Is Traditional Drawing Paper a Thing of the Past?

Is Traditional Drawing Paper a Thing of the Past?

Today’s reader question addresses a topic that I find interesting and fun to consider. Is traditional drawing paper a thing of the past?

Let’s begin with the question.

Now that material like Pastelmat is here, I still have lots of drawing paper. Do you think paper is gone by the way as a art medium for colored pencils? I saw a lot of good work on paper a few years ago.

Photographic Film and Buggies

I once answered a similar question from a friend who photographed horses with a 35mm camera and film. (Obviously, this conversation was an old one, but it’s still relevant.)

She wondered out loud if film photography was doomed because of digital cameras. What I told her was that I didn’t think film photography would ever cease to be. Instead, it would become a specialty art. An art form all its own.

There was reason to believe that when I said those words because cars were everywhere, but people still rode horses for pleasure and profit, and some people even still drove horses. People still ride and drive horses all these many years later.

So the people who said that buggies and carriages would go out of style with the introduction of the horse-less carriage were in error. The market for horses just changed and became more focused.

Is Traditional Drawing Paper a Thing of the Past?

Note: For the sake of this discussion, I am using the term “traditional paper” to mean any paper that is not sanded or does not have a textured surface added to it.

The question of traditional drawing paper ever going out of style is similar to the examples above, but not exactly the same.

The question is the same as my two examples because something new and “better” has entered the market.

But it’s also different. Pastelmat doesn’t replace traditional paper in the same way that digital cameras replaced film cameras or cars replaced horses.

The reason is that a lot of artists either don’t like Pastelmat and similar papers or choose not to use them. Those artists will keep the makers of traditional drawing papers in business for years to come.

Traditional drawing papers are also great for new artists to learn on.

Many other factors play a role in this, as well. Pastelmat isn’t available world-wide, but traditional papers can be found almost everywhere.

And there are some uses for which Pastelmat simply is not suitable. Traditional drawing papers fill those needs perfectly well.

So it is my opinion that there will continue to be a market for traditional art papers.

On a Personal Level

As for the personal level, the answer is different for each artist.

Like this reader, I have a pretty good stock of traditional art papers, and I’m not sure I’ll ever use it all up because much of my work these days is on Pastelmat. But I’m keeping my Canson Mi-Teintes because some projects require the unique and interesting colors available in that line of paper.

So is Traditional Drawing Paper a Thing of the Past?

In my opinion, no. Not in the grand scheme of things. There will always be artists who prefer traditional art papers and others who have no other choice.

But there are also some artists for whom traditional drawing paper is a thing of the past.

What do you think?

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11 Comments

    1. You’re not alone in that, Gail. I know of artists who move from one medium to another with ease because they would be bored with one medium.

      I, on the other hand, am content to learn all I can about my favorite medium and admire all the artists who make such great art with other mediums!

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

  1. Very well expressed! i think my take on your 3 topics will sum up a lot of people’s ideas: vaguely weltzschmertz-y that horses have never been a part of my life, like film but not enough to fight the tide, and lots of other things would change before i switch from traditional papers (very much prefer smooth surfaces!) thank you, Carrie

    1. Valerie,

      Thank you for your very kind words.

      weltzschmertz is an interesting choice of words. I had to look it up, but I think the human condition is always to want those glorious moments to be every day and life just isn’t like that.

      My point was that there are things in every generation that pass out of popular favor and become a niche thing (like horses and film). I don’t think traditional paper will ever be in that category.

    1. Sandra,

      That’s a great question.

      It depends on whether you want to use a textured paper like Pastelmat or a regular paper like Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes. A lot also depends on what you can get where you are.

      I’d suggest you check the drawing papers at online art stores like Dick Blick and Jerry’s. They have a wide variety of drawing papers and have something for every budget.

      For specific papers, the Strathmore drawing pads (200 series, 300 series, 400 series, Artagain, etc.) and Canson sketch and drawing pads are going to probably be your best options. They all come in different sizes and some are even available in colors if you want to go that route. If you shop with Dick Blick, the Blick Studio drawing pads are an excellent option.

      If you think you’ll be doing some multi-media work, then there are also multi-media papers available in pads.

