In a previous post, I shared my thoughts on drawing papers you can use with colored pencils. Today, let’s look at three drawing paper alternatives.
There are enough paper choices to keep most of us happy forever.
But paper isn’t the only thing you can draw on.
3 Excellent Drawing Paper Alternatives
Lets look at the three drawing paper alternatives I’m most familiar with. They aren’t the only alternatives anymore, but they are easy to find and easy to use.
That’s right. The same material you use to frame your colored pencil drawings can also be drawn on. I drew Portrait of Blizzard Babe, shown here, on gray mat board with a medium texture. The tooth is visible in the upper, left corner.
That’s one of the things I like about mat board.
Unlike paper, there’s a wide variety of textures available from rough and almost “pebbly” to egg shell smooth.
If you want something truly unique, you can also use suede mat board. Gemma Gylling has been using suede board for years and creates the most phenomenal pet and wildlife artwork.
Mat board comes in a wide variety of colors, so if you like experimenting with colored supports, give mat board a try. I chose a gray mat board for Portrait of Blizzard Babe because the gray provided an excellent basic color for this wonderful light gray filly and because it reduced the amount of time necessary to produce the portrait.
Mat board comes in full sheets and can be purchased online or at any reputable framer. While you can draw on any type of mat board, use archival or museum quality mat board for your best work. Lesser quality mat board often contains acids that can leach into artwork and cause discoloration.
Pastel artists have been using sanded papers and supports for years, but what about colored pencil?
Here’s a small work I did on UArt Sanded Pastel paper. Spring in Colored Pencil is my first drawing on sanded art paper. Since then, I’ve also used Fisher 400 Pastel Paper and Pastelmat.
Most sanded papers are heavier by nature than standard drawing papers, but many are also available as rigid supports. UArt has a line of sanded pastel panels and Dick Blick has flat panels and cradled panels in a variety of depths. They even have toned panels!
Most sanded drawing surfaces are archival, but not all the substrates are, so shop wisely when you shop for sanded drawing papers.
The biggest advantage for many colored pencil artists is that works can be framed without glass.
That’s right. Basic wood!
When it comes to wood, however, make sure to stick with the types of wood proven by decades of use as oil painting supports. Birches and hardwoods have been popular among oil painters for a long time and they’re also wonderful with colored pencils.
One of the neatest things about wood is that you can find it almost everywhere. Literally. Several years ago, we cut down an old Maple in our front yard. It had been dying for a couple of years, thanks to carpenter ants. After the tree was removed, I collected a few pieces with the intention of drawing on them after they’d cured for a year or two.
But I got a few small pieces from another source and have made a drawing or two on those. The small landscape shown above was drawn on a piece of wood six or seven inches long and roughly two inches tall.
Wood can be drawn on with just a little sanding—which is what I did—or with the more involved preparation of planing and varnishing or painting. You can leave it fairly textured or sand it smooth.
And that little landscape drawing? The piece of wood was thick enough that it stood up on its own! No framing or hanging necessary. It was just right for display on a shelf or a desk.
Two Recommendations when Trying Drawing Paper Alternatives
When trying a new surface, it’s best to experiment a little before you start a major work. The more exotic the surface, the more necessary the experimentation.
The drawings on sanded pastel paper and wood shown above are both very small. The sanded pastel paper is actually an ACEO (3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches). Each piece was large enough to give me a good idea of how color went onto the surface, but not so large that it took days to finish it. I think each of those drawings took no more than an hour and probably a lot less.
Also, whenever you try a new support, it’s a good idea to do a piece you can keep around for a while. Especially with untested supports. You want to get some idea of how permanent the artwork will be on each support and the only way to determine that is to keep a small drawing you can examine. I can’t think of very much that would be worse than selling a lot of drawings on an unproven support and having customers return them when the artwork failed to last.
Beyond that, I encourage you to try supports and have fun.