How Much is that Paper in the Window? Art Materials Terminology.
Art materials! In every art store there is paper, brushes, pencils, thinner, linseed oil, erasers, ect.
But what does hot or cold press mean? What is the difference between easel brushes and regular brush? When do I use linseed oil?
For a novice artist these can be daunting, unless you are taking a class or have a mentor to guide you. If you do not, I hope I can be of some assistants. I am by no means an expert but I had do have considerable experience and education.
This is going to be a series on art materials terminology to help guide you when you are investing in art supplies. Believe me they are an investment, considering how much they cost. Materials are subjective like art, it is what you prefer. But to know what you prefer you need to experiment with different materials. It helps to know what you are using.
In this installment I'll cover paper, pencils, brushes and some accessories.
I love paper! I have rolls and remits of paper stock piled every where. There are many types of paper watercolor, illustration board, pastel paper etc. The media they are often associated with is the most commonly used but you can interchange them with another medium.
It helps to know the terminology of paper, so you can decide if like it is a good idea that I use pastel paper for watercolor or mixed media.
What types of paper is there?
Archival quality is always highly desirable, no matter which paper you use. Archival quality means a paper with long-standing qualities, acid free, lignin free, usually with good color retention. Why do you want this? Because your work will last a lot longer; so people can fight over your work when you are dead.
Cold Press is a paper surface with slight texture produced by pressing the finished sheet between cold cylinders. I personally prefer cold press because I like the texture and the way it absorbs the medium. It is often used for watercolor color, ink drawing, and printing.
Hot pressed is a paper surface that is smooth, produced by pressing a finished sheet through hot cylinders.
Handmade paper is made by hand using a mould (a frame covered with a flat, rigid screen or flexible screen). In both cases the mould is covered by a flat frame called a deckle, to contain the run-off of wet pulp, dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shaken to distribute the fibers evenly and drained of its excess water. The wet mat of fibers remaining in the newly formed sheet is then dried against blankets & may be hot pressed, cold pressed, or air dried. These papers usually have a usual look and feel. They are often used in book binding arts.
Mould made paper is made by a slowly rotating machine called a cylinder mould that simulates the hand-papermaking process. Fibers become more randomly intertwined than in machine made papers, producing a stronger, more flexible sheet or roll.
Wove paper is which show no fine "laid" lines running through the sheet when held to the light. They are often used in fine resume papers.
Parchment paper is animal skins or linings stretched and prepared as writing/painting surfaces. It produces a smooth, buttery surface. Think of calligraphy or certificates.
Laid paper has a "grid" pattern in the sheet, resulting from the pulp resting against wires on the papermaking mould screen. "Laid" lines are closely spaced while "chain" lines are farther apart & run parallel with the grain direction of the sheet, important when folding papers, especially to bookbinders. You can see it when you hold it up to the light.
Vellum is a paper surface that is finely textural. Vellum is also used to designate heavy weight, translucent drawing of drafting papers
Antique is a printing paper with a rough finish but good printing surface, valued in book printing for its high volume characteristics.
Illustration board is a paper that has a board backing. It is great for all types of media and very durable. As it names implies used allot for illustration.
Waterleaf pape r is a paper with little or no sizing. It is very absorbent.
Other Useful Terms
Tooth is a very slight surface texture of paper preferred for dry media such as charcoal and pastel.
Felt finished is surface characteristics of paper formed at the wet end of a paper machine, using woven wool or synthetic felts with distinctive patterns to create a similar texture in the finish sheets.
Felt Side is the top side of the paper, usually recommended for best printing results.
Grain is the direction of fibers in a sheet of paper. Long grain describes fibers running parallel to the longest side of a sheet; short grain running parallel to the short side.
Nap is a slight surface texture of some writing surfaces.
Rough is a heavily textured paper surface produced by placing wet sheets of paper against textured blankets or air drying (or both)?
Sizing is the process by which gelatin rosin, starch or other synthetic substance is added to paper to provide resistance to the absorption of moisture or eliminating ink feathering and bleed through. If you ever notice that some paper you use does not absorb water (the liquid sits on top of the paper) or some media, like ink feathers (the fibers do not hold the ink in place), there is either a lot of sizing in the paper or a small amount.
Deckled edge is the feathery edge which is the result of the natural run-off of wet pulp when making handmade and mould made paper, or the result of sheets being torn when wet. The edge is simulated in machine made papers by cutting them with a stream of water when still wet.
It is worth while investment to buy the best you can but only if you take care of them! If you do they can last a lifetime.
If you work in several different materials, you'll need different set of brushes for each. For example you should not use your water based brushes, watercolor, for oils and vice versa. The medium affects the brush a different way and if you do not get the entire medium out, it will show up in your current work.
The difference between easel and regular brushes is the handle length. The easel brushes have a longer handle so you can stand away from the easel and work easily.
The tips of the brush are mainly round and flat. What you use is based on your preference and the type of stroke that you need. I prefer the flat ones myself.
Now the best of the best brushes you can buy is sable brushes. Yes real sable. Sorry Peta, it's true. If I had the money I would buy them all. They are good for watercolor, acrylic, gauche, oils etc.
You can buy synthetic hair brushes. They are high quality and last a long time.
Sumai brushes (type of Japanese ink brush) are interesting. The handle bamboo and tithe head usually synthetic, can make a very thin line and turn around and make a very thick thin. It keeps it shape very well.
The hog/boar hair bristle brushes, is your cheapest brush. It is not very durable and the fibers can come out in your work. You see these brushes for children, stippling applications and house painting. You can be rougher with these.
Taking care of your brushes
A rule of thumb is do not leave your brushes setting on the bristles of the brush. It should always be up. After you rinse the material out of it (i.e. oil), clean your brush with a brush cleaner, or soap and water.
How to Wash Your Brushes
- You put a dab of soap in the palm of your hand
- Swirl the brush in the soap, to make lather
- Then rinse and store
You can get tones of artist pencils very reasonably priced. You can regular pencils or woodless pencil (where it is just the graphite). The only confusing part is the number and the H or B label system. This tells you how soft or hard the graphite is. For example HB stands for balance of hard and soft. The yellow school pencils are this. B stands for soft, the higher the number is the softer the lead and the darker the line. H stands for hard, the higher the number than harder it is the finer the line.
You can also purchase colored pencils, watercolor pencils (these you can wet and paint with), charcoal pencils etc.
There are tons of them!
A common one that often comes with a starter pack of pencils is a blending stick or stump. This is used to smudge graphite/pastel or blend color. I do not use one usually because the ph of my skin smudges the graphite automatically.
A sharpener is well a sharpener. Now some people who are very conscience of cost will your pocket knife to get the point on their pencil and save lead.
A kneaded eraser will last a very long time. It is soft enough to knead, so it cleans it self .you can get a very precise rub, it is great for making highlights in work
A gum eraser is a general all purpose eraser that will erase most anything. It crumbles, which helps the cleaning process
A plastic eraser is used a lot in drafting. It erases very clean with hardly any crumbling. It will erase tough mediums like some inks and cray pas (oil pastels).
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