The Best Paper and Pencils for Colored Pencil Art

Today’s reader question comes from a reader who wants to know the best paper and pencils for colored pencil art. Here’s the question.

Hi Carrie.

In your opinion, which are the best coloured pencils to use for drawing and which is the ideal substrate to use? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for the question. Other than questions about blending and layering, this is probably one of the more often asked questions asked of artists.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Colored Pencil Art

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer beyond my encouragement that you buy the best of both that you can afford.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Colored Pencil Art

There are so many different drawing methods and styles that what works for me may not work for you. The best paper and pencils for you depends on what gives you the results you want, and what fits your budget.

So I’m going to address it from two points of view: Craft art and fine art. I’ll also offer general suggestions on what to look for and a few things to avoid.

The Best Paper for Craft Art

Craft art includes adult coloring books, greeting cards, art trading cards, stamping, and so on. Short-term art that doesn’t need to be archival in order to be useful or marketable.

The best paper and pencils for craft art.
Image by A_Different_Perspective from Pixabay

I also include artwork from which you make reproductions, but which you have no intention of selling as an original.

Adult coloring books are usually printed on inexpensive drawing paper so you have no choice in the paper unless you print the pages yourself. Coloring books printed on better paper are available, but you will pay for the improved quality.

Blank greeting card stock comes in a variety of qualities. Canson and Strathmore are two well-known paper companies that also sell artist-quality blank card stock. Other companies sell less expensive card stock, so you can pick and choose and try different papers until you find one that works well for you.

Strathmore makes a line of drawing papers ranging from newsprint, which isn’t archival, to high-quality drawing paper. Many other paper manufacturers also make different grades of paper.

Beyond that, any pad of good drawing paper will allow you to do what you need or want to do as far as craft art. I don’t do craft art, so recommend you try a few and see which you like best.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

And there’s absolutely nothing other than price keeping you from using high-quality paper for craft purposes. If your budget is flexible, give those pricey papers a try and see what you think.

The Best Pencils for Craft Art

You can use almost any pencil for craft art, from the most expensive to the least. Look for the best combination of price, color selection, and availability in your area.

In the United States, Prismacolor is probably the best combination of those four features. They have a stunning collection of colors and are a good value. Some quality issues exist, but broken leads, split casing, and warped pencils are sporadic, at worst.

Blick Studio Colored Pencils are also a good brand to consider. High quality, low cost, and color selection are their strongest selling points. They are available only through Dick Blick, but can be purchased online as well as in Blick stores.

If you buy a full set online, buy from a respected and trustworthy outlet such as Dick Blick. You can’t beat Dick Blick for customer service and if you end up with a bad purchase, they will make it right.

After that, you can buy open stock (single pencils) and look for things like warped pencils and split casings if you buy in person.

Image by Hartmut Jaster from Pixabay

Other brands to consider are Bruynzeel Design, and Derwent Coloursoft.

I don’t recommend pencils such as Crayola or any other scholastic pencils. You can do craft art with scholastic pencils, but the colors aren’t usually as bright or the pencils as well pigmented. It takes more effort to get the same results you could get with better pencils.

The Best Paper for Fine Art

Fine art includes portraits and other types of commission art, exhibit art, and art you want to sell. Artwork in this category needs to last a long time without fading or otherwise deteriorating, so you need the most archival paper and pencils you can afford.

Look for papers that are high-quality. Usually that means non-acidic.

You should also opt for papers made from cotton fibers, since those fibers are the strongest and longest lasting. Avoid papers made from cellulose fibers.

I prefer papers that are sturdy. 98lb paper is about the lightest I’ll use for fine art applications. Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Teintes are both 98-pound papers and are sturdy enough to stand up under solvents and watercolor pencils in moderate amounts.

Stonehenge Aqua and Canson L’Aquarelle 140lb hot press papers are also excellent papers. Both are made for watercolor painting, but both have a great texture for dry work, too. The biggest drawback is that they come in white only and cost more than regular drawing paper.

I also use Uart Sanded Pastel Paper, Bienfang Bristol Vellum, and Strathmore Artagain recycled paper. All are worth trying if you haven’t yet found a favorite paper.

The Best Pencils for Fine Art

Pencils should be lightfast tested and rated. The best pencils usually have a somewhat limited selection of colors because the companies have opted not to include fugitive (fading) colors in their selection.

Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablos, for example, are about the best pencils on the market and come in only 76 or 80 colors. They have a good color selection, but lack many of the bright, jewel-tone colors that tend to fade the most.

Other high-quality brands are Faber-Castell Polychromos and Derwent Lightfast.

Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

My Favorite Paper

This is a close call, since I use a variety of papers ranging from very smooth Bristol Vellum to sanded art paper. But the paper I use most often (by a narrow margin) is Canson Mi-Teintes. Why? Mostly the colors. Canson Mi-Teintes comes in a rainbow of colors that are perfect when I want to do a portrait-style drawing with a plain background.

Portrait of a Black Horse is drawn on Steel Gray Canson Mi-Teintes paper. The paper has enough tooth for lots of layering, and the color was the perfect middle value.

Stonehenge and Stonehenge Aqua are the next favorite papers. The 140lb hot press Stonehenge Aqua looks and feels like white Stonehenge regular paper, but handles wet media better. Dry media works extremely well on it, so I can see the day coming when I no longer use regular Stonehenge.

After that, it’s a toss up and I often choose papers based on what I have in stock most of the time when I don’t want to work on either of those listed above.

The papers I currently have in stock are:

My Favorite Pencils

At present, I have only two brands of pencils. A full set of Prismacolor pencils (with all the non-lightfast colors removed) and a full set of Faber-Castell Polychromos.

Wax-based Prismacolor pencils are quite soft. They lay down easily and are capable of a high degree of blending with or without solvent. They can be sharpened well enough to draw a lot of detail, but tend to break if you apply too much pressure.

The best paper and pencils for Afternoon Graze was Prismacolor pencils on Bristol Vellum paper.
Afternoon Graze was drawn entirely with Prismacolor Premier pencils on Bristol vellum 146lb paper. The combination of soft, wax-based pencils and smooth paper helped me draw detail with a minimum of effort.

