What Are the Best Papers for Colored Pencil Use

What Are the Best Papers for Colored Pencil Use

Today’s post begins with a brief email conversation between me and a reader, who was interested in identifying the best papers for colored pencil use.

Since the answer depends on the pencils and drawing methods the artist uses, and the type of art being made, I asked for more information. Here’s her response.

I have Prismacolor Premiere and Derwent Lightfast coloured pencils and I like to do all kinds of artwork from faces to landscapes to skies to pets.

Since this artist enjoys drawing so many subjects, there probably isn’t one paper that will do everything she wants to do.

So I decided to offer a few general suggestions. Hopefully they will help you as well as the reader.

Best Papers for Colored Pencil Use

These days, there are a lot of different paper types. Not only thickness but surface textures vary widely among the brands available. So let me break my suggestions down into traditional and non-traditional papers.

Traditional Papers

Traditional papers are what most of us think of when we think of drawing paper. Smooth, usually white, and available in pads or full sheets. Popular names include Strathmore, Canson, Stonehenge, and Bee.

For traditional papers, Stonehenge is a good, sturdy paper that can take a lot of layers and withstand a bit of solvent blending if you tape it down first. It’s a bit soft in feel and it can be indented quite easily, so handle it with care.

Canson Mi-Teintes is another paper I use quite often. It’s actually a pastel paper, but if you use the back (which is less textured,) it’s great for colored pencil work. It takes a lot of layers and can handle small amounts of solvent blending.

The third paper I’ll recommend is Strathmore Artagain. It’s sturdy enough to take lots of layers, but it’s smoother than either Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes. It feels a bit slick compared to the previous two papers, but it can take a lot of layering. Artagain black is my favorite black paper because it’s blacker than most other black papers.

I don’t think it could handle solvent blends very well, but I’ve never tried solvent on it.

A lot of artists like Bristol. I’ve used that and had good success with it, but it’s really too smooth for my taste. It is quite sturdy, but it doesn’t handle solvent blending at all. It’s available only in white. When I use Bristol, I use the vellum surface by Beinfang.

Non-Traditional Papers

Non-traditional papers are also called textured papers. They are a sturdy substrate, over which a textured drawing surface is applied. They include brand names such as Clairefontaine Pastelmat, Fisher 400, UART, and Lux Archival.

In the early days, I didn’t have much interest in using this type of paper because I didn’t think I’d be able to draw details on it. Boy! Was I wrong!

I’m using Clairefontaine Pastelmat for sketching right now, but I did my most recent portrait on it. Despite a pretty steep learning curve and making a lot of mistakes, that portrait is the best one I’ve ever done.

My first experiences with sanded art papers was with UART Premium Pastel paper, which was available in a sample pack. Of the “regular” sanded art papers, it’s my favorite. I have also tried Fisher 400, but find the UART more satisfying to work on. It comes in a dark version, as well as the more typical light earth tone.

I’ve also used Lux Archival sanded paper and really, REALLY like that, but I’ve used my stock and have yet to restock.

Bonus Suggestion

I recently ordered fresh paper stock, and decided to try a new paper: Legion Lenox Cotton.

Legion also produces Stonehenge, which I think is the perfect match for Prismacolor pencils. According to the manufacturer, Legion Lenox Cotton is:

…is a 100% cotton, medium-texture fine art paper that is ideal for a variety of drawing and printing techniques with colored pencils, graphite, pastels, and charcoal.

My first impressions are favorable. The paper is a bit sturdier than Legion Stonehenge (90lb) and the surface texture is velvety. A delight to touch.

Will it also be a delight to draw on? I’ll let you know, but if you’re looking for a good, archival paper suitable for different subjects, drawing methods, and pencils, give this one a try. I bought the 9×12 inch pad of 15 sheets and the cost was less than a dollar per sheet as of the date of this writing.

Best Papers for Colored Pencil Use

In my opinion, each one of these papers are capable to producing great results with any (or most) pencils, drawing methods and styles, and with every subject. But much depends on personal preference, so your best option is to try each of them until you find one you like.

Most of these papers come in small pads. You can try a couple at a time by buying the smallest pads available.

That way you can do a number of sketches or drawings on each on and discover which ones work with your drawing methods and produce the results you want.

When you find one (or more) you like, you can stock up on larger pads or full sheets.

Then draw to your heart’s content!

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  1. Gail Jones

    Hi Carrie, great article on papers to use with CP! I am working with Pastelmat for the first time on a big project and really like it for Colored Pencil! I am curious to see how you like the Legion paper. I have worked with the Stonehenge but not the type of paper you mention.

  2. Patricia E Wilson

    Great article. I do love the Strathmore Watercolor paper, also. Thanks for sharing this. I’m a card maker and do all kinds of techniques so these articles are helpful. I know that the recent thing in card making is foiling and many kinds of papers were used and then the best results came from Hammermill. So, paper certainly does make a difference. Thank you so much for helping us out here.

    1. Patricia,

      You’re quite welcome.

      I like using Canson L’Aquarelle and Stonehenge Aqua watercolor papers for drawing on. They’re so sturdy, but still soft. They take a lot of color whether I use only traditional colored pencils on them, or start out with a watercolor underpainting.

      Hammermill is a good paper, though I’ve never tried it.

      And you are so right. Paper does make a huge difference in the end results!

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

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