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How to Choose Quality Drawing Paper

Why do they make paper that weighs 70 pounds? Wow that’s heavy! Did you know that some paper will ruin your artwork if you draw on it?

It’s true. This little known fact can have some serious downsides to your artwork. Find out all about drawing paper in this week’s post, How to Choose Quality Drawing Paper.

A Paper’s Weight

When you purchase drawing paper you should take notice of the weight of the paper. No, you don’t weigh the paper yourself.

A paper’s weight is listed on its wrapper if bought as loose sheets and on the cover if bought as a pad. Most drawing paper falls in the range of 30lbs. to 90lbs.

But what does the poundage mean?

The poundage refers to the actual weight of a ream (usually 500 sheets) of the chosen paper at its original pre-cut size. Let’s use newsprint as an example.

Typical newsprint paper is 30 pound paper. That means that 500 sheets of 24 inch by 36 inch newsprint (precut) will weigh 30 pounds.

Why should I Care About a Paper’s Weight?

The heavier a paper is the more mass that paper has per sheet. This affects the paper’s thickness and durability.

Try erasing some pencil marks on newsprint repeatedly and you’ll probably tear the newsprint up or create a hole in the paper!

Pay attention to a paper’s weight when buying paper. You want to work on durable paper so that your artwork will last. I would not attempt to create final drawings on paper that was any thinner than 50lb paper. Paper is cheap compared to time and aggravation so don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on good quality drawing paper.

A Paper’s Tooth

Besides weight, you also need to pay attention to a paper’s tooth. A paper’s tooth is its surface texture. Some media requires very little tooth such as markers while other media warrants a heavier tooth such as charcoal.

Most manufacturers of quality drawing paper will provide some advice when presenting their products to consumers.

Often, the tooth is hinted at when shopping for drawing paper. Pads of drawing paper that have a heavy tooth (more texture) will be sold as charcoal / pastel paper. Smoother paper with less tooth is typically sold as pencil / pen paper.

paper-tooth diagram | helloartsy.com

Conservation

When devoting a significant amount of time to any drawing it’s nice to know that your drawing will last for a long time.

You can wish and hope all you want, but if you use cheap paper you are gambling with your artwork’s future.

Always choose paper that is acid-free. Companies that make quality drawing paper will proudly display this label because it is one of the first things discerning artists look for when they purchase paper.

Occasionally you will see the acid-free label accompanied with the phrase “PH neutral” which is just another statement reassuring that the paper will last for a long time. Paper that is not PH neutral will turn yellow/brown over time and become brittle.

Do you remember that crayon drawing that hung on your grandmother’s refrigerator for a decade? It was probably drawn on low quality paper and the paper has since turned yellow and is currently falling apart.

Choose quality paper and you can be assured your drawings will not deteriorate anytime soon.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the informative article on paper. I am just a beginner with cp’s but do know that paper can be an enemy or a friend. What are your thoughts about Bristol Vellum?

    1. John Morfis says:

      Bristol is good for fine detailed drawings. I talk more about it and other papers here.

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