Oil-based Polychromos are harder, so they resist breaking even when sharpened to a sharper point. They don’t create wax bloom, but they also don’t burnish quite as well as the softer Prismacolor pencils.

I use both brands in most drawings. Usually, I start with Polychromos, then switch to Prismacolor when I need to lay down more color or want to burnish.

But I also mix them if I need a color that’s only available in one brand.

I used Prismacolor and Polychromos for this drawing, also on Bristol Vellum.

Pencils I’d recommend for the serious fine artist (or anyone who wants to become a serious fine artist) include:

I don’t currently use and never used any of these brands, but they come from companies with a good name in the industry and with a proven customer-service track record. I trust them to provide a quality product.

The list includes hard and soft pencils, wax-based and oil-based. Buy a few colors in open stock and try them to find those you like best.

The Best Paper and Pencils for Your Art

Those are my recommendations for the best paper and pencils for colored pencil art.

As mentioned before, it’s difficult to do more than make general recommendations and share my favorites because there are so many ways to make art.

So my best advice is to find an artist creating the type of artwork you want to create and see what paper and pencils they use.

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Colored Pencils on Drafting Film: Where to Find Help

Today’s question comes from a reader looking for help using colored pencils on drafting film. Here’s the question:

I need instruction on handling Dura-lar drafting film. Do you know of any books or articles regarding this ground?

Thank you for your question. Drafting film is popular now, so there’s a lot of information available.

Where to Find Help Using Colored Pencils on Drafting Film

While I have yet to try drafting film personally, I am always watching videos and participating in discussions, so I can point you in the right direction! Following are a few of the better sources I’ve discovered.

Where to Find Help Using Colored Pencils on Drafting Film

Since there are so many resources available, let me share a few videos, then a few books and printed material, and finally social media resources. Some of them will deal specifically with Dura-Lar.

Videos about Drafting Film

Lisa Ann Watkins (Animal Art by LAW) uses drafting film for some of her colored pencil work. She has three or four videos about drafting film on her YouTube channel. The best place to start is her Introduction to Drafting Film video.

Bonny Snowdon also uses drafting film for many of her pet portraits. She has a very good real-time video on drafting film, Drawing Dog Eyes on Drafting Film.

Both artists also have Patreon channels. For a small monthly fee, you can get access to all of their videos, not just those about drafting film. You can find Bonny’s Patreon channel here, and Lisa’s Patreon channel here.

Many other artists have also published videos about drafting film and colored pencils. Search for “colored pencils on drafting film” and you’ll get dozens of potentially helpful videos.

Karen Hull’s website includes a full page dedicated to drafting film and how to use it. She explains the differences between drafting film and regular papers, the differences in drafting films, special techniques, and framing finished art.

Drafting Film Books & Tutorials

Ann Kullberg* has two resources that may be of help to you.

One is a drawing tutorial featuring peppers drawn on drafting film. Plenty O’ Peppers* is by Gretchen Evans Parker, and Gretchen walks you step-by-step through her drawing process.

There are also a couple other kits for beginners on drafting film.

All three come in a digital format you can download today, or in print. Plenty O’ Peppers also comes in a bundle that includes the printed tutorial and a few sheets of drafting film.

CP Surfaces: Drafting Film* is a book published by Ann. It contains several projects on drafting film by Gretchen Evans Parker. The book features five full demos ranging from marbles and abstract glass, to a duck on water.

*Affiliate link

Karen Hull also has a wide variety of kits and tutorials available for artists at all levels, including drafting film kits. Subjects include still life and portrait work, as well as a graphite tutorial on drafting film.

Colored Pencil Art Groups

There are several good colored pencil groups on Facebook.

At the time I’m writing this article, I’m a member of Colored Pencil Animal Artists, Colored Pencils for Beginners and Beyond, and Colored Pencil Pushers. All three groups are great places to get questions answered, see how other artists are doing what they do, and get tips on different types of supports.

Participation is free, but you will have to apply to each group and be juried in. Colored Pencil Pushers is a group specifically for experienced and advanced artists, but go ahead and apply. No matter what level you think you may be currently, your work will have to speak for you, and it may be accepted!

Social art groups can be a great place to find help using colored pencils on drafting film

Drafting film is currently a favorite support in all three groups. They’re free to join, though you need to apply, and the beginner’s group is especially helpful if you’re new to colored pencils.

Artworks on Drafting Film is a Facebook group dedicated to drafting film. It covers all media, but is an invaluable group if you want to learn all about drawing on drafting film.

Those are just a few places to find help if you want to use colored pencils on drafting film.

There are a lot more videos, tutorials, and other resources available, but you will find something in this selection to get you started!

I can just about guarantee it!

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Sanded Art Paper & Drawing Paper: 5 Differences

Have you tried sanded art paper with colored pencil yet?

If you haven’t, you may be wondering why you should. After all, isn’t it just like drawing on sand paper from the local hardware store? (And who wants to do that?)

That’s the way I thought before my first experiments with sanded art paper. I almost didn’t try it, because I just couldn’t see how it would work.

But I’m glad I took the plunge! There are a lot of differences between sanded art paper and traditional drawing paper. Some pretty big—and surprising—differences.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

Now that I’ve created several pieces on sanded art papers, it’s time to share with you what I’ve learned. Both good and bad.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Drawing Paper

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper. More recently, Clairefontaine Pastelmat has entered the market.

In another post, I described 6 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil. A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sandpaper.

I’ve used only Uart and Fisher 400. Following are five of the biggest differences I discovered.

Paper Strength

This is a good difference.

Sanded papers are much stronger than most traditional papers. The substrate itself is heavier than most drawing paper. Combined with the coating of grit, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally damage the paper, so you can be as aggressive in applying color as you like.

Many sanded art papers are also available mounted to rigid supports for even better durability.

An additional upside to this is that you do not have to frame sanded art paper under glass if you don’t want to. It’s advisable, but not absolutely necessary, as is the case with traditional art papers.

Detailed Line Drawings

Transferring a detailed line drawing is difficult. You can’t use a light box because the paper is so thick. Transfer papers of any type are also unsatisfactory on some of the coarser surfaces.

