My Preferred Drawing Papers

My Preferred Drawing Papers

A reader recently asked about my preferred drawing papers for artwork to be framed under glass and sold.

That’s a good question, and I will answer it. But I need to clarify a couple of points up front.

First, I use the same papers no matter what I plan to do with the finished artwork. Most of the time, I sketch or make article illustrations on the same papers I use for commission portraits.

Second, whenever I frame a piece, I frame it under glass. Some of the papers I like can be framed without glass if they’re on a rigid back board, but that’s not something I’ve tried. The reason is simple. I prefer the look of work framed under glass with a nice frame and mats.

Now That That’s Out of the Way

As a matter of principle, I use only archival papers. No newsprint, no sketching paper, nothing of that sort. Why have I made that choice?

Because I never know for certain when a sketch might turn out so well, it’s worth putting in an exhibit or offering for sale. How disappointing would it be to have a sketch turn out well, only to remember it’s on non-archival paper?

Does that mean you can’t use those papers? Absolutely not. If you’re still learning, or if you don’t like using more expensive papers for sketching, that’s fine. Budgets and circumstances differ, so use the papers you are comfortable using for each type of drawing.

Caldera, 4″ by 6″ Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper. This is one of my favorite sketches from 2021. Because it’s on archival drawing paper, I can offer it for sale with confidence that the paper will not discolor, become brittle, or otherwise fail.

Finally, the papers I like may not work for you. We’re all different and different artistic styles and drawing preferences influence paper choices.

But I will tell you what papers I use, my preferred drawing papers, and the different ways I use them.

My Preferred Drawing Papers

Sanded Art Papers

At present, my preferred papers are sanded art papers. I like them for sketching, portraits, and landscapes. They work well with all the pencils I have (Prismacolor, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Blick Studio, and odd-and-end colors from other brands.)

Sanded art papers (also known as textured papers) allow me to use colored pencils with methods that are similar to oil painting. Since I spent forty-plus years as an oil painter, that is a process I enjoy.

My favorite sanded art paper is Lux Archival from Brush & Pencil. Lux Archival is fully archival front to back. The drawing surface is archival and non-yellowing. The backing is also archival. Lux is currently the only sanded art paper that is 100% archival. It looks expensive, but it takes a lot of color and is worth the price (in my opinion.

And if you plan to exhibit or sell your work, Lux Archival is a good value.

I’ve also used and like Uart and Clairefontaine Pastelmat. In fact, the only sanded art paper I wasn’t completely happy with was Fisher 400. But other artists use and love it.

The best specific information I can give you is to use archival papers. Artwork will have the best chance of surviving long-term if you use papers that don’t yellow or deteriorate.

Traditional Drawing Papers

My preferred traditional drawing papers are a little more varied. For almost anything I want to draw, I like Stonehenge, Strathmore Artagain, and Canson Mi-Teintes.

These three papers have three different surface textures. Stonehenge is soft and absorbent. It soaks up a lot of moisture if you happen to use solvent. Artagain is almost Bristol-like in feel and surface texture. Canson Mi-Teintes is in between.

I sketch on all three papers. I have also done portraits and landscapes on Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Teintes with great results.

They are not only the papers that work for the way I draw, but I prefer the look of my finished work on these three.

Will My Preferred Drawing Papers Work for You?

Maybe. Maybe not.

A lot goes into choosing the best paper for each artist. Personal drawing styles, preferences in the look of finished work, and many other things influence paper choices. I know of artists who love Bristol because of it’s smoothness and ability to capture detail.

I know other artists who love sanded art papers because of its tooth and ability to capture detail.

Even though the working methods for Bristol vary greatly from working methods for sanded art papers, both are capable of producing high levels of detail. Both can also be framed under glass.

If I haven’t helped you with more specific suggestions, I at least hope I’ve given you a place to begin the search for your preferred drawing paper.

Just remember: Whatever paper you use, make sure it’s archival.

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  1. Patricia Wilson

    I really liked this article. I do cardmaking and there seems to be more and more information about using the right papers and cardstock. For instance, I started doing some foiling and found out Hammermill paper is the best and gives the best results. Who would have thought that this would make a difference? Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Kay Wales

    Can you name a couple of desk lamps for colored pencil users? I have just started in this field, love it but I need a new lamp desperately. My area has very limited natural light.

    1. Kay,

      Welcome to colored pencils! Thank you for reading this post and for posting a question.

      I cannot recommend a specific lamp, but the good news is that any lamp that shines light downward on your artwork can be used with a daylight bulb or something similar. The type of light is more important than the type of lamp. You need light that’s bright enough for you to work by, but you also need light that’s not too yellow or too blue. That is measured by the Kelvin rating. For example, the midday sun on a clear day has a Kelvin rating of 5500. If you like working in light that bright, then look for light bulbs with a CCT rating of 5500.

      If you think a light more like what you’d get from a north-facing window (in the Northern Hemisphere), then look for light bulbs with a CCT rating of 7500.

      Light bulbs in both ratings are available for any lamp you might end up using.

      In passing, I’ll tell you that the light I use is a clip-on flood light with a 65 watt reflecting flood light in it. So any type of lamp can be turned into an art lamp!

      Thank you again for your comment.

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