Which Paper Do I Use?
Mar 09, 2017
There are so many different types of paper available to artists and sometimes it is confusing about which paper to use for a particular medium. Here are some terms that will help you decipher what the best paper is for your desired effect and art medium.
- hot pressed-this type of paper is created with hot rollers that smooth out the 'tooth' of the paper and make for a very smooth surface, like it was ironed. Great for materials such as pen and ink or for watercolor effects that you want sharp edges on. The color will not bleed, the edges will stay crisp.
- cold press-this paper has a texture to it. It will feel slightly bumby and rough. Cold pressed paper is popular for watercolor painting as the colors will bleed together softly becasue the surface has some texture. Good for pastel painting as well as the pastels will have a tooth to hold the layers of pigment.
- tooth- the tooth of a paper refers to whether the surface feels smooth or rough. Think about your material, do you want to build up layers of colored pencil, charcoal or pastels? Then you will want a paper with a tooth to grab the color layers. If you want sharp edges, as for ink or hard edged painting then select a smooth toothed paper. Colored pencils have a limited layering capacity on a smooth paper and will fill in the tooth quickly. You will not be able to add more color when this happens. The tooth of the paper can be seen as little white specks if you layer color and don't get it into all the crevices.
- paper weight-paper weight refers to how thick the sheet of paper is. The higher the weight of the paper, the thicker it is.The weight is determined by how much a ream, 500 sheets of the paper, weigh. For example, 140 pound paper means that 500 sheets of that paper weighs 140 pounds. It is a thick paper. Computer paper is generally 20 pounds-500 sheets of that is 20 pounds, very thin.
- acid free-for for artwork that you would like to last for decades you should use acid free paper. This paper does not have acids in it that cause it to deteriorate quickly, such as in newsprint and less expensive papers.
- graphite paper-this is a paper that is treated on one side with a layer of graphite. It is used to transfer a sketch onto your final paper by placing it under your sketch, dark side down, and tracing over your image. It will then show up on the final paper beneath it.
- tracing paper-is a thin, semi transparent paper used for placing over sketches or reference photos to trace on. The brand called Denril, is my favorite, a little expensive though. It is very easy to see through, sturdy and has a nice texture to draw on as well.
- illustration board-this is a piece of cardboard with a paper surface on one side. The paper can be either hot or cold pressed.
- clay coated paper-is a paper that has a thin layer of clay adhered to it. This is the only paper that can be used for silverpoint drawing, because the silver will not show up on uncoated paper. You can also use watercolors on it and will have an easier time lifting the color off it if you make a mistake or need to lighten a color.
- pastel paper-comes with a tooth/texture that allows the pastel dust to adhere to it and be built up in layers. The pastel paper comes in a wide variety of colors so it is designed to have the color of your art material peek through sections. Usually used for chalk pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, conte crayons.
- watercolor block-this is a solid book of watercolor paper that is glued down on all four edges. This is done to keep the paper flat when painting, especially when you paint outdoors on location. It is more expensive than individual sheets of the same paper. You can 'stretch' the paper yourself by wetting the entire sheet of paper and stapling all around the edges of a board and letting it dry.
Hopefully this helps you to decide on which paper to use for your artwork. It is very important to understand how the art material that you are using will be affected by the various paper options. The end results will be dramatically different with each one. For portfolio pieces, use the best paper you afford. It will make a difference.
Experiment! Make studies with a variety of papers so you can see for yourself what is going to happen. Do a pastel sketch on hot pressed, then the same sketch on cold pressed, then on colored pastel paper, then on illustration board...you get the idea. This will open up new creative possibilities that may really inspire you. Have fun!