I’ve found this difference to be less than ideal. I like detailed line drawings when I do portraits. For a while, that made sanded art papers a no-go for me.

But many artists use the grid method or a projector to transfer their drawings. Both are acceptable alternatives to regular transfer papers, and both give great results.

Another alternative is light sketching right on the paper. I usually start landscapes with just a basic sketch, so most of my drawings on sanded art paper have been landscapes.

August Morning in Kansas
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

August Morning in Kansas (above) is one of the most recent and it’s the best one so far. I’ve started all of them with simple sketches.

Sharp Pencils

You don’t need sharp pencils to work with sanded paper. In fact, sharp pencils can be a detriment. They break easily on the gritty surface, and even if they don’t, you get two or three strokes before they go blunt.

So forget sharpening. Use your pencils more like pastels. It’ll be a lot less frustrating.

Forget preserving your pencils, too. Sanded art paper quite literally “eats them for lunch!”

But that’s not as bad as it sounds, because most of that color is going onto the paper. Yes, pencils wear down more quickly, but you’re building color more quickly, too. The details in the trees in August Morning in Kansas are lighter colors applied over darker colors.

And just in case you’ve heard the rumors about pigment dust when you draw on sanded papers, it’s true. But you probably haven’t heard that you can use a bristle brush to push that dust into the tooth of the paper so it’s not wasted!

Show me another drawing paper you can do that with!

Pigment dust can be dry blended into sanded art paper.
Use brushes like this to dry blend pigment dust into the surface of sanded art paper.

Thick Color Layers

Thick layers of color work better than thin glazes. Even with the smoothest sanded papers, the tooth is such that getting an even color layer is next to impossible without solvent.

And light pressure? Forget it. Medium to medium-heavy pressure is going to be a lot more productive.

The best part? You can absolutely layer light over dark and it will show up. Try that with any traditional drawing paper.

Is this a good difference or a bad one?

I haven’t made up my mind yet. I have a naturally light hand so working on sanded art papers requires a definite adjustment in working methods.

But as I mentioned above, I can add so many layers even with medium pressure or heavier, that working on sanded paper is getting less and less frustrating.

Excellent Tooth

If you’ve ever had trouble getting colored pencil to stick after a certain number of layers, the tooth of sanded art paper is a good difference.

Granted, it will take a lot more layers to get fine detail if that’s what you’re after and you may find the extra layers not to be worth the trouble.

But if you take the time, the tooth will definitely work for you.

This little drawing (3-1/2 by 2-1/2) is the first drawing I did on sanded art paper. I drew it like I always draw and the tooth didn’t help. See all those dots in the sky? Paper holes. I wasn’t able to fill in the tooth at all, and although the result was very painterly, I didn’t like it.

Spring in CP
Spring in Colored Pencil
Colored Pencil on Sanded Paper

It took a long time before I tried colored pencil on sanded paper again, but the results were much more satisfactory. I was already learning how to use sanded art paper.

East of Camp Creek
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

Conclusion

If you give sanded art papers a try, be prepared to do some bad drawings for the first few. It’s a great drawing surface, but there is a very definite learning curve!

Even so, I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different.

Interested in reading more? I wrote a good mini clinic for EmptyEasel based on that first, small drawing. I think you’ll find it useful. Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

Alternatives to Drawing Paper for Colored Pencil

Are there alternatives to drawing paper for use with colored pencil?

The short answer is yes. There are times when choosing the best support for your next drawing involves choosing something other than drawing paper.

Alternatives to Drawing Paper for Colored Pencil

Why You Might Want Alternatives to Drawing Paper

First, lets take a look at a couple of reasons why you might be looking for drawing paper alternatives. (There are more than you might expect.)

You Need to Frame Without Glass

It is possible to frame colored pencil art without glass, but you need to make preparation from the beginning. Since the primary reason for framing colored pencil drawings under glass is to protect the drawing paper, the only way to safely frame without glass is to draw on a rigid support—something that cannot be easily torn or punctured.

Some drawing papers are available with rigid backing, but not all. So if you need (or want) a rigid support, you need an alternative to traditional paper.

You Want Your Colored Pencil Drawings to Look More Like Paintings

There is a perception that artwork on paper is less valuable than artwork on supports such as canvas, canvas panel, or hardwood. The bias isn’t usually accurate—most mediums suitable for paper are just as archival as other mediums if used and displayed correctly—but the bias does exist.

Colored pencils can be used on all of the rigid supports above and many others. I’ve tried it on canvas and have drawn on wood supports and liked the results.

You Want Your Colored Pencil Drawings to be More “Approachable”

A lot of colored pencil artists perceive glass to be an obstacle between their work and the audience. To avoid that, they frame colored pencil art without glass.

You and Traditional Drawing Paper Just Don’t Get Along

It may be that traditional drawing papers just don’t work with your method of drawing. That’s perfectly all right! Nothing works all of the time for everyone. Even those of us who like drawing paper often have several favorites. I know I do.

But sometimes, an artist needs something totally different. Watercolor paper for watercolor pencils or mixed media. Sanded paper for lots of layering. The list is endless.

That’s when you need a alternative to drawing paper.

You Want to Experiment

Lets face it, some of us just like to try new things! There’s nothing wrong with that! Alternatives to drawing paper are only one way to experiment, but they are often the least expensive way to experiment.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to draw on something besides paper, what are your choices?

4 Alternatives to Drawing Paper

In a previous article, I described some of the non-paper supports I’ve drawn on. You can read about mat board, sanded art papers, and wood in 3 Excellent Drawing Paper Alternatives, so I won’t do more than just mention them here. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the other types of drawing paper alternatives.

Let’s begin with something I mentioned earlier: drawing paper boards.

Bristol Paper Boards

These papers are all mounted on rigid supports that are archival and acid-free. Most of them can withstand heavy use, and some are even capable of holding up under light washes of water soluble color.

There only two disadvantages:

First, they are probably not the type of support you’d want to frame without glass. They are more durable than drawing paper, but because they are drawing paper mounted to a rigid support, they are still susceptible to damage.

Second, they are available in only two surfaces: Vellum and plate. Plate is very smooth and are therefore not reliable for drawing methods that require lots of layering. Vellum is better for layering, but may still be too smooth. As I mentioned in our discussion of paper tooth, neither may be suitable if you do a lot of layering.

