Every Kind of Paper for Every Art Project

Are you looking for the best type of art paper to use for your project? Whether you're an aspiring artist, a seasoned creator, or someone exploring the captivating world of art, choosing the right paper is paramount for bringing your artistic vision to life. Paper and its surface are the foundations of every creative masterpiece, so learning about the best type of paper for your art will significantly help you.

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Fine Liner Pen Set

Today, we will delve into the vast array of options available, focusing on different types of art paper for painting, the best art paper for drawing, and the versatility of art paper across various mediums. So grab your supplies, and let's go unravel the secrets of selecting the perfect canvas for your next project! 

Why Do You Need to Choose the Right Paper for Your Art?

Choosing the right paper for your art is of utmost importance as it can significantly impact the final outcome of your creative expression. The paper serves as the canvas on which your artistic vision comes to life, and selecting the appropriate type can enhance the overall quality of your artwork.

Firstly, different art mediums have specific requirements, and choosing the right paper ensures compatibility with your chosen materials. The texture and weight of paper can influence the appearance and feel of your artwork. For example, for artists who prefer a smooth surface and intricate details, fine-toothed paper like bristol board or marker paper is ideal. 

On the other hand, those seeking a more textured and expressive finish may opt for papers with a rougher surface, such as watercolor paper or pastel paper. The weight of the paper also affects the overall durability, with heavier weights offering sturdiness and resistance to damage.

Moreover, choosing the right paper impacts the archival quality of your art. Acid-free and archival papers are designed to withstand the test of time, ensuring that your artwork retains its original colors and quality for many years without yellowing or deteriorating. This is particularly crucial for artists who create pieces meant to be preserved and cherished for generations.

Working on a surface that complements your preferred medium and techniques can be more enjoyable and satisfying. It provides you with confidence in your materials, accurate results, and a more straightforward creative process. By considering the medium, texture, weight, archival properties, and compatibility with your artistic techniques, you can enhance the quality of your artwork.

What Is the Best Type of Paper for Art?

Generally speaking, there is no one-size-fits-all paper in art. Since different mediums have different chemical properties and behavior, no single surface can accommodate them all. The best type of paper would depend on the kind of art project - for example, watercolor paper is best for watercolors but not for oil painting. 

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So if you're looking for a single art paper that would stand whatever medium you throw at it, you would have a hard time. However, if you'd like to know the different types of paper used for various projects, then browse the guide below: 

The Best Art Paper for Drawing and Sketching

When it comes to drawing and sketching, the best art paper is typically one that offers a balance between texture and smoothness, allowing for easy manipulation of various drawing materials. While you can use regular paper to practice drawing for beginners, if you'd like professional-looking results, it would be best to use a Bristol board. 

A Bristol board is a type of high-quality, heavyweight paper that is smooth and sturdy. Artists and illustrators commonly use it for various applications due to its versatility and durability. You can use graphite and coloring pencils, pens, markers, and inks on it, making it a suitable option for detailed drawings and colored illustrations.

Apart from Bristol board, you can also use other types of paper:

Drawing Paper

This is a versatile, all-purpose paper suitable for most drawing techniques. It comes in different weights and textures, with the medium-tooth paper being a popular choice for drawing and sketching, especially for beginners. It can handle graphite, charcoal, colored pencils, and more.

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Sketchbooks come in various sizes and paper types, making them convenient for on-the-go artists. Look for sketchbooks with acid-free, heavyweight paper that can handle pencil, charcoal, and ink.

Drawing Pads

Similar to sketchbooks, drawing pads offer different paper options, including smooth and textured surfaces. They come in various sizes and are suitable for practice and finished drawings.

A beautiful gouache artwork of Starry Night by Van Gogh

Watercolor Paper Pad (9"x 12")

Toned Paper

Toned paper, such as gray or beige, provides a mid-tone background that adds depth to drawings. It works well with both dark and light media, such as white charcoal or pastel pencils. This is so you can achieve a full and richer range of values in your drawings. 

Marker Paper

If you frequently use markers in your drawings, especially alcohol markers, marker paper, such as Yupo paper, is designed to prevent bleeding and feathering of ink, ensuring clean lines and vibrant colors. Marker paper has an ultra-smooth, waxy surface to it, allowing the ink to stay wet longer for effortless blending and layering of colors.  

Tracing Paper

Tracing paper is made from a lightweight, semi-transparent material, often treated with a wax or polymer coating to enhance its transparency and reduce ink absorption. Tracing paper is commonly employed by artists, architects, designers, and illustrators to transfer sketches, blueprints, or designs onto other surfaces. Its transparency helps you to place it over an original image or reference, trace the outlines, and create a duplicate or modified version. 

