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How To Choose Your Paper

Paper is Personal

Choosing the right paper is a very important step in being an artist, and it can level you up in terms of display or really hinder your skill. I remember as a beginner I thought paper was just paper- but all papers are not created equally and they also don’t display equally either.

One of the most common questions asked by beginners is “what paper do you use?” And “is there a difference between papers?” Here I will discuss the importance of paper choice, to help you decide what paper you feel will fit your drawing style and will help you achieve your goals as an artist. Yes, paper matters.

You may see different pads of papers that are labeled with weight and whether they are hot or cold pressed. Paper weight, also known as Basis weight, is a number that is determined by pounds and the grams per square meter (GSM). So to simply put it if 500 sheets of paper weighs 100lbs., the paper weight, or basis, is 100 lb. If the paper has been cut into smaller pieces, it is still marked as its original basis. So this is why you could have a small pad but be at 100lb. paper and a larger sized pad that is 65lb.

Next, knowing the difference between hot and cold pressed papers. Hot pressed papers are more of a smooth surface and cold pressed are the opposite, carrying more of a tooth. Depending on your style and your goals either could be beneficial to you.

Below is a list- and is not to be taken as a review by myself, but more of a factual view of what they are physically.

Fabrino Artistico Hot pressed watercolor paper

Thick and durable paper that allows many layers as well as allows the use of multiple mediums. This paper can be expensive and difficult to cover because of the tooth- but allows for many layers.

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Stonehenge Vellum:

In terms of tooth it is found between Bristol and watercolor paper, a good medium ground to allow for layering and smooth looking subjects. It is durable and allows for solvents. Good for animal portraits and botanicals.

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Clairefontaine pastelmat

Sturdy paper and has a velvety touch akin to a soft sandpaper. It doesn’t bend easily and allows for light over dark layering. Comes in different base colors that are versatile with many subjects. Good for colored pencils, pastels and the weight allows for use of aquarielle and solvents. Good for people, animal, botanical and landscape pieces.

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Double sided drafting film

A very unique surface. This is a plastic film with a matte finish that takes very few layers but can be drawn on both sides as it is slightly transparent. This surface works very well with colored pencil, but it can bend very easily and doesn’t take many layers. However, this surface can get vibrant and hyper realistic effects with deep shadows. Good for animal portraits- mainly a close up detailed subject.

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Strathmore toned papers

Strathmore has a great selection of colored papers. Having a colored paper helps create a warmer tone to the piece, it also helps with an already built in tone to your subject. With a smooth surface it’s ideal for any beginner. It also comes in many different pounds and can get quite thin- so watch your basis choice! It also doesn’t have a tolerance for the taping method if you make a mistake and will tear. Good for people, animals and botanical pieces.

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Strathmore Bristol Smooth

Affordable and smooth, ideal for a beginner to use. Excellent for blending and layering it also doesn’t require a whole lot of layers for the piece to look complete. It’s sturdy and a heavy weight making it more like a card stock. It is useful with many mediums but I have found that certain colored pencils from different sets like to “chunk” on it creating textures that you may not want on the picture. Good for animal portraits and landscapes.

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Similar to the Bristol and Strathmore, it allows for blending and limited layering with a smooth finish on a beautiful deep black pad. This paper does not have a tolerance for the tape method if you make a mistake, but is of good quality. Good for portraits of people, animals and botanicals.

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Mixed media

Sturdy and versatile this paper can be used with many mediums (hence the name). It has a general use for many mediums which means it’s not really suitable for colored pencils. The tooth is wide and deep and makes for hard coverage, as well as a grainy look that seems to never get covered which causes the artist to burnish too quickly in an attempt to cover the grainy look, making it become muddy. Yes, it can be used if that is all you have- but my suggestion would be to run far away from it and leave it for other mediums- just not for colored pencils!

No link to shop- run away from this one!

Online stores where you can find art supplies:

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