As with a good Sketchbook, having the right Drawing Paper is very important! I’ve tried a lot of paper throughout the years, from a cheap light paper that is used for printing documents, to high-quality heavy cartridge paper for painting.
My favorite one is definitely the Drawing Pad from Canson XL (Amazon link)
Printing paper isn’t the best for drawing unless you’re just doing some very quick and messy doodles. But even for that, I’d prefer to use a paper that’s more suitable for it. The only reason I say this is because the paper that you use in printers is very flat and smooth. Too much. When you’re drawing on it, it seems like your pencil is sliding on it and that might feel weird.
The same goes for very thin paper, the kind you see on some notebooks for example. You can doodle on it, of course, but if you want to do a final piece with traditional mediums, you’ll notice right away that it won’t do.
The paper is too thin, any minimal pressure you make with a pencil, it will mark your paper. If you’re not careful, erasing something or just moving the paper around, you might wrinkle the paper and ruin your drawing.
A textured paper, even if it’s really light, feels like it’s embracing your lines and accommodating them. In short, a textured and thicker paper is the best option for drawing. Using markers might be the only exception.
When using markers, you might prefer a smoother paper, where the markers will easily slide, making it easier for you to widen your movements and make long, easy lines.
The Drawing Paper That I Recommend for Artists
The Drawing Pad from Canson XL (check it out on Amazon)
So as for drawing paper, I can highly recommend the Drawing Pad, from Canson XL series.
It’s a very big pad, with 30 sheets. You have a lot of space to draw and, alternatively, you can cut each sheet into smaller ones, so you can have a smaller canvas to work with.
Although not the thickest, it already falls in the Cartridge paper category, with 114gsm, it already has a nice weight for simple doodling or to use graphite and colored pencils.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Cartridge paper and why it’s so important, along with some curiosities, I do talk about it, in more detail, in this other article.
You can check some more info there, along with other paper options, but the ones I recommend are these ones.
Alternatively, the Canson XL Watercolor Pad
The Canson XL Watercolor Pad (check it out on Amazon)
Another Canson product, how predictable of me, I know!
This one is a bit more expensive, but for a very good and simple reason: the paper is way thicker than the pad mentioned above. If you want to use watercolors and even some acrylics, you need something very thick.
With a heavier paper, it won’t curl, there’s fewer chances of wrinkling and crumbling your paper by accident and you have a sturdier surface to draw on.
This pad is made specifically for watercolors. It has 30 sheets of paper, each one with 300gsm, which is a lot!
The pad has the same size as the Drawing pad, so you can also cut each sheet into smaller pieces of paper if you wish to.
If you do opt for dividing each sheet into smaller ones, your pad will last you for much longer You could even make several postcards to offer your family and friends!
Why I Chose the Canson XL Drawing Pad
The main reason is that it’s very general.
By this, I mean, you can use almost any traditional medium on it: graphite, charcoal, colored pencils, pastel and even inking pens!
So in one pad, you can go absolutely wild with it, experiment different materials and styles. We exclude from here watercolors, markers and anything that isn’t dry, because, like I mentioned, the paper doesn’t have the weight for that.
With 114 gsm though, you have already a very good weight of paper. Good enough for you to draw freely, without your pencils damaging or marking the paper. A robust surface, where you can freely draw and erase without the fear of creasing your paper.
This level of thickness of your paper means that, when using any of the materials I’ve mentioned above, will not pass through the paper, nor smudge all the others behind it.
The pad itself is spiraled, instead of the paper being glued.
This way you can move each sheet of paper around, completely and it will never disturb your drawings. You’ll always have a clean surface, without distractions or weird lumps restricting your movements!
Another curious feature to this pad is that each sheet is micro-perforated, right below the spiraling. This means you can easily take out any piece of paper you’d want, without taking the risk of damaging the drawing you want to take out, nor any other close to it.
You can very easily cut out your sheet, without ripping the paper.
After that, you can save your drawings in any other place you’d want or even frame it and gift it to someone!
Back to the paper, it is very lightly textured.
Not too smooth, nor too rough. Just right! Drawing with any pencil or charcoal is very comfortable. It lets you draw very freely and fluidly. Your movements won’t be hindered by the texture, nor will you notice said texture in your lines.
Very homogenous, clean and smooth, which makes it perfect for smudging!
Lastly, but not least: the price. This is a very affordable pad. For 19$, you have 30, 18” x 24”, sheets of paper. This might not look like it, but it’s a lot of paper!
Most of the times, you probably won’t use one sheet for only one piece.
On some of them, surely you’ll do finished and polished drawings. But for others, you’re going to draw simple studies on them, sketches, ideas and thumbnails for those finished pieces.
A sheet of paper with the size mentioned above gives you space for a lot! Even if you’re not comfortable with drawing in such a big canvas, you can divide each sheet into, at least, 4 smaller sheets of paper. This way, you have even more paper to draw on.
It’s a very versatile pad, that you can use how and with any medium you want.
The paper is very comfortable to use and easy to erase.
Excellent to have some fun while drawing!
Features to Look for in Drawing Paper
There are at least 3 things to take in consideration when looking for paper.
Let’s go over them:
- Weight/Thickness: Depending on what you’re using your paper for, you’ll need different kinds of weight. How do you know how thick your paper is, without feeling it? Very easily. Somewhere on the front (sometimes, very rarely, on the back) of your pad you’ll see a number followed by a “g” or a set of letters that read “gsm”.
This is what you’re looking for.
This number tells you how thick each sheet of paper is. Now, you might ask yourself: but how do you know which grammage of paper is the best? Or, which should I use?
This all depends on what you’re using the paper for.
Anything below 100gsm is very thin. In my opinion, even for sketching, 90gsm is the lowest you should go. Anything lower than that is usually very thin and smooth. Some marker pads have very low grammage, but the materials itself are different.
So unless you’re looking for a specific paper, for a specific medium, you want to use it for writing or even to fold it, you’ll want something with 90gsm and more.
If you want to draw watercolors or even another kind of paint, you won’t want anything lower than 300gsm. Lower than that, your paper will probably wrinkle and bleed when applying anything wet, being it the water or the paint itself. Depending on how much paint you’re adding or how many layers, you might want a paper that’s even thicker than that.
In short, anything between 100gsm and 300gsm is good for graphite, charcoal, pastel, ink pens and colored pencils.
If you’re using watercolors or acrylics, you need thicker paper, with 300gsm or more.
Aside from that, it’s all a matter of taste and what you prefer to draw on.
- Size: Pads come in all sizes. I really recommend having always a bigger pad. It’s the pad that stays at home, that you’ll pick up whenever you feel like relaxing a bit with some drawing, in the afternoon, at home. But, of course, you might want to bring a pad with you at all times. And for that, there are smaller pads. An A5 size is already small enough to sit comfortably in your purse or backpack as you walk around, along with some pencils.
If you attend drawing classes, you’ll probably be asked for a specific size of paper, usually A3.
So picking up the size of paper you want depends either on your taste, as in, how big you like to draw on; what is required for you to use, in case of attending art classes and finally, if you have a single place to draw, or if you prefer to walk around, sit at a garden and draw on the go.
- Texture: Lastly, but not least, there’s the texture of the paper. Some pads have very minimal grain, making the paper very smooth. Others have a nice texture, that will feel great on drawing on. And finally, there’s some paper, made of different and recycled materials, that makes it very very textured. Once again, it all depends what you want to draw and what you like the best.
Personally, I like to have some texture on my paper. Not a lot, but enough that I can feel it underneath my pencil.
Try out different kinds of papers and textures, until you find the perfect fit for you!