water and is easily recycled. When exposed to air, the paper is slow to deteriorate. The natural fibers are dried at low temperatures to maintain their integrity.
Bristol art paper
Bristol paper is a versatile drawing paper can be used with many different types of media and is heavy enough that it doesn't require mounting. The thickness of the Bristol paper is created from several single sheets of paper pressed together with adhesives.
Popular art paper and sketch pad brands
When shopping for art supplies, one of the most popular brands of drawing paper you will find is Strathmore, which has been making paper for the drawing industry since 1892. Known for its high quality and fine-art paper, Strathmore is used by all kinds of artists and makes paper for every medium, uses wind energy to keep its lines environmentally friendly and is available through most artists' sites and retailers.
Other brands most popular with artists are Arches, Stonehenge and Canson. Drawing or sketch paper is often sold as a sketch pad or drawing paper pad. You can opt to purchase paper as single sheets rather that opting for sketchbooks.