Drawing Paper

Drawing Paper

Drawing Paper: Have You Been Using The Wrong Kinds?

The drawing paper you choose can either make you a millionaire or put you in the poor house!!


OK. Not totally true but it does effect the end result you will get. Some papers have smooth finishes while others are rough. Some are thick with a very high density and some are thin with almost no integrity but they all serve their purpose somewhere or another. All art papers are labeled for specific uses; but I can tell you that while some papers are more suited for certain projects, it doesn’t really matter what paper you use as long as you know what look or style you are trying to achieve.

The labels they put on them are really just for guidance.


I have used a few different types of papers in my artistic ventures and have found one type that I consistently return to and while it may not be the popular or most correct choice it gets the job done for me.


What Paper I Use


So what is this paper you ask? Matte Board. That’s right the same “paper” you use to create those wonderful borders around your framed pieces! While searching for a sturdy paper that could hold up to all my layers of graphite and or pastel with little to no prep work; I found matte board to work great.


The Key Benefits of using Matteboard

I chose this because of its size and the price is significantly cheaper.


I was creating a piece for an art contest that was going to be 30in x 40in and the only surfaces available in that size or larger were stretched canvases. While that is fine, if you have ever tried to draw on canvas it is very rough and tends to indent easily if you apply a good deal of pressure. Plus you can get huge pieces of matteboard for under $10 and often cheaper.

Tip: Most art papers are 18in x 24in in size and are made from cotton pulp and other raw materials which is why they seem so expensive. They cost more to make!!


Matte board can come in a few different finishes from smooth to rough just like regular drawing paper. The only thing about matte board is that is sturdy and flexible.


The matte board can also be hung on the wall just like a canvas. If you are entering it into a gallery then obviously you will want to mount it to some sort of base so you don’t ruin the picture with hooks or hangers. If you just want to hang it in your room you can use those wonderful things called thumb tacks. You can even frame traditionally if you like!


I have a friend that works almost exclusively with oil pastels on birch wood panels. This gives him a sturdy base to work on and when finished is easy to frame or hang. So as you can see it really is a matter of preference!

color baby pencil self portraitRough or Smooth


Rough or smooth drawing paper will really affect the way your finished piece looks. It can either give it that raw organic look that you get with rough paper or that polished finish look you get with smooth paper. For my project I was creating a photo-realistic drawing of my then girlfriend.




Smooth drawing paper ,which is usually hot press, tends to lend itself best to graphite,color pencil, pen and other dry media of the like. Hard pastels can be used successfully however the smooth surface will limit the amount of layers you will be able to apply to the paper.

Tip: I chose the smooth finish for the project because I wanted the picture to resemble a photograph. A rough paper would not have achieved the same effects as there are lots of crevices or “tooth” that create peaks and valleys in the finish of the paper. It’s like drawing on cement with chalk. The chalk shows up, but not in a smooth continuous line.



Rough drawing paper, which is generally cold press, tends to lend itself best to soft pastel, watercolor and other wet media as it is a little heavier and the paper has “tooth” or texture which is ideal for multiple applications of pastel layers.

Color Paper


Color drawing paper is best and most effectively used as a mid-tone color or base color of the piece you are working on. Choosing a neutral color and using it as a base tone for the piece can dramatically change the mood or effect of the entire piece.


You can even use the color of the paper for dramatic effect such as choosing a complimentary color paper for the colors that you are applying to it. This can easily make your piece “POP”. The possibilities are endless. I like to use black paper as this give a stark contrast with almost any color I apply.

Choosing drawing paper is really a matter of choice


It doesn’t even need to be “paper” as I mentioned the birch panels that I my friend uses.You can draw on notebook paper or even envelops if that suits your needs. There are way too many different options to choose from. The best way to find out which paper works for you is to just use it.


Here is some simple advice for the more expensive drawing paper and mounts out there. Only use them for important pieces and when you feel your skills are ready and warrant that “high class” paper.

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