The Importance of Choosing the Right Paper for your Artwork


When creating art, the materials you use play a crucial role. While talent and dedication are important, the right tools can help bring your ideas to life. So far, we’ve discussed the top picks for colored pencils, markers, acrylics, and oil paints that are beloved by artists. However, it’s important not to overlook the significance of paper in the artistic process. The type of paper you use can affect how your media moves across the page, stays in place, and even withstands the test of time. In this article, we’ll explore the different factors to consider when selecting the best paper for your artistic projects.

Understanding Paper Types

The Variety of Art Paper

The world of art paper can be overwhelming. Step into any art supply store, and you’ll be confronted with a wide range of paper types, brands, textures, weights, and more. But why is there such a vast array of options? And how do you know which paper is right for your project? Let us help demystify the paper selection process by exploring the key factors to consider.

Surface Texture: Toothy or Smooth?

The type of paper you choose depends on the specific medium you’re working with. For drawing, where dry media like pencils and pastels are used, a paper with a “toothy” surface is preferred. This texture provides enough grip to prevent your pencils from slipping off the page. On the other hand, painting often benefits from a smoother surface that allows for even application of light pigment layers, resulting in vibrant and complex hues.

Acid-Free Paper for Longevity

If you want your artwork to stand the test of time, it’s crucial to choose acid-free paper. Acid-free paper will not deteriorate or turn yellow over time, preserving the integrity of your artwork. Acid-free paper contains calcium carbonate, a buffer that neutralizes the acid absorbed from the air or through natural aging processes.

Consider the Surface Texture for Layering

If you plan on layering multiple colors or applying numerous coatings to your artwork, surface texture becomes an important consideration. Once the surface of the paper has been coated, it becomes challenging to layer additional colors on top. To facilitate the layering process, choose a paper with an appropriate tooth or texture that allows for smooth application of additional layers.

Weight Matters

The weight of the paper is another crucial factor to consider. Heavier-weight papers can handle more layers, water, and various techniques compared to lighter-weight papers. The weight of paper is determined by a team of sheets, usually 500, weighed together at the manufacturers.

Proper Sizing for the Medium

It’s essential to choose paper that is properly sized for the medium you are using. The size can be internal, external, or both. Watercolor and other water-based media require paper that is best sized internally. Unsized papers are ideal for printmaking or loose painting styles like traditional Chinese painting. While some artists prefer using specialty prepared water media, mixed media canvas, or boards, we generally advise using appropriately sized papers for the project, eliminating the need for additional preparation.

Exploring Different Types of Papers

Newsprint Papers

Newsprint paper pads are commonly used by sketching enthusiasts. These pads are perfect for sketching ideas on paper. However, it’s important to note that newsprint papers are not acid-free and may yellow over time. Nonetheless, they work wonders with markers, graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, monochrome chalks, and oil pencils.

Sketching Papers

Similar to drawing papers, sketching papers are a lighter version. They are popular for quick studies and drawing exercises. Artists often use sketchbooks for their quick sketches and exploration of dry media such as colored pencils, graphite, charcoal, drawing chalks, monochrome chalks, and oil pencils.

Drawing Papers

Drawing papers are commonly used for finished work and detailed drawings. They are perfect for graphite, charcoal, dry monochromes, soft pastels, oil pastels, markers, and pen and ink.

Charcoal Papers

Charcoal paper, with its distinct woven finish, has been used for more than a century. It offers excellent shading control and works well with charcoal, drawing chalks, monochrome, pastels, and graphite. Some artists have even experimented with light splashes of ink, watercolor, and gouache on this lightweight paper.

Pastel Papers

Pastel papers can be used on both sides – one side has a shingled texture while the other is silkier. Colored pencils, pastels, charcoal, drawing chalks, and monochromes work beautifully on pastel paper. Some artists also utilize light watercolor washes as an underpainting.

Mixed Media Papers

Mixed media papers are a relatively new addition to the paper world. They were created to withstand various media processes used by contemporary painters. With characteristics similar to watercolor paper and a vellum drawing surface, mixed media papers are suitable for graphite, colored pencils, markers, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, pen and ink, charcoal, drawing chalks, monochromes, and pastels.

Toned Papers

Starting your artwork on toned paper opens up new possibilities for sketching and drawing. The intermediate value provided by toned paper allows for a wider range of values from bright to dark. This enables artists to strategically place shadows and highlights using dark and light media such as graphite or other dark mediums for darker values and white pencils for highlights.

Marker Papers

Marker papers have an incredibly smooth surface designed for use with markers. They prevent bleeding and feathering and facilitate blending. Although primarily intended for markers, they can also be lightly sketched on with graphite. Some artists even use light-colored pencil strokes. However, it’s important to note that once you cover pencil marks with markers, they become difficult to remove.

Bristol Papers

Bristol papers are widely used for their versatility. They come in two surface types: smooth (plate) and vellum (tooth). Smooth Bristol is ideal for pen and ink, airbrush, and intricate work with colored pencils or graphite. Vellum Bristol suits graphite, charcoal, airbrush, pastel, crayon, colored pencil, and pen and ink.

Layout Bond Papers

Layout bond papers, semi-opaque and frequently used by designers, calligraphers, and comic artists, work well with graphite, colored pencils, chalk, monochrome pencils, and charcoal. Rough drawings or completed designer compositions often find their home on layout bond papers.

Oil Painting Papers

Oil painting papers, linen-textured and appropriately sized, eliminate the need for gesso. They prevent oil from leaking to the opposite side of the paper. It’s recommended to mount the finished result on a board before framing.

Canvas Papers

Canvas papers, with their textured surface, are perfect for practicing painting techniques. They can take paint and oil without gesso. Graphite, colored pencils, oils, acrylics, and other painting media can all be used on this paper.

Watercolor Papers

Watercolor papers are available in various weights and surface textures. The higher the weight, the stiffer the paper. Watercolor paper usually comes in three options: hot-pressed (very smooth), cold-pressed (some surface texture or pebbling), and rough (noticeable surface texture or pebbling). Watercolor, gouache, graphite, colored pencils, and other approved mediums can be used on watercolor papers.

Palette Papers

Palette papers, coated with poly, serve as a temporary surface for mixing paint. Artists often use them for acrylic and oil painting. After one session, the sheet is discarded, making palette cleaning a breeze.

Tracing Papers

Tracing papers, thin and transparent, are excellent for picture tracing and transferring to other papers. They work well for thumbnail sketches, preliminary drawings, and image overlays. Ink, markers, and graphite are all acceptable mediums for tracing papers.

Vellum Papers

Vellum papers are versatile and can be used for various art and craft projects. They are ideal for tracing, adding decorative elements to cards and letters, and protecting artwork. Pastels, chalk, colored pencils, graphite, and markers work beautifully on vellum papers.


While it’s impossible to review every paper producer and variety individually, having a basic understanding of paper will help you make informed decisions for your art. While some may recommend specific kinds or brands for particular media or techniques, we believe that both the paper you choose and the mark you create are unique. Through exploration, you’ll discover what works best for your artistic expression. So, embrace the variety of papers available and experiment with different options to find your perfect match.

Remember, at Quill And Fox, we’re passionate about providing the best quality products for artists like you. Visit our website to explore our collection of art supplies and unleash your creativity.