Charcoal Paper

Charcoal papers are specially designed papers for use with charcoal drawing techniques. These papers have a textured, rough surface that grips the charcoal particles, allowing you to create bold and expressive marks. The texture helps you achieve a wide range of values, from deep blacks to subtle grays, making charcoal papers ideal for rendering shadows, textures, and dramatic contrasts.

The Best Art Paper for Painting Techniques

As a beginner, you may think, "Can I paint on normal paper?". While you can paint on normal paper, the results may not be ideal depending on the type of paint and the quality of the paper. Paint comes in different forms, and using the same paper you use for everyday note writing will not be a suitable surface for gouache paints, for example. 

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Water-Based Markers

Like how drawing paper and specialty art papers are available for sketching, specific types of paper for painting are also accessible to artists. If you want to have the best results and preserve your artwork for the long term, we recommend using papers specifically designed to handle different mediums' demands.

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Watercolor Paper

Watercolor paper is specially designed to handle the unique properties of watercolors. It comes in three main types: hot-pressed, cold-pressed, and rough. Hot-pressed paper has a smooth surface, ideal for detailed work and illustrations, while cold-pressed paper has a slight texture, making it versatile for various watercolor techniques. 

Rough paper has the most texture, which will add depth and interest to your artwork. The weight of the paper can vary from lightweight to heavyweight, with the heavier paper being more suitable for wet-on-wet and heavy washes.

Find out which art paper is the best for your needs here at ArtistrybyAltenew!

Watercolor Brush Markers - Spring Garden Set

Acrylic Paper or Canvas Pad

For acrylic painting, artists can use acrylic paper or canvas pads. Acrylic paper is specifically coated to handle the acrylic paint's thickness and prevent it from soaking through. It offers a smoother surface than canvas, which allows for finer details. 

On the other hand, canvas pads provide the texture and feel of canvas in a convenient pad format. Both options are suitable for acrylic paints and work well for practice, studies, or small-scale artworks.

Oil Paper or Primed Canvas

Oil paper is designed to handle oil paints without warping or deteriorating over time due to the oils' acidity. It has a special coating that prevents the paint from seeping into the paper fibers. 

However, many oil painters still prefer the traditional surface of stretched and primed canvas, perfect for framing. A primed canvas provides a sturdy and textured surface that allows for impasto techniques and heavy layering of oil paints. 

Mixed Media Paper

For artists who enjoy experimenting with multiple mediums in their artwork, mixed media paper is an excellent choice. This type of paper is designed to handle wet and dry media, including acrylics, watercolors, gouache, colored pencils, and more. It usually has a heavier weight to withstand different techniques without buckling.

A beautiful lettering calligraphy doodle on watercolor paper

Woodless Coloring Pencils

Pastel Paper

Pastel paper has a textured surface that holds pastels and chalks well and prevents them from smudging. It comes in various colors, allowing you to choose a background that complements your pastel artwork.

What GSM Paper Is Best for Art?

The best GSM (Grams per Square Meter) paper for art depends on the specific medium and techniques you intend to use. Different art forms require different paper weights to accommodate the demands of the materials. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Drawing and Sketching: For drawing and sketching with graphite, charcoal, or colored pencils, a medium-weight paper of around 90-120 GSM is often sufficient. It provides enough sturdiness to handle dry media without being too heavy.
  2. Watercolor Painting: Watercolor paper typically comes in heavier weights, ranging from 190 GSM to 300 GSM or more. Heavier weights are better for wet-on-wet techniques and prevent the paper from buckling or warping due to water absorption.
  3. Acrylic Painting: A heavier paper or canvas pad with a GSM of 200 or more is recommended for acrylic paints. Acrylics can be harsh on paper, so a sturdy surface is essential.
  4. Oil Painting: Oil painting is best suited for canvas or boards rather than paper. However, if you prefer to use paper for oil painting, opt for a heavyweight paper with a GSM of 300 or more, and ensure it is specially primed for oil painting to prevent the oil from degrading the paper.
  5. Mixed Media Art: For mixed media artwork that combines different mediums, a heavyweight paper with a GSM of 150-250 is a versatile choice. It should handle both wet and dry media effectively.
  6. Printmaking: Printmaking requires durable and thicker paper. Look for papers with a GSM between 250 and 350, depending on your specific printmaking technique.

Remember, GSM is just one aspect of choosing the type of art paper you buy. Texture, absorbency, and specific medium compatibility are equally important factors to consider. In the end, you should try out different paper weights and surfaces to find what works best for your preferred art style and techniques.

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We hope this guide has given you the confidence to pick your needed paper surfaces like a pro! We look forward to seeing your work out there, and we wish you all the best in your creative endeavors. If you want us to tackle more paper surfaces or other topics, leave a comment below! Make sure also to check out our other articles on buying art supplies. Happy creating!