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Paper Perfection: An Artist's Guide to Choosing the Right Paper

Updated: Apr 10

How to choose the RIGHT paper for your Art?
How to choose the RIGHT paper for your Art?

Hey there, fellow artists!

Today, let's dive into one of the fundamental questions every painter faces:

How to choose painting paper for your artwork? Whether you're wielding watercolors, pencils, charcoal, acrylics, or oils, the paper you choose can make all the difference.

Let's break it down, shall we?

1. Watercolor Wonders:

When it comes to watercolors, your best bet is to opt for a heavyweight paper specifically designed for water-based mediums.

Look for papers labeled as "watercolor paper" or “cold press” with a weight of at least 140lb (300gsm) to prevent warping.

Consider the texture too; rougher papers add interesting textures to your work, while smoother papers are ideal for detailed pieces.

Don't forget to stretch your paper before painting to prevent buckling!

You can find all my recommended watercolor essentials right here.

2. Picking the Perfect Paper for Pencils:

For pencil drawings, you'll want a paper with a bit of tooth to help grip the graphite.

Look for medium to heavyweight papers with a slight roughness to enhance shading, color layering and blending. It helps the pigments adhere to the surface and provides better control.

Sketching papers or drawing pads are excellent choices for pencil work. If you like to use solvents or wet media with your colored pencils (which is common with watercolor pencils), you need to consider buying heavyweight paper.

However, if you're making a detailed pencil drawing, you may want to choose an archival paper made from 100% rag (Paper made with cotton textile remnants) for drawings that will last and not turn yellow over time.

Mixed media paper: If you plan to combine colored pencils with other mediums like watercolor or markers, using mixed media paper is a good option. It has a heavier weight and a surface that can handle multiple mediums.

Color pencils drawing paper
Color pencils drawing paper

Charcoal sketching paper
Charcoal sketching paper

3. Charcoal Charm:

Charcoal artists, rejoice! Opt for a paper with a coarse texture to really grab hold of that charcoal. Heavyweight papers are essential to withstand the pressure of charcoal applications without tearing.

Consider using toned papers for added depth and dimension in your charcoal creations. Just be sure to prime your paper with a fixative before starting to prevent smudging.

Charcoal paper
Charcoal paper

4. Acrylic Adventures:

When painting with acrylics, durability is key. Choose a heavyweight paper or acrylic-specific canvas paper to handle the heavy-bodied nature of acrylic paints.

Look for papers with a smooth surface for crisp detail work or a canvas texture for added depth and character.

Don't forget to prime your paper with gesso to create a stable surface and prevent the paint from seeping into the paper fibers.

Acrylic painting on paper
Acrylic painting on paper

5. Oils on Paper:

For oil painters looking to explore the world of paper, opt for specially formulated oil paper or heavyweight watercolor paper.

These papers are designed to withstand the oil's solvents and drying times without deteriorating.

Choose papers with a smooth surface for intricate brushwork or a textured surface for added interest.

Remember to prime your paper with gesso or an oil ground before painting to create a stable surface for your oils.

Oil painting on paper
Oil painting on paper

In addition to considering the texture, thickness, and suitability for various mediums, it's essential to factor in the price, color, and availability of the paper.

While high-quality paper may come with a higher price tag, it often yields superior results and can enhance the overall presentation of your artwork.

However, there are budget-friendly options available that still offer decent quality for practice pieces or experimentation.

When it comes to color, the choice depends on personal preference and the desired effect of your artwork.

Some artists prefer white paper for its versatility, while others opt for toned or colored paper to add depth and character to their creations.

As for purchasing paper, you can find a wide selection at art supply stores, online retailers, or specialty paper shops. Don't hesitate to explore different brands, sizes, and finishes to discover the perfect paper for your artistic endeavors!

Happy painting!

Meital Regev Coffee artist and art content creatore


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