All about paper: for the coloured pencil artist

When I first got serious using coloured pencils as my main art medium, I didn’t have a clue about what paper I should be using. There was so many brands and varieties that I nearly gave up completely.

But I persevered and tried recommendations from other artists until I finally settled on a few that I liked using. However, that doesn’t mean I have stopped trying new brands. Far from it. I am always trying new paper all the time.

I remember following a tutorial of one of my favourite artists on Skillshare. Her art always looked so realistic and is amazing. So I bought the paper that she recommended and swore by and waited eagerly for it to be delivered. I started the tutorial and followed along with the artist.

The only problem was, I hated the paper. It hardly had any tooth and after a few layers of colour the paper started to rip. I was extremely disappointed that I had wasted my money on a full pad.

The artist wasn’t wrong in her recommendations because it was a paper that she loved and it did what she wanted it to do. It just wasn’t right for me.

The lesson I learned was not to rush out and buy a full pad of recommended paper but to try and buy smaller and cheaper pads or single sheets just to make sure I liked working with it.

There are so many different types of paper to choose and it can be overwhelming for the newbie and it is this very reason that paper is the most confusing out of any other product the coloured pencil artist uses.

So here is what I have learned about paper over the years.

1/ For coloured pencils you need a paper with a bit of tooth or surface texture. It is the texture that allows the colours to grab the paper and thus allowing you to build up several layers.

2/ A smooth paper, or hot pressed watercolour paper has hardly any tooth at all. The colours will just slide off the surface. You won’t be able to create many layers on smooth paper.

3/ Then again too much tooth or surface texture, the type that you get with pastel papers can be extremely difficult to work with. The texture will show through.

4/ Paper comes in all sorts of sizes too. I tend to stick to the A4 size but will go bigger if someone asks for it and smaller if trying for the first time.

5/ For serious coloured pencil artists who will be doing commissions and selling their artwork will need to consider high quality paper and one that is archival (will last a long time and not deteriorate)

Examples are: The Strathmore range

Strathmore 400 series drawing paper

Strathmore 400 series Coloured pencil paper

Strathmore 400 series Bristol paper

The ultimate in quality is Stonehenge by Legion and the Strathmore series 500 Bristol vellum surface. They are 100% cotton and completely archival.


6/ Toned papers are great to use because it lets you judge light and dark values easier and it does look better than having a stark white background.

7/ Everybody’s preferences are different from one another.

8/ Try buying single sheets or smaller paper sizes rather than buying a full and often expensive pad. That way you can try them out first to see if you like using it. Remember that what feels right for you may not feel right for someone else so take recommendations lightly.



Illustration board

Suede board

Art-again paper by Strathmore

Mat board

Experimenting is crucial if you want to find your perfect paper for your coloured pencil art. Try out as many as you can and soon enough you will have a few brands that you will buy from again and again and again.

Happy Colouring xx

Join my Facebook group here: Coloured Pencil Help and Community


Leave a Reply