The 5 Best Drawing Papers

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Both novices and professionals agree that while good pens and pencils are key, it's even more important to invest in the best drawing papers. Think of it this way: It doesn't matter how stunning your artwork is if it smears, bleeds, or fades over time. Professional artist June Foret agrees. "You definitely want an acid-free paper," she says. Acid-free paper has an alkaline pH, which basically means that it'll hold onto graphite and color under most conditions.

On top of that, you also want to consider which drawing tools you tend to use most. According to mixed-media artist Courtney Werner, it can make all the difference. She tells Bustle, "Charcoal, graphite, pastel and crayons work best with a more textured surface, whereas pen, ink and markers fair better with smooth surfaces." Depending on the type of art you're creating, you definitely want to keep your drawing paper texture in mind before you buy.

When it comes down to it, there are a lot of paper choices out there. It's not exactly easy to find what you're looking for, but these artists have you covered. Here are a few artist-recommended drawing papers to help you get started.

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1. Best For Mixed Media: Canson XL Series Mix Paper Pad

  • Dimensions: 7 x 10 inches (width by length)

If you can't pin down one style, this mixed media pad is an absolute must. The paper is acid-free and features a slightly textured surface that works well with everything from graphite, to charcoal, to even light washes of watercolors. The sheets are also micro-perforated, so they're super easy to tear out, and the spiral bound is a nice touch to keep all your art together until you're ready to share it with the world. This pad has 60 sheets of paper, so you'll have plenty of pages to experiment with new techniques and ideas.

According to one reviewer: "Canson does not disappoint with its paper quality, and the price CANNOT be beat either! The quality is smooth and very light texture. Great for light watercolor. Inks are bright and pigmented and colored pencils pop and show almost airbrushed on this paper. I use a lot of heavy blending on my artwork with pencils, so a paper that can stand up to that is awesome in my book."

2. Best For Graphite: Strathmore Sketchpad

  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches (width by length)

This lightweight sketchpad features a mostly smooth texture that's perfect for pencil sketches, and the spiral bound edge keeps all your sketches together when you're on the go. In fact, the paper is light enough that it won't weigh down your bag, yet this pad still come with 100 sheets that won't bleed through, so you can practice wherever you are without worrying about running out of paper.

According to one reviewer: "My nephew is very creative and loves to sketch, draw or anything art. I was surprised how thick the pages were (I was skeptical with the price) and how much there TRULY was. He is still sketching/creating in it still; has not run out of pages. The book is sturdy, hard to tear up! Perfect!"

3. Best For Colored Pencil: Strathmore 400 Series Colored Pencil Pad

  • Dimensions: 9 x 12 inches (width by length)

This textured drawing pad was created just for colored pencils, and tons of happy Amazon reviewers agree that it's one of the best out there. One side of the paper features a softer, textured surface that's excellent at grabbing and holding onto eye-popping color, while the backside of each piece features a smoother surface. You can use either side for colored pencils, depending on your preference. Plus, this pad comes with 30 sheets of acid-free and medium-weight paper, which is just right to hold onto color while still making the sketch pad easy to take with you. Amazon reviewers are thrilled that fan-favorite art supplier Strathmore created paper just for colored pencils.

According to one reviewer: "I wondered what the difference this paper had from other just 'drawing' papers. It's a medium stock and I would say a medium to slightly smooth tooth. [It] performs great. I'm having no problem laying down multiple layers of color, wax based and oiled based."

4. Best For Pen & Ink: Strathmore Bristol 346-1 Paper 300 Series

  • Dimensions: 17 x 11 inches (width by length)

If you prefer to work in pen and ink, this extra-wide, 24-sheet drawing pad is a game-changer. It features a smooth Bristol finish, which is perfect for catching and holding onto ink without smearing or appearing bumpy. Plus, at 17-inches in width, it's big enough to create everything from sprawling scenery to comic panels without interruption, and the medium-weight, acid-free paper ensures your artwork won't bleed through or fade over time.

According to one reviewer: "This paper is the best value I've seen. It is the perfect size for making comic pages. The paper holds up against repeated erasing and wet ink. I use a crow quill for inking, which usually tears cheap paper up. This paper was strong enough to withstand the quill. This is all I'll ever need."

5. Best For Charcoal: Canson XL Series Bristol Vellum Paper Pad

  • Dimensions: 9 x 12 inches (width by length)

This highly textured pad is great for softer tools, like charcoal, and pastels, because it's made to hold onto color without smearing. The vellum surface finish is also perfect for saturation with multiple layers and shading, and you can be sure that this heavyweight paper won't bleed through. On top of that, this drawing pad has 24 sheets of acid-free, bright white paper that has excellent erasability in case you need to start over. Novice and professional artists alike insist this vellum paper is the best of the best.

According to one reviewer: "Heavy enough and the right texture to work in layers. So far so good! Good price for the quality."

Experts:

June Foret, professional artist

Courtney Werner, mixed-media artist