5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

The kinds of surfaces suitable for colored pencil are nearly endless. If a surface will accept dry media of any kind, it will work for colored pencil, often with a minimum of preparation.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

In another post, I described 6 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil. A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sandpaper.

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper.

I’d like to delve into that topic a little more deeply today by describing in brief some of the differences between regular drawing paper and sanded papers. At the end of this article, I’ll also share a link to the article I wrote for EmptyEasel telling about my experience drawing on sanded art paper.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

Paper Quality

Sanded papers are much stronger than most traditional papers. The substrate itself is heavier than most drawing paper. Combined with the coating of grit, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally damage the paper, so you can be as aggressive in applying color as you like.

An additional upside to this is that you do not have to frame sanded art paper under glass if you don’t want to. It’s advisable, but not absolutely necessary, as is the case with traditional art papers.

Detailed Line Drawings

Transferring a detailed line drawing is next to impossible. You can’t use a light box because the paper is so thick. Transfer papers of any type are also unsatisfactory because of the coarseness of the paper’s surface. If you want to do a drawing of any type, it’s generally best to draw a loose sketch on the sanded paper, then get right to color application.

Sharp Pencils

You do not need sharp pencils to work with sanded paper. In fact, sharp pencils can be a detriment. They break easily on the gritty surface, and even if they don’t, you get two or three strokes before they go blunt.

So forget sharpening. Use your pencils more like pastels. It’ll be a lot less frustrating.

Forget preserving your pencils, too. Sanded art paper quite literally “eats them for lunch!” If you’re concerned about making your high-dollar colored pencils last as long as possible, you won’t want to do much work with sanded papers.

Thick Color Layers

Thick layers of color work better than thin glazes. Even with the smoothest sanded papers, the tooth is such that getting an even color layer is next to impossible without solvent.

And light pressure? Forget it. Medium to medium-heavy pressure is going to be a lot more productive.

Excellent Tooth

The more layers you put onto sanded art paper, the better the results (as a rule). It takes effort to fill up the tooth. When I did a small drawing on a sample piece (shown below), I wasn’t able to fill in the tooth at all. See all those dots in the sky? Paper holes.

I like this little image. I like the way it looks and the way it came together (60 minutes tops beginning to end.)

But when I want to draw tight detail, I will not be reaching for a fresh piece of sanded art paper!

Spring in CP
Spring in Colored Pencil
Colored Pencil on UArt Sanded Paper


All in all, sanded art papers are great if you want a painterly effect with your colored pencils. It simply doesn’t allow fine detail.

But I did enjoy working with it and I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different. Go ahead.

By the way, here’s that link I promised at the beginning of the post. It’s not the same kind of fully documented step-by-step I usually do, but it’s a good mini clinic in the use of a sanded art paper. I think you’ll find it useful. Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

4 Replies to “5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper”

  1. Hi Carrie
    Thanks for the informative article on sanded paper. My question is, would I be able to get colored pencil fine detail on the 600 or 800 Uart paper? Since it’s so expensive I don’t want to buy and waste it.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Barb,

      You can get a high degree of detail on sanded papers, but it does take a different method. I’ve found I can use colored pencils almost like oil paints in that I can lay down color and scrub it into the paper with a stiff bristle brush, then put down more color.

      You can also draw light over dark with sanded papers, which is next to impossible with regular papers if you’re not using a solvent or texture fixative.

      I like drawing on sanded art papers, but I have been drawing only landscapes. I’m certain I could draw a horse on it, but have yet to give that a try.

      You might contact the Uart company, and tell them you’re thinking about trying it. They may send you a sample pack. That’s how I got my first pieces. It won’t hurt to ask, at any rate. Contact them through their contact page.

      I hope that helps. If not, contact me by email (just click on the Ask Carrie button in the sidebar or at the bottom of the page.

      Best wishes,


  2. I’m not sure if this was written before the development of the brush and pencil line but the powder application allows the pigment to float above the tooth in the powder and does not show a grainy texture. Has a soft look. Then after a few fixative layers you can get fine detail on top. You can find examples of some very detailed work on sanded paper.

    1. Kathy,

      This article was originally written before Brush & Pencil’s products were introduced. I haven’t yet tried those products myself, but have seen many artists doing fantastic work with them.

      Thanks for commenting!

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