I’ve included Rising Museum Board in the list below, but it is actually not intended as a drawing surface. It’s not a surface I’ve drawn on before, but I do like Rising Stonehenge paper, so wouldn’t be afraid to give this a try. I’ve also used mat board effectively, so wouldn’t be afraid to try this.

The links below are to the Dick Blick website, where more information is available on each support.

Suede Board

Gemma Gylling has been using suede board for years and creates the most phenomenal pet and wildlife artwork.

I’ll be honest. I was biased against suede mat board because of past experiences with velvet paint-by-numbers. I tried one or two of those and absolutely, positively did not like them. So whenever someone asked if I’d tried colored pencil on suede board, I said I hadn’t. I didn’t intend to, either.

But colored pencil works much more nicely on suede mat board than oil paints work on velvet. All I had to do was draw one eye from imagination on a sample of blue suede board to decide I wanted to try it for a larger drawing (stay tuned for a work-in-progress demonstration on that).

Although its surface is best described as “plushy”, it can take a lot of color. You can also render a lot of detail on it. You will have to adjust color application methods somewhat and you’ll need to build up three or four layers before the colors begin to pop, at least on the darker color I was using.

But it produces a type of drawing that I’ve not been able to duplicate on any other paper. It’s definitely worth a try.

Pastel Boards

Pastel boards are designed to be drawn on with pastels. They generally have more tooth because pastels require more tooth to stick to the drawing surface. Some are actually sanded art papers, while others are just a toothier form of drawing paper. There are so many that I can list only a few here.

But you may recognize many of the brand names: Names like UArt, Art Spectrum, Canson Mi-Teintes.

Most of these surfaces are listed as “multi-media”. I’ve seen the most luscious oil paintings on Ampersand Pastelbord, for example.

Some of these supports are on my wish list. All of them sound intriguing. If one of your primary reasons for wanting to draw on something other than drawing paper is framing without glass, give one of these a try.

Canvas

The last surface I’ll look at today is canvas. Plain and simple oil or acrylic painting canvas. Granted, this is not a support I’ve ever considered, though John Ursillo’s work on canvas does make the prospect more inviting. Canvas is so toothy that about the only way to use it successfully with colored pencil is to use solvents to melt the color down into the weave.

Master that method, though, and you can produce any level of detail you desire AND have a surface that never needs glass in the framing process.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the more common alternatives to drawing paper. There are many others, so if you really want to experiment, you have lots of options.

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Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils?

A short time ago, I wrote a post about the best colored pencil papers. Jana Botkin read that post and had a question.

Will you expand on the paper in the basic list? I use Strathmore 400 series Bristol smooth for graphite, but prefer the vellum for cp. Which surface and weight were you thinking of? The Michael’s in my county only carries 300 series, which has inconsistent grain, so I order from Blick. –Jana Botkin

Thank you for your question, Jana. I’d be glad to share my thoughts on drawing paper. There are a lot of choices available so I’m confident many of your fellow readers have the same question.

Best Colored Pencil Papers

Best Papers for Colored Pencils

The truth is, choosing paper for colored pencil work is as much a personal preference as anything else. So many things factor into those decisions. Jana mentioned the surface and weight of the paper and those are two important things to consider.

But they aren’t the only things, so before I get to my recommendations, lets take a look at a few “paper basics”.

Paper Basics

There are six things to consider when considering which paper to buy. Fiber, weight, surface texture, sizing, longevity, and color.

Fiber

Paper is made from plant fibers. The most common plants for paper making are cotton, linen, flax, jute, hemp, bamboo, rice straw or rattan. The size and shape of these fibers determine the type and sturdiness of the paper.

Cotton papers are made from cotton fibers, the longest fibers of all the plant types. It’s generally considered the highest quality paper and is referred to as 100% cotton rag. 100% cotton rag paper can withstand heavy erasing and drawing. The highest quality 100% cotton paper can last over 100 years, but not all cotton papers are the same. The shorter the fibers, the more the paper may tend to get “fuzzy” with use. Check the specifications on cotton paper to know what you’re buying.

Cellulose papers are made from wood pulp. Wood pulp papers are usually less expensive, but they’re also usually less archival (long lasting). That’s because wood pulp contains a natural acid that breaks down the fibers over time. Buffers can be added during the manufacturing process to neutralize the acids. Look for the words “buffer”, “buffered”, or “neutral” when deciding which cellulose paper to buy.

Weight

Paper weight is a measurement of the thickness—or heaviness—of paper. Traditionally, it’s been measured by weighing 500 sheets (a ream) at a standard size. The more a ream of paper weighs, the thicker each sheet is.

The thicker a sheet of paper is, the more color it can accept without buckling (if you’re using wet media), tearing, or falling apart.

Tracing paper is a light-weight paper. Strathmore 300 series papers are heavier. Card stock papers are still heavier.

Papers used to always be measured in pounds. 300-pound watercolor paper, for example.

But many art paper manufacturers have converted to a grams per square inch (gsm) measurement. A 50-pound paper is the same as an 81gsm paper. Many art retailers show both forms of measurement.

Surface Texture

Surface texture is properly known as “finish” when discussing art papers. How the paper is dried during manufacture determines the finish.

Paper with a rough finish is allowed to air dry without being smoothed or pressed. The resulting finish is very textured and is best suited for water media and pastel.

Cold press paper has been pressed before it dries. Handmade papers and machine made papers are pressed in different ways, but the result is the same. The surface fibers are “pressed down” somewhat. Since the pressing is done without heat, the paper isn’t completely smooth. Cold-press paper is the most popular and versatile and is suitable for most media, depending on its weight.

Hot press paper is made by pressing newly made paper through heated metal rollers or plates. All texture left after manufacture is pressed out of the paper. This paper is excellent for highly-detailed illustrations, printmaking, etching, drafting, sketching, and drawing.

Sizing

Sizing is added to make paper more water-resistant. The paper doesn’t absorb as much moisture or pigment, so watercolors and inks stay brighter and lines stay crisper.  It’s less important for papers used for dry media. Sizing also can affect a paper’s archival qualities.

