Today, I’d like to step back from the routine subjects of drawing methods and answer a question arising from a recent reader comment. What’s the question? Are expensive papers worth the cost?
I’ll also talk about a secondary issue, and that’s when it’s okay to use cheaper paper.
Are Expensive Papers Worth the Cost?
In general, expensive papers are worth the cost. The reasons are many, but they’re also relatively simple.
First, expensive papers are usually made with better materials. Cotton fibers are the best material for paper making. They are long and resilient, so cotton fiber paper lasts a long time and maintains its color.
Cellulose (a wood product) is the main ingredient for less Inexpensive drawing papers. Cellulose is much less expensive than cotton fibers, but they are not as resilient. Papers made with cellulose yellow and/or become brittle in a relatively short time.
Second, the manufacturers of the best papers take the time to quality test their products. Testing is not cheap! That cost is passed on to the customers—you and me. But with the added cost comes the confidence that anything we create on those papers will last.
The third reason I’ll mention today is customer service. A lot of the companies making the better papers want to maintain the quality of their products, and their reputation. If you have a problem with something, they’re much more likely to pay attention when you contact them.
That’s not to say that the companies making inexpensive papers aren’t also customer friendly. A lot of them make expensive and inexpensive papers, and they treat all their customers the same.
So now you know a few of the reasons why expensive papers are more expensive. Let’s talk about whether or not to use them.
When Expensive Papers are Worth the Cost
If you are now selling your artwork or you want to start selling your artwork, then you should be using the best paper you can afford for that work.
“But I can’t afford expensive paper,” you tell me.
Then you may want to consider charging more for your artwork. I’ve already written about setting art prices and sticking to them, so I won’t get into a deep discussion on that here. Suffice it to say that you should be getting enough out of each piece you sell to pay for the piece of the paper and pencils you used, the time it took you to create it, and framing costs. This may be difficult if you’re just getting started, but you should still be using the best paper you can afford. As your work sells and you increase your prices, then you can also upgrade the papers you use.
When It’s Okay to Use Cheap Paper
If you’re a student and just learning, then it’s okay to use cheap paper. When I took my college drawing class, we worked mostly on newsprint. That stays fresh about five years, ten if you’re lucky. But that student work wasn’t intended to last for centuries. No one was going to buy it, and most of us had no thought of keeping it for very long.
Even if you’re learning on your own, there’s nothing wrong with using newsprint or any other type of regular drawing paper. You’re honing your skills and practicing the basics. There’s no need to do that kind of work on expensive paper.
If you’re a hobby artist (you’re not selling anything and you don’t intend to sell anything), then it’s okay to use ordinary drawing papers. The paper in most adult coloring books isn’t very good, but it’s fine for that use.
If you’re crafting (making greeting cards, scrap books, or something like that), then you can use ordinary paper without worry.
Balancing Cost and Use
As you can see, this isn’t a case of using the same paper all the time and for every art use. Unless you’re rolling in money, it makes no financial sense to sketch or doodle on the best art paper available. That’s what sketch pads and inexpensive drawing papers are for.
On the other hand, it makes no sense to do work for sale or commission work on that inexpensive drawing paper. You are hopefully selling your work for a considerable amount of money, so you want it to last.
Your customers and clients want the artwork to last, too. So use the best, most archival paper you can afford. You sure don’t want to get the reputation for producing good work on shoddy materials!
It’s helpful to keep a stock of both types of paper on hand, so you have the right paper for whatever drawing you want to make.
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