      If you want to try sanded art papers, then UART and Colourfix are probably the best buys. UART is available in 9×12 pads, but Colourfix is available only in sheets. These papers are still a little bit more expensive than regular drawing papers, so unless you really want to learn how to use them, it’s better to begin with regular papers.

      I hope that helps. If not, let me know.

      Thank you for your question and best wishes.

  2. COLIN ROGERS

    I USED TO USE TRADITIONAL PAPERS ROUGH 300GSM. BUT AFTER DICOVERING FABRIANO ARTBOARDS I CHANGED.
    AT THE MOMENT I AM USING WATERCOLOUR BOARD ON A GREY BACKING BOARD
    WHICH IS ROUGH AND 300GSM.
    I WAS A SELF TAUGHT ARTIST UNTIL I FOUND YOUR WEB SITE ABOUT 8 YEARS AGO’
    THIS A QUISTION YOU COULD PUT TO YOUR FOLLOWERS. IS THEIR SUCH A THING AS A SELF TAUGHT ARTIST.I AM 85 YEARS OLD. SO EXCUSE IF SOME OF MY TERMINOLIGY IS INCORRECT. I STARTED OFF WITH ACRYLICT PAINTING BUT ONCE I FOUND COLOURED PENCILS. HARDLY USE ANYTHING ELSE. I STARTED WITH DERWENT BUT RECENTLY
    DICOVERED POLYCOLOUR AT MORE THAN HALF THE PRICE.WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THESE.SORRY THIS IS SO LONG WINDED, KIND REGARDS COLIN ROGERS.

    1. Colin,

      Thank you for reading this post and for taking the time to leave a comment and your thoughts about papers. I’ve thought of trying art boards but have yet to do anything more than think about it.

      As for your two questions:

      1: To my way of thinking, a self-taught artist is an artist who gains most of their skills by experimentation and trying things for themselves. I’m self-taught because I didn’t have any art teaching other than two years in high school and I learned everything I wanted to learn on my own. That was before the internet, and I don’t count high school art as art instruction for my purposes because we didn’t paint and we didn’t do horses! It was more craft than anything!

      An artist who isn’t self-taught is an artist who either studied under a tutor or attended an art school or atelier. They had a lot of personal and often professional instruction and guidance along the way.

      Another way to look at it might be to say that a self-taught artist did it DIY (do it yourself) and a non-self-taught artist got professional guidance!

      2: I’m familiar with Derwent, of course, because I have some of their pencils. I know about the Procolour line, but have never used them, so I can’t provide a personal recommendation for or against them. They are less expensive than some of Derwent’s other pencils, but they are probably a good pencil based on the quality of Derwent’s other pencils. If I have the opportunity to try them, I will and let you know.

      Thank you again for your comment!

  3. COLIN ROGERS

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR REPLY CARRIE.
    I GUESS I AM A SELF TAUGHT ARTIST THEN .BUT I HAVE HAD A LOT OF GOOD TIPS FROM YOU ON COLOURED PENCILS THOUGH.
    BY THE WAY I LOVE HORSE PAINTING WITH COLOURED PENCILS.NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THOUGH.I AM STARTING ONE JUST NOW.I WILL LET YOU KNOW HOW I GET ON.
    KIND REGARDS COLIN

    1. Thank you, Colin.

      I am self-taught, too, but part of that process is seeing how other artists do things and trying out what I learn. (Yes, I am still learning.) What works for me I keep, what doesn’t work I either discard altogether or adapt so it does work.

      But that’s part of the learning process whether you’re learning to draw or make a cake!

  4. COLIN ROGERS

    HI CARRIE,NICE TO HEAR YOU SAY YOU ARE STILL LEARNING AFTER ALL YOUR YEARS WITH COLOUR PENCILS. ONE NEVER STOP LEARNING DOES ONE.I HAVE MY FAVORITE
    SUBJECTS .BUT WILL TRY OUT ANY THING FROM WILDLIFE,HORSES,EVEN PORTRAITS AN CLASSIC CARS IN MY TIME.
    GOOD TALKING TO YOU. KIND REGARDS COLIN ROGERS.

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