Internal sizing is added while the paper pulp is still in a liquid state. It becomes part of the paper.

External, Surface or Tub sizing is applied to the surface of the paper after the sheet is formed and dried. Some paper is both internally and surface-sized.

Longevity

Also known as being archival. Archival papers have a proven history of stability over time. They don’t yellow or fade. They’re also more likely to be acid-free, which means they contain little or no cellulose acid natural to wood pulp papers.

Many sketching papers are wood-pulp based papers and are not archival. They’re perfectly suited for sketching, but if you want your drawings to last a long, long time, use higher quality papers.

Color

Some drawing papers come in only one color. White.

But many others are available in a range of colors. Working on colored paper can be both fun and frustrating. Paper color does affect the way colored pencil looks, but it can also provide a good foundation for your drawing and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a colored pencil drawing.

What I Use & Why

I buy the best-quality papers possible for colored pencil work because many of my drawings are portraits. Portraits or not, I want all of my best drawings to  look fresh and new for years.

My favorite papers are Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and Bristol Vellum pretty much in that order.

Stonehenge

I’ve used Stonehenge for years. It’s a cotton-based paper suitable for watercolor (in limited amounts), drawing, and printmaking. It has enough tooth to take a lot of color, but is smooth enough for drawing details. It’s available in several sheet sizes, in pads, and rolls, and comes in white and a selection of light colors and black. It has no sizing (that I’m aware of) so the surface is relatively soft, almost velvety.

It’s my go-to paper for large and small drawings. For smaller drawings, the 90-lb (250 gsm) is very good, but I prefer the heavier 120-lb (320 gsm) paper. It’s also available as a rigid support, which I haven’t yet tried.

The biggest disadvantage to Stonehenge is that it can be difficult to find locally. I order mine from Dick Blick.

It also should be handled with care, since the surface can be easily impressed. Flat storage for sheets is recommended.

Canson Mi-Teintes

Canson makes Mi-Teintes paper for pastel artists, so it has quite a bit of surface texture (tooth) on the front. The texture is also mechanical in nature. Lay a little color over the paper and you see a pattern of hexagon shapes.

But the back is less textured and the texture is less dramatic. It still has more texture than Stonehenge, but it’s great for colored pencil work of all types.

What makes Canson Mi-Teintes one of my favorite papers is that it handles solvent blending and a moderate amount of water media work with ease. Make sure it’s taped securely to a rigid support and you can do several solvent blends in a single drawing.

Bristol Vellum

Bristol paper is a more economical paper. Usually acid-free and generally heavier than other papers, it’s often referred to as “Bristol board”; usually 100-lb (270 gsm).

It comes in two surfaces. The smooth (or regular) surface is very smooth and somewhat slick.

Vellum finish has a little more tooth and is ideal for drawing. I have a pad of it in my paper drawer and use it for article illustrations, but layering a lot of color can be difficult without the use of solvents or workable fixative.

Bristol comes only in white and is available from a variety of manufacturers. I currently am using Beinfang Bristol Vellum because it’s available in 146 pounds.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper

If you’re been following this blog for any length of time, you know I frequently post tutorials. The subjects differ, but the focus of all those tutorials is showing you how to do something. This week, I want to share some things not to do when using watercolor paper!

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper

This may seem like an odd topic for a how-to blog, but I can’t tell you how many things I’ve tried that were disasters. Nor can I tell you how many times I’ve wished someone would have warned me before I tried those things.

So I decided to share some experiences with the hope of saving you a few ruined pieces of paper or nearly finished drawings. Are you ready?

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper

Don’t Forget to Tape Your Paper!

Unless you’re working very small or using a rigid support, you MUST tape watercolor paper to a back board of some kind. If you don’t, the paper will buckle if you use too much water.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - Don't Forget the Masking Tape

If you happen to be using a paper like Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes (both of which can handle modest amounts of water or solvent,) you have to tape them to a back board. That’s the only way they’ll dry flat.

(I have tried working on small pieces of Stonehenge without taping it first. It does dry. It does NOT dry flat.)

Don’t use a misting bottle to blend color

I’m all for saving time whenever possible. Once while working on a small watercolor pencil piece, I tried wetting a piece of paper with a misting bottle. I wanted to drop color onto a wet surface and what could possibly be easier or faster than spritzing the paper a couple of times?

Big mistake!

Even at the finest setting, way too much water ended up on the paper.

So much that it pooled on the paper, and ran off the edges. I let the paper dry on a piece of paper towel, but it didn’t dry completely flat.

The place where the water (and color) pooled also left marks I was not able to cover over despite adding several more layers of wet and dry color on top of it. Fortunately, those marks lent themselves to the drawing I ended up doing, but I do not recommend a misting bottle.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - No Misting Bottles!

Don’t keep blending

As an oil painter, my philosophy was that if one stroke was good, two were better, and there was no harm in three.

The problem is that there can be harm in two or three strokes. It’s called over blending in oil painting.

With watercolor pencils, it’s called destructive.

Once the color is wet, it’s very easy to move around. The best thing you can do is stroke the paper once to blend the color, then leave it alone.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - One Stroke and Leave It

If you happen to be adding color with a brush, you have a little more room for multiple strokes. But in almost all cases, the fewer brush strokes, the better!

Don’t always use little brushes

The best way to minimize the number of strokes you need is to use the largest brush possible for each area.

Small brushes are great for blending small areas or adding details. But small brushes require a lot of strokes for larger areas. The more strokes, the more chances for unwanted edges where strokes overlap.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - Largest Brushes

Also use a soft brush. If you have a naturally light touch, you can probably get away with using a bristle brush, but only if that’s all you have.

And forget a sponge brush! That sounds like the logical choice, but it isn’t. Sponges soak up water. When you’re using water soluble colored pencils, that means a sponge brush will also soak up color. So unless you need to lighten a color, avoid the sponge brushes!

Don’t draw with a dry pencil on wet paper

This is the most important advice I can offer. Why? Because it applies not only to watercolor pencils on watercolor paper. It also applies to paper that’s still wet from a solvent blend.

Absolutely, positively do NOT use a dry pencil on wet paper! Paper is especially delicate when wet. Drawing on it with a dry pencil—especially a well-sharpened dry pencil—can put a hole in the paper.

