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Different Types of Drawing Paper 101: Choosing The Best Type For You

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One of the most important aspects to consider when drawing is what type of paper you are going to use. There are so many different types of drawing paper, each with their own properties that make them appropriate for varying purposes.

For example, if you want a smoother finish, you might choose hot pressed paper over cold pressed paper. The different types include: hot-pressed papers (hot), cold-pressed papers (cold), handmade papers (handmade or old fashioned), ordinary cartridge paper, handmade “Khadi Tea” paper, Strathmore Paper and Ingres Paper/Dutch Ingres Paper. If your goal is to create an artwork with texture and depth then rough Indian hand made paper would be best for this purpose.

There are numerous distinct varieties of drawing paper on the market. The most pricey is handmade paper, although machine-made papers are perfectly sufficient for drawing.

Because they are less expensive, you will most likely not be as frightened to use them as you would using more costly paper.

Your local art store should be able to tell you all you need to know about the many papers available, but I’ve also included links to several online providers for each paper type in case you want to purchase any of these online.

What are you using the paper for?

Consider the purpose for which you will use your paper when selecting it. I’ve seen many a new artist struggle to apply charcoal on glossy paper because they tried to save money and choose something that wasn’t appropriate for their medium – for example, charcoal will slide right off smooth paper.

Chalk and charcoal, for example, work best on rough or textured surfaces. Because the shiny paper is not abrasive enough, there isn’t enough “tooth” for the pigment to stick to.

A rough-surfaced paper, on the other hand, is not suitable for ink or pen because there is too much tooth in the paper and the rough surface makes it almost impossible to draw a straight line.

What types of paper are there?

While there are so many different types of drawing paper, I am going to cover a few of the more popular types of paper, these are the majority of paper types you will come across including a few that you will find hard to buy but are good to know in case you are searching for that something that is a little different.

Hot Pressed Paper

Hot pressed paper has a smooth surface and is great for pencil, coloured pencils and pastels. It can be used with pen but the nib needs to have a little flex as not all hot pressed paper will allow your pen to glide smoothly across it without any resistance. It also tends to absorb more pigment or paint compared to cold pressed paper. Colors also look more vibrant and richer.

Perfect for: Pencil, colored pencils and pastels.

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Cold Pressed Paper

Cold Pressed Paper has a rough surface and has more tooth (bumpy and rough surface) than Hot Pressed Paper so it is good for different types of pens such as Sakura Microns, alcohol markers and pencils.

This type of paper holds pigment well but if you are using water based paints then this may cause some problems on some papers due to color lifting, that said there are those who do use cold press paper successfully with watercolor paint. Colors are also less vibrant when using cold press paper as the paper may absorb less pigment and reflect more light compared to hot press paper.

Perfect for: Pens, alcohol markers and pencils.

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Ordinary Cartridge Paper

Ordinary cartridge paper or drawing paper has a fairly smooth surface. It is good for different types of pens such as Sakura Micron or other fine liners.

The surface has a very slight tooth to it so there will be some resistance when using different types of pens on this paper, however if you prefer smoother writing surfaces then use pencils rather than different types of pens with this type of paper.

Perfect for: Any medium as the paper is typically heavy.

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Handmade Paper

Handmade paper usually has an uneven texture which, when worked on in pencil produces interesting effects depending on the softness of the pencils you are using. A fairly rough texture is achieved if you work with different types of pencils on this paper.

Handmade paper is also really easy to make using recycled paper. Not only do you get an ecologically sound paper for your artwork, it will also be one of a kind, unique and have properties that no other paper for sale will have.

Click here to learn how to make handmade paper.

Perfect for: Acrylics, watercolors, and dry drawing media. Anything else like oil paints will need some priming.

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Handmade Paper – “Khadi Tea”

Handmade “Khadi Tea” Paper is made by hand in India or Nepal using 100% renewable plant fibre or from the inner bark or bast fibre of mitsumata with chopped tea leaf. No chemicals are used so the colouring process for each sheet is different. The fibres have been left to oxidise which means it will fade over time with exposure to light but also creates a unique look depending on how you use it.

