2 Questions About Paper and Pencils

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!


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.


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.

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