At the very least, you risk scuffing the surface of the paper.

Yes, you may be able to get some neat affects with this method, but do you really want to risk ruining a drawing? I sure don’t.

Conclusion

Those are five things not to do when using watercolor paper with colored pencils. Those aren’t the only things you should avoid, so if you’ve tried something that ended up disastrously, leave a comment below!

Drawing on Colored Papers to Finish Faster

Looking for an easy way to complete colored pencil work faster? Have you considered drawing on colored papers?

If not, you should.

Drawing on Colored Papers to Finish Faster

One of the most frequent complaints about colored pencil as a medium is the amount of time needed to finish a piece. If the drawing is very large or if you work in a representational style, you can easily spend weeks on a single project.

Maybe even months.

Blending with rubbing alcohol or turpentine are two ways to create layers of vibrant, saturated color quickly, but there’s an even more basic method you might want to consider.

Drawing on Colored Papers to Reduce Drawing Time

Using a colored support is a great way to jump start your next colored pencil project. If you choose a color that provides a base color or a base complementary color to most of the drawing, you won’t need to draw that base as you would if you were to do the same drawing on white paper.

Art papers and museum quality mat boards are available in an array of colors from pastel tints to bright primaries.

An artist with an adventurous streak could spend a year doing the same drawing over and over on different colors and never use the same color twice.

Those two factors alone give you an idea of how  much time you can save by drawing on colored paper. Let’s take a look at a few more.

Drawing on colored papers is a great way to set a mood from the start.

Let’s say you want to depict a landscape on a rainy day. You love the light of a gray day and those deeply saturated colors make you itch to draw them.

If you work on white paper, you’ll use a lot of grays and spend a lot of time creating the atmosphere of your subject on a gray day.

Choose light gray or light gray-green paper, on the other hand, and more than half the work is done before you put pencil to paper. Gray paper provides an excellent base for a gray sky or misty air with very little work. Gray-green paper is a good base for the greens in a landscape. Either way, you can skip most of the grays in your pencil box and focus on the subject.

Add a little texture to make color even more time saving.

If you choose a surface with a bit of texture as I did for West of Bazaar below, you can save even more time and still get great results by letting the tooth do some of the work for you. Especially if you’re drawing a rainy landscape or other subject with a soft focus look.

Drawing on Colored Papers - West of Bazaar

The same scene drawn on white paper, blue paper, or even a brighter paper, would produce different results, and create different moods.

August Morning in Kansas (below) was drawn on sanded art paper. Most sanded art papers are some shade of tan, though Uart now makes a dark gray version, as well.

The tooth of the paper and the color perfectly suited my idea for the hazy, hot August morning I wanted to draw. I could have gotten much the same results with a cream, gray or white paper, but it would have taken more time and effort.

Drawing on Colored Papers - August Morning in Kansas

August Morning in Kansas was my contribution to Ann Kullberg’s DRAW Landscapes book*. The book includes a step-by-step tutorial on this piece.

Colored paper can provide a base color or middle values.

This drawing of Blizzard Babe was drawn on light gray mat board. The gray color provided an ideal foundation for this light gray filly and her black gear.

It also worked very well with the blue accents, and was a good foil for the flesh tones.

But the real time saver came in painting the blanket. Or rather, what I didn’t have to paint. Most of the work necessary involved adding highlights and reflected light, and the blue trim. Everything else? That’s the color of the mat board!

Drawing on Colored Papers Blizzard Babe

For Buckles & Belts in Colored Pencil, I chose light brown mat board with a neutral tint. The color provided a natural highlight color for the horse. It was also a great base color for all of the other colors in the horse’s coat.

I had to draw the facial marking and accent the eye and buckles, but did very little with the background. A light glaze of light blue to create the cool tint of a distant sky and it was done.

Since I painted this piece using the umber under drawing method, beginning with a surface that was already close to the middle values allowed me to concentrate on the shadows and darker middle values. A considerable time-saver for a complex subject like this.

Drawing on Colored Papers Buckles & Belts

Colored papers improve sketching speed by providing a second (or third color) for limited palette sketches or studies.

I’ve been drawing outside a lot.

Or looking through a window to draw something outside.

Many of my sketching happens while in the car, when I don’t have all of my pencils. Most of the time, I grab a handful of pencils when I leave the house and do limited-palette sketches and studies.

But even with just one or two pencils, I can make a realistic sketch in much less time by working on colored paper.

This drawing, for example. I used one brown pencil on Fawn Stonehenge paper to create this tree study in 30 minutes or less. I could have added a white pencil to draw highlights and made the drawing even more three-dimensional.

Drawing on Colored Papers - Plein Air Drawing

Drawing on Colored Papers is A Great Time Saver

No matter how you work or what you prefer to draw, drawing on colored papers can save you a ton of time and help you finish each piece faster. And you know what that means.

You can finish more pieces!

And isn’t that a goal to which we all aspire?

*Affiliate Link

Tips for Using Sanded Pastel Paper

Lets talk about sanded pastel paper today. You know, that paper that looks and feels like the sandpaper from the local hardware store.

And lets begin with a reader question.

I was interested in the brand of sanded paper you prefer to use. I’ve used Uart 800 before but I find it a little hard to work on. I would appreciate your opinion.

Tips for Using Sanded Pastel Paper

The paper I use most is Uart, but that’s not because it’s better than any other paper out there. It’s because I started wtih Uart. I have also used Fisher 400 and while there isn’t much difference between them if you use 400 grit paper. I prefer the finer grits available through Uart.

How I Got Started Using Sanded Pastel Paper

I got a sample pack from Uart years ago. It contained the four “grits” they had available at the time. If I remember correctly, that was 400, 500, 600, and 800.

I chose to try the 800 grit because I thought it was the closest to regular drawing paper. It isn’t. None of them are like regular drawing paper in the least.

Read how I used sanded pastel paper for this first drawing on EmptyEasel.

My Initial Response to Sanded Pastel Paper

After finishing that first ACEO, I thought sanded pastel paper was interesting, but not something I wanted to use on a regular basis.

