Drawing Paper Guide
Updated: 02 Oct 2023
If you wonder which paper is best for drawing (or sketching), this is my review for recommended paper types and brands.
I mostly draw realism, even when I sketch. Here is my guide for realistic drawing.
I use the same brands of paper for both pencil and pen drawing.
I like to use grainy paper to achieve transitions in brightness values when using a pen.
To learn about the pens I use, visit my guide for recommended drawing pens.
Paper for drawing has several characteristics.
Drawing is time-consuming. I usually use A5, A4, and A3 sizes, depending on the project I work on.
I prefer thick paper that does not bend easily. 160 gram and above.
Quality paper is not cheap. For practice, you can use thinner paper. 90 gram and above.
The roughness level of a paper indicates how well it grabs graphite particles.
For quick sketches, I prefer rough paper; for realism, I prefer smooth paper.
In most cases, I use white paper. In some case, I like toned paper, or black paper.
Some recommended brands:
Canson is a French company for the production of quality paper. It was founded in 1557.
Canson 1557 is one of my favorite paper sheets for drawing realism, or any style!
It is smooth, with nice texture, which is great for sketching and drawing.
It always delivers, and therefore my choice for realistic drawing. Recommended!
I drew the example above in perspective. It is a super important drawing fundamental. You can learn about it in my perspective drawing guide.
I use Canson Graduate mostly for sketching.
It has more texture than Canson 1557, so I do not use it for realistic drawing.
That said, it is a good paper for beginners, and still quite smooth.
Canson C à grain
Canson C à grain is a quality grainy paper for sketching.
It is good for drawing rough textures.
More on texture you can find in my texture drawing guide.
The back of Canson C a grain is smoother than the top, and therefore better for realism.
Good to know:
Some paper brands have two different sides. Usually the back is smoother.
Here is an example I drew on its back.
Canson XL Bristol
Canson XL Bristol (yellow) is VERY smooth, and extra white.
I love it for detailed realistic pencil drawing, and for drawing with pen and markers.
Not recommended for beginners.
Canson XL Recycle
Canson XL Recycle (green) is quite grainy, and it fits for rough sketches.
Canson XL Croquis
Canson XL Croquis (orange) is quite thin, but it is good for practice.
Canson Mixed Media Artist
Canson Mixed Media Artist has very thick paper sheets.
It is grainy enough for texture, but not too grainy. I like it for sketching, and for markers.
Here you can find my flower drawing guide.
Canson Colored Paper
Sometimes, it is fun to use colored paper sheets.
Fabriano is a leading paper manufacturing company. In addition, the company is unique in that it uses renewable energy.
The company is named after the town of Fabriano, located in Italy. Fabriano is one of the first places in Europe to produce quality commercial paper, from the 13th century to the present day.
Fabriano White Ecological
The Fabriano Ecological paper is quite smooth, with some texture to it.
It has some gentle marks on it from recycling, but they are barely noticeable.
It does what I ask it to do. I love it!
To learn how I plan my compositions, you are welcome to visit my composition drawing guide.
Fabriano 1264 Drawing
The Fabriano 1264 Drawing is a bit grainy, and therefore suitable for sketching.
It grabs graphite particles very well. I like it for quick drawings.
If you like drawing trees, you might want to check my guide on how to draw realistic trees.
As mentioned above, I use the same paper brands and types for drawing with pencils, pens, and markers.
Fabriano 1264 Bristol
This is a quality Bristol paper.
Meaning, it is super smooth and super white.
It is good for working with all mediums, and for photo-realistic drawing.
Being so smooth, a gentle touch is required, and therefore, not recommended for beginners in graphite drawing.
Hahnemühle is a German paper manufacturing company. It is known for the high quality of paper for drawing and sketching.
The Hahnemühle Nostalgie is highly recommended, and another one of my favorites.
Arches is an established French company (1492), specializing in the production of high quality paper.
Arches paper is made of 100% cotton.
This paper is of a high quality, but also very delicate. Extensive use of an eraser can damage it.
I mostly like drawing with pens on this paper, because it is easy to draw less defined marks (with lighter value).
In addition, I like this paper for drawing maps.
You can see more in my map drawing guide.
After you get a paper pad, or a sketchbook, you might want to check my list of recommended drawing materials, which includes pencils, erasers, sharpeners, and much more.
If you are a beginner, I suggest reading my depth drawing guide.