Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

Today’s post is a follow up post from a reader question published sometime ago. The subject for that previous post was layering color to get soft colors. Since I discussed pencils and drawing techniques before, it seems right to now talk about paper choices for drawing smooth colors.

Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

Why Paper is Important

The choice of paper affects the final look of your artwork. Use a smooth paper, and you can create sharper details and smoother color (most of the time.)


Use paper that’s too smooth, and you’re limited on the number of layers, and possibly the blending tools you can use.

Using rougher, toothier paper gives you the option of using lots of layers and blending tools like solvents.


Rougher paper may make smooth color more difficult because of the tooth of the paper.

I used the words “most of the time” in the first paragraph under this heading because a lot of artists (myself included) have learned how to draw smooth color on sanded art papers. There is a significant learning curve, but sanded art papers can be the best paper choice for drawing smooth colors and fine detail.

I really enjoy sketching and drawing on Clairefontaine Pastelmat and Lux Archival papers, for example.

But they aren’t the best paper choice for every artist.

Choosing the Ideal Paper for You

Several factors play into your ideal paper. You need paper that’s heavy enough to take a lot of color, smooth enough to allow you to draw detail, but also has enough tooth to accept a lot of layers. The ability to handle solvent blending or heavy blending with burnishing are also things you want in a good drawing paper.

Your choices may vary, but I suggest papers like Stonehenge, Strathmore Artagain, or Canson Mi-Tientes. Those are the traditional papers I use most often, so if you want results similar to mine, try these three papers.

I used to use Bristol vellum 144lb for most of my work. I could buy it locally and it has a beautiful, smooth surface.

But it has very little tooth, so layering becomes difficult after a few layers. I don’t use it for anything but sketching anymore. It’s perfect for that and allows me to do light shading and details in just a few minutes.

Your Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors

When it comes right down to choosing the best paper, you need only one question. What papers help you draw smooth color? Which surface gives you the results you want with the least amount of work?

The best advice I can give you without knowing your specific drawing style and methods, is to try different papers. Try a variety of weights, surface textures, and even colors. That really is the best way to find your perfect paper.

And don’t fret. It can be done because that’s what I’ve done over the years.

So get some small pads and start drawing! You’re sure to find exactly the right paper for you!

6 Replies to “Paper Choices for Drawing Smooth Colors”

  1. Until I started card making, I didn’t realize that paper tooth meant much. Now, I see that you also say that the tooth of the paper makes a difference on how many layers you can put down. This was very interesting and helpful. Thank you.

  2. Since I need to buy more paper in the next couple of months, this was a handy reminder for what to get and keep on hand. Thank you for the article.

    1. You’re welcome, Gail. Thank you for reading it and for your comment.

      Remember that the methods that work for me aren’t necessarily right for every artist. That’s why I recommend trying different paper and pencil combinations so often. That really is the best way to find the paper (and pencils) that work best for you!

  3. I love drawing on Mi-Tientes. As far as solvents go, however, I find that it is thin enough that it buckles easily.
    What do you think of the ColourFix Smooth?

    1. Terry,

      Thank you for reading this post and for leaving a comment.

      I’ve found that Canson Mi-Teintes takes a little solvent blending if it’s taped down securely and can dry flat. You’re right in saying it’s too thin for heavy solvent blending.

      I’ve heard a lot about Canson Touch but have never used it. For sanded art papers, I much prefer Pastelmat and Lux Archival.

      Thank you again for your comment.

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