Then I received a request for a project on sanded pastel paper. I didn’t want to turn that down, so I looked up those sample sheets and ordered more, then started practicing. The first couple of drawings were satisfactory, but were also definitely learning experiences!

By the third or fourth one, I was beginning to find my stride. You know what? I also realized I liked drawing on sanded pastel papers.

Tips for Using Sanded Pastel Paper

Those “practice drawings” revealed that the right methods, and the right pencils go a long way toward making sanded pastel paper useful and now I almost prefer it to any other type of paper for landscapes.

Following are a few suggestions to consider if you’re thinking about trying this unique drawing surface.

Find the Right Paper

Uart is my preferred sanded paper, but there are others. Fisher 400 is a good paper and comes in sheets, rolls, and in board form. Ampersand pastelbord and Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded papers (and panels) are available in a variety of colors. Canson Mi-Teintes is also now available in a sanded surface. A lot of artists are also using Clairefontaine Patelmat.

Although they are all sanded papers, they’re not all be the same. To find the best fit, try as many as you can afford, or care to try.

Try Different Grits

“Grit” refers to the coarseness of the paper. The lower the number, the coarser the paper. I don’t know about other companies, but Uart has six different grits, ranging from 240 to 800.

I’ve used 400, 500, 600, and 800, and prefer the finer grits, but will also be trying some of the coarser papers. 600 and 800 grit are my favorites.

Try the different grits to find the one that suits your working methods and drawing style best.

Try Different Pencils

So far, I’ve used Prismacolor Soft Core, Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless, and Faber-Castell Polychromos.

Faber-Castell Polychromos work the best (for me.) They blend with a stiff brush with or without solvent. They also produce a powdery residue you can blend with a dry, stiff brush, almost like pastel.

Woodless pencils (I use Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless pencils) are great for laying down a lot of color fast. I haven’t tried dry blending them with a stiff brush, but I don’t think they produce the same amount of powder as the oil-based Polychromos. I’m going to have to do some testing on that to find out for sure.

Woodless colored pencils are ideal for laying down initial color on sanded pastel paper. Not only are they larger than even the largest colored pencil; you can use them like a piece of chalk and draw with the sides.

If you work large, or if there are large expanses of color in your composition, give this a try. The speed with which you can block in colors and shapes is amazing.

Or use your regular pencils like a pastel and draw with the side of the exposed pigment core.

General to Specific

Working on sanded pastel paper is a lot like training a dog (or cat—yes, it is possible.) It’s best to start general and work toward specific.

What do I mean by that? Roughly block in colors, values, and shapes, then develop detail.

Because of the tooth of the paper, you can continue to add details, accents and even highlights late in the drawing process. Even the finest grits take additional color after a dozen or more layers.

You Can Work Light over Dark

It is possible to work light over dark with most colored pencils on sanded pastel paper. It’s not the same as painting light over dark, but you can add lighter or bright highlights if you need to.

It’s still advisable to work around highlights whenever possible, but sanded pastel papers are more forgiving in this area than most traditional drawing papers.

Conclusion

Those are just a few of the things I’ve learned about how drawing with sanded pastel papers differ from drawing on regular papers. The bottom line is that it’s to your benefit to experiment, and that it is worth the effort.

Want to Know More?

I wrote an article on this subject for EmptyEasel. 5 Tips for Drawing on Sanded Pastel Paper with Colored Pencils features additional tips for drawing on sanded pastel paper.

2 Questions About Paper and Pencils

Today I want to answer two questions about paper and pencils. The questions were asked by Linda after she read Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils? I answered her comment directly, then decided to expand on those answers.

2 Questions About Paper and Pencils

First, I want to thank Linda for taking the time to read that post and to ask her question. I’ve learned over the years that if one student has a question, it’s likely other students do, too, so I’m grateful for everyone who asks questions!

If you have a question, may I encourage you to ask it? It’s easy to do. Just click on the Ask Carrie button at the right or at the bottom of this page, or follow this link. Fill out the form, hit SEND, and that’s it. I will answer you directly, of course, but you may also provide the topic for a more in-depth post!

Now, on to the answer to Linda’s questions!

2 Questions About Paper and Pencils

Is Stonehenge in the pad different from Stonehenge full sheets?

I read somewhere that the Stonehenge pad and Stonehenge single sheets are different. I have been buying the pad, because I have to order from online also and shipping and handling costs become a factor. Are the single sheets of a higher quality opposed to the pad? Does it have more tooth? I also use Saunders Waterford Hot press and Strathmore Bristol Vellum.

Stonehenge full sheets were designed for printmaking, so they’re a soft-ish, absorbent paper. They take a lot of layers, but can also have marks or lines impressed in them quite easily by accident.

The pads have a smoother finish. To me, the surface is a little “harder.” Almost like Bristol.

It seems to me the full sheets have more tooth than the pads. However, the company says the formulation and manufacturing process is exactly the same, so the quality is the same for full sheets and for pads.

Is one better than the other? No. They’re just different. But one will definitely suit certain methods better than the other.

For example, I do a lot of layering and blending by drawing one color over another with light to medium pressure. But, I like deep color and full saturation (no paper color showing through the colored pencil.) For me, the full sheets definitely provide a better surface.

The fact is, that while I used to use Bristol vellum as well, I considered that paper better suited to more direct drawing methods with fewer layers applied with heavier pressure. I drew Afternoon Graze (below) on Bristol Vellum, but if I were to do a similar drawing and wanted a smoother paper, I’d use Stonehenge in the pad.

Questions About Paper and Pencils - Afternoon Graze

If you like Bristol, the Stonehenge pads are probably going to work better for you. They also come in more colors than either Bristol or watercolor paper!

PS

By the way, I took a look at Saunders Waterford watercolor paper. It looks interesting! I might have to get a sheet of hot press and give it a try.

Are Certain Pencils Better for Certain Papers?

I have been using Pablo pencils. Recently I bought a set of [Faber-Castell] Polychromos. They seem to be fine on the Stonehenge paper but not so much on my other paper. I have never heard or read anyone saying a certain pencil works better on one paper or another. Have you experienced a difference? Or is this just me getting used to a different pencil?

Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils are the same basic formulation as Caran d’Ache Luminance, except that the pigment cores are harder. They hold a point longer and are better for fine detail. If you’ve ever used Prismacolor Verithin, that’s what Pablos are like. They’re all wax-based pencils, but the ratio of pigment to wax binder is different. In short, the Pablos have less wax.

Faber-Castell pencils are oil-based pencils. They are harder than Prismacolor Soft Core pencils, but not as hard as the Verithin or Pablo pencils. As with the Pablos, the hardness is due to there being less wax in the Polychromos.

But the oil binder also makes a difference. It responds differently to paper than wax binder does. Some artists refer to the feel of oil-based pencils as “scratchy.”

One of two factors may play a role in the difference you’ve noticed between one paper and another: drawing method and type of paper.

Drawing Method

The softer the pencil, the more quickly it puts color on paper. The harder the pencil, the more difficult it is to get the same amount of color on the paper. By that, I mean you’ll have to do more layers or press a little harder with hard pencils than soft ones.

Hard pencils are better for drawing detail. That’s where they really shine.

I use Prismacolor Soft Core and Faber-Castell Polychromos together. I do the first several layers with Prismacolor, then finish with the Polychromos. The two brands work very well together that way.

Type of Paper

Harder pencils layer better on smoother paper. Bristol vellum and a pencil like Prismacolor Verithin are a great match for a lot of things. They don’t leave as much wax on the paper, so the paper doesn’t get that “slick” feel as quickly.

Oil-based pencils and wax-based pencils with a harder pigment core work on a toothy paper like Canson Mi-Teintes, but they may feel scratchy to you. It may also seem like you’re not making much progress until you’re well into the drawing process. That’s because each pencil stroke leaves less pigment on the paper.

I have a drawing in progress on Canson Mi-Teintes that I started with Polychromos back when I first got them. It was going to be my review project.

But l didn’t do more than two or three layers before switching to Prismacolor because it took so many layers to make an impact, even with a solvent blend.

You may be experiencing the same thing in your work. Try working with a softer pencil first, then switching to the harder pencils for detail work.

Conclusion

The fact of the matter is that you can use almost any pencil on almost any drawing paper, but the results will vary. Some pencils will seem to fight with some papers while gliding onto others.

There is also a lot to be said for having to learn how to use a new brand or type of pencil. They do behave differently. I’ve used Prismacolor pencils for years and the Polychromos disappointed me the first time I put them to paper. But they are good pencils once you learn how they behave and feel.

So I recommend you spend time trying similar drawing methods with each pencil on different types of paper. Figure out which pencils work best for what drawing method and on which paper. Yes, it takes time, but you’re far more likely to learn the best way to use those tools with your drawing methods by simply using them.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Are you ready to experiment with your colored pencils? Maybe you’re looking for something other than paper. How about drawing on wood?

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Yes! I’m serious. Drawing on wood is not a far-fetched idea.

Nor is it a new idea.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Birch wood has long been an accepted support for oil paintings and other artistic mediums. Many of the Great Masters used hard woods as a supports for their oil paintings. Why? Because it was readily accessible, reasonably easy to prepare, and lasted a long time.

Since much of their artwork was for clients and on pieces of furniture, it was also the logical choice.

For some, it may also have been the only choice, since painting on wood pre-dates canvas.

Why Drawing on Wood May Be Your Best Choice

Should you consider wood for colored pencil work? Absolutely, and here are seven reasons why.

Wood is Rigid

It’s a solid support that’s impossible to tear or puncture. No framing required!

The fact of the matter is that some wood supports are designed with keyholes in the back so you can hang them without adding a hanging device.

Wood Grain Makes a Great Background Treatment

You know how many times you’ve wished for a better way to do backgrounds? I’ll bet you never considered wood grain.

You should. Some hardwoods have beautiful wood grain. Depending on the type of art you do, and the subjects you draw, you might not be able to find a more natural fit for a background treatment.

It’s Readily Available

Believe it or not, wood is still readily available in a variety of locations. When’s the last time you visited a lumberyard?

Yes, that wood is milled for construction uses, but if you choose carefully, you can still get great wood for drawing on. The best part? It’s already kiln dried, so you can draw on it immediately.

Don’t want to use lumberyard wood? That’s okay. It’s also available as an art supply from many locations, including Dick Blick. Primed and unprimed selections are available. You will pay more, but the panels come in a variety of standard and exotic hardwoods, and in a number of standard sizes.

I’ve even used wood from a tree felled in our front yard. I had to let it air dry for a year, but it was beautiful to draw on.

It’s Inexpensive

You  can, of course, pay a lot of money for exotic woods, but you don’t have to. Maples, oaks, and other hardwoods are readily available at reasonable prices in most locations.

Especially if you buy from a lumberyard outlet.

Its Long-Lasting

Some of the best preserved oil paintings from centuries ago were painted on wood. Wood lasts just as long if you use colored pencils on it.

Just make sure to use the best, most lightfast pencils you have, though.

It Smells Great

At least I think it does. I love the smell of milled wood! Sawdust even smells good.

But the thing I like best about drawing on wood is….

It Stands on Its Own

Seriously. I did one small piece on a quarter-inch thick piece of wood, and it stands up by itself! Art like that is a great novelty item for people who love art, but may not be able to afford a full size drawing or painting.

Besides, those little drawings make great gifts.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

I hope to do a tutorial on this subject in the future, so stayed tuned.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils Miniature Landscape

In the meantime, I wrote a tutorial on drawing on wood for EmptyEasel, showing you how I drew the miniature landscape shown above. You can read Drawing with Colored Pencils on Wood here.

Are You Curious about Drawing on Wood Yet?

I hope so!

Here are a few recommendations on wood panels to try. They’re all from Dick Blick, but you can find similar products elsewhere.

American Easel Maple Panels

Ampersand Value Series Artist Wood Panels

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed Art Boards Natural Maple Panels

Baltic Birch Panels. I’ve painted on these and they’re absolutely gorgeous for oil painting. One unprimed 16×20 begs constantly to be used for colored pencil work.

Blick Studio Wood Panels

Duho Studios Exotic Hardwood Fine Art Panels. These are quite expensive because the woods are all exotic (have you ever heard of Zebra Wood?) But they’re beautiful!