Drawing Paper Guide

Updated: 29 Mar 2024

Guide for recommended drawing paper

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.

Pen drawing of an armoured personnel carrier


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.

How to draw transitions in values when using a pen

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

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 both sketching and drawing.

It always delivers, and therefore my choice for realistic drawing. Recommended!

Canson 1557 paper pad, and a window drawing Canson 1557

I drew the example above in perspective. It is a super important drawing fundamental. You can learn about it in my perspective drawing guide.

Canson Graduate

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.

Nature graphite sketches on Canson Graduate paper

Canson C à grain

Canson C à grain is a quality grainy paper for sketching.

It is good for drawing rough textures.

A graphite drawing of a monkey wrench Canson C à grain - monkey wrench

More on texture you can find in my texture drawing guide.

Examples for graphite texture drawing


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.

Tiger snake graphite drawing on a Canson C a paper Canson C à grain - Tiger snake

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 a pen and markers.

Not recommended for beginners.

Canson XL Bristol paper pad, and two drawings Canson XL Bristol

Canson XL Recycle

Canson XL Recycle (green) is quite grainy, and therefore great for rough sketches.

Canson XL Recycle paper pad, and a tree drawing Canson XL Recycle

Canson XL Croquis

Canson XL Croquis (orange) is quite thin, but it is good for practice.

Canson XL Croquis paper pad, and a drawing of a boy Canson XL Croquis

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.

Graphite drawing of erigeron bonariensis flowers on Canson paper Canson Mixed Media Artist

Here you can find my flower drawing guide.

Examples for pen flower drawing

Canson Colored Paper

Sometimes, it is fun to use colored paper sheets.

Tree drawing on a pink paper by Canson Pink paper sheets by Canson


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!

Ecological recycled paper by Fabriano Fabriano eco-recycled paper

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.

Fabriano 1264 paper pad for drawing

It grabs graphite particles very well. I like it for quick drawings.

Graphite drawing of a tree and a pond

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.

A drawing of a reed plant with pen and markers Reed plant with a pen 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.

A drawing of a reed plant on Fabriano Bristol paper Card & envelope with pencil, pen & markers


Clairefontaine is a French company, which began production in 1858.

Clairefontaine Dessin à Grain

The Clairefontaine Dessin à Grain is a grained paper for drawing.

Meaning, it has a strong texture, which is used for grabbing graphite particles.

A realistic drawing of two trees and landscape

It is too grainy for me. Good for quick sketching.

Drawing on a grained paper by clairefontaine

While the top of the paper is grainy, the other side is smoother, and better for my style of drawing.

Graphite drawing of acacia tree and geese

Clairefontaine Mix Media

Clairefontaine Mix Media paper is smooth and great for drawing with pens and markers.

It is also good for pencil, and its other side is a bit rougher.

Barn marker drawing on Clairefontaine mix media paper


Hahnemühle is a German paper manufacturing company. It is known for the high quality of paper for drawing and sketching.

Hahnemühle Nostalgie

The Hahnemühle Nostalgie is highly recommended, and another one of my favorites.

Hahnemühle Nostalgie paper pad


Arches is an established French company (1492), specializing in the production of high quality paper.

Arches paper is made of 100% cotton.

Arches Drawing

This paper is of a high quality, but also very delicate. Extensive use of an eraser can damage it.

White and cream Arches drawing paper pads

I mostly like drawing with pens on this paper, because it is easy to draw less defined marks (with lighter value).

Realistic pen drawings on Arches cream paper Pen drawings on Arches cream

In addition, I like this paper for drawing maps.

You can see more in my map drawing guide.

Example of map drawing using a pen, on Arches paper


A sketchbook is great for beginning artists.

It allows for practice without the feeling that everything has to be perfect.

Sketchbooks and drawing notebooks

In addition to sketchbooks and notebooks, I use my spiral pads as sketchbooks.

Spiral pads used as sketchbooks

I use quality single paper sheets for realistic drawing.

For sketchy drawings, testing new things, or practice, I use sketchbooks or spiral pads.

Examples of pencil drawings on spiral pads

Sometimes, mixed media paper is great for drawing with several mediums in the same sketchbook.

In the example below, I used a watercolor sketchbook by Clairefontaine.

Sketchbook with graphite pencil drawing of birds flying


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 more.

If you are a beginner, I suggest reading my depth drawing guide.