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Strathmore, Fabriano and Other Art Papers for Your Amazing Drawings

Updated on May 22, 2012

Know Your Papers

  • Yes, this is an important consideration and I'll tell you why. You never know when you are going to produce the next great Rembrandt painting, print, or drawing. Do everything right the first time if you are able to and you won't have regrets later. Acquiring acid free drawing or printmaking paper is a pretty straight forward endeavor. Most art stores or craft stores carry these types of paper. When you become more familiar with the weights of the papers and what they mean, you may want to order from the internet. For me, though, being the tactile person that I am, I would rather visit my local art store and be able to touch the papers before I buy them. So, please fill your supply bin with acid free paper. Its worth every dollar.

If you live near a big city, there plenty of art supply stores right in the city limits. A funny thing happened to me when I was in Montreal. My husband had told me about this great art store and having never been on the particular street where the store was located, I found the store in about 10 seconds. You start to have a 6th sense about these things after awhile! If you live in the suburbs or the outskirts of town, there are usually craft stores such as Michaels or A.C. Moore. If there are no craft stores where you live, try your local stationary store, they usualy (almost always) carry fine stationary which is usually 100 percent cotton rag paper (acid free). It is more economical to buy a couple of drawing books of different sizes and paper types to experiment with. As I always say though, do what you can with what is available to you.

Speaking of experimenting, here is a breakdown of some different paper types:

  • Regular drawing paper is usually medium to lightweight with a slight tooth; tooth means texture to pick up color from your drawing implement. It can be found in spiral bound or book bound drawing books in a wide variety of sizes and orientations (vertical and horizontal). Some examples of brands are:
  • Canson Field Drawing Books. These are hard covered bound drawing books or "journals", the weight of the paper is 90 pounds and is cream colored. Good for any type of pencil, charcoal and Nu-Pastel sketching and some marker sketching. Can take very light washes
  • Strathmore 400 series Recycled paper. Available in a variety of sizes in wirebound sketchbook format. Good for all pencils, markers and some charcoal.
  • Utrecht Drawing Books are hard bound and sturdy and are available in bright white in a variety of sizes. Paper weight is 70 pounds. Good for color pencils, mechanical pencils, fine line markers, art markers and graphite pencils. Comes in a variety of sizes.
  • Utrecht Recycled 70 pound oatmeal color sheets are the same as above except for the oatmeal color of the paper. Would work nicely with Nu-Pastel or charcoal.
  • Bienfang Bristol Board. This is available in a pad of 20 sheets. This is heavy weight drawing paper (146 pound) and is good for any pencil, charcoal, pastel (use on the "rough" type) and airbrush technique. Can also take washes of paint.

There are many, many different types, weights, grades and brands of paper.  Learn their characteristics and you will have an arsenal of tools at your disposal for making your great art.

A word about printmaking papers

Printmaking papers are an alternative to drawing papers. The have a wonderful texture and some are made by hand which makes them a little unpredictable in the way they take drawing/painting materials. Some to experiment with are:

  • Rives BFK Printmaking paper
  • Arches 88 silk screen paper
  • Somerset Velvet Printmaking paper
  • Fabriano Rosaspina Heavyweight paper (has a velvet like finish, gives interesting drawing effects)

These papers are 100 percent cotton and are fairly soft, so they would not be suitable for some marker applications, but they are great for all other drawing applications and can take washes. Can be bought in individual sheets.

Work on Paper/Watercolor/"Relaxation"

This work done on regular 90lb paper with concentrated water colors
This work done on regular 90lb paper with concentrated water colors | Source

A Word About Paper Weights

When I mention 70 pounds, 90 pounds and other weights, this simply means the weight of the of a ream of paper of a particular thickness.  Thicknesses vary between papers, so, of course, a ream of thicker paper is going to weigh more than a ream (or roll) of thinner paper.  Paper can also be measured in gsm (grams per square meter).

  • A 90lb paper would = 190 gsm
  • Some papers are in metric measure, some are in American measurements; if you go online or to your local library you can find out information about equivalent weights for papers.  Basically, the higher the number, the heavier the paper, the heavier the paper allows for washes of color, not just dry media.


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    • DaisyChain profile image


      10 years ago from France

      I'm like you, I like to go and touch my paper before selecting but now I have no paper vocabulary and can't order on line! Thanks for the information.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I like your interpretation in your watercolor picture.


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