Perfect for: Acrylics, watercolors, any drawing media. Anything else like oil paints will need some priming.

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Rough Indian Handmade Paper

Rough Indian handmade paper is produced from different natural materials such as banana, palm leaves and rice stalks. Each type of paper has a different thickness/weight ranging from 90 gsm (light) up to 300-350 gsm (medium weight).

Hot pressed handmade Indian hemp paper offers great value for money because the sheets are larger in size compared to most hand made papers and come in a variety of sizes and weights.

Perfect for: Acrylics, watercolors, any drawing media. Anything else like oil paints will need some priming.

Strathmore Paper

Strathmore paper is one of the most popular brands and types of heavyweight paper available, that is great for different art and craft mediums such as oil, acrylic and watercolor. It also comes pre-cut in different sizes: A0, A00 & A000 so you can get straight to work without having to cut it yourself. It also comes in a variety of colors and weights.

I personally use Strathmore branded paper (various types) for most of my drawing and pastel work.

Perfect for: The smooth and medium surface paper can be used with Pencil, charcoal, and sketching sticks, soft pastel, oil pastel, markers, pen and ink.

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Ingres Paper / Dutch Ingres Paper

Ingres paper a heavyweight, rough-textured fiber based paper that is great for different art and craft mediums such as charcoal and pastels. It also comes pre-cut in different sizes: A0, A00 & A000 so you can get straight to work without having to cut it yourself. It is not as durable as Bristol paper.

Perfect for: Graphite, pencils, chalk, chalk pastels, charcoal, pen and ink.

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Bristol Paper

Bristol paper is typically a drawing paper that is glued together under pressure to form multi-ply sheets or boards. They usually come in two types of surfaces which are smooth like ordinary paper and a translucent vellum (tracing) paper which is used for tracing, blueprints etc. The smooth surface varieties are suitable for pen, ink, mechanical pencil, airbrush and markers.

Perfect for: Technical pens, alcohol markers, airbrush and pencils.

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Japanese Handmade Paper

Japanese handmade papers are made from the bark of tree called “kozo” which gives them their characteristic white color with brown or black veins when they dry out after being manufactured. They offer different weights/thicknesses ranging from 100 gsm (lightweight) up to 400 gsm (heavy weight).

Perfect for: Watercolor pens, inks, washes and gouache.

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Watercolor Paper

Watercolor paper is paper pre-prepared and stretched for use with watercolors. Watercolor paper is different from all other papers in terms of the way it has been manufactured. You can basically use it with any medium that has a high moisture content.

Perfect for: Watercolors, watercolor pencils, gouache, acrylics.

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Oil Paint Paper

Oil paint paper is different from watercolor papers in that it has a smooth, or oil-primed surface.

This type of paper can be used for all types of mediums including acrylic paints and oils. For oil pastel work you should use hot pressed (smooth) fine art grade paper unless the artist specifies otherwise when buying his/her supplies.

Perfect for: Oil paints, acrylic paints.

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Illustration Boards

Illustration boards as just paper that has been made from different materials, such as pulp and cotton fibers. They are not to be confused with wood boards or cardboard because of the different surface textures they have.

They come in a variety of different finishes but can still be used for all types of mediums including oils and watercolors. The main difference between illustration board is that some artists prefer one type over another due to its handling qualities when drawing on it with pencil, pen & ink or markers.

Perfect for: Any mediums.

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Different Types of Drawing Paper – Wrap up!

I hope you picked up some new information regarding the different types of drawing paper and how it differentiates from the traditional types of paper we use.

The options are wide and varied and knowing which paper suits which medium is a powerful piece of knowledge that you can use to ensure you’re using the right tools to get the best results.

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Image by Alexander Stein from Pixabay 

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