What you need to know about buying paper for your coloured pencil art

multicolored abstract painting
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When it comes to buying paper for your coloured pencil art, it can become overwhelming. With so many choices available and so many different price ranges it can be difficult to know which are the best that will suit you as an artist.

There are a few things to take into consideration that will help you decide on your purchase and these are:

  • Texture
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Colour/tone
  • Longevity of paper/archival


I am mentioning this first as I think this is the most important factor to think of first. When using coloured pencils you need to work in layers. You will need a paper that has some tooth. It is the tooth of the paper (the texture) that is needed to grab the coloured pencil as it is laid down.

There are three main categories of texture and these are:

  1. Rough
  2. Medium
  3. smooth

Rough paper has a lot of tooth and has a textured feel to it. This type of paper will take many layers, giving your art a lot more depth. However, the rough texture will take its toll on your pencils and they will run down a lot quicker. So bear this in mind if you are using expensive ones.

Medium paper is one of the most popular amongst coloured pencil artists. There is plenty of tooth but not as much that it will run down your pencils too fast. My favourite brand at the moment is Bockingford.

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Smooth paper has hardly any tooth at all but it can still be used for fine details and seamless blending. You are limited to the amount of layers you can lay down so you have to build them up lightly. Pressing too hard in the beginning will make it difficult to add the depth you may require. I am yet to try a smoother paper but it is on my wish list for any future purchases.

The best way to find your ideal paper texture is to experiment with different ones. Buy them as single sheets to begin with so that it does not become expensive. Look for watercolour papers or ones that are suitable for mixed media, especially if you are going to be using a blending solution.


The weight of the paper is also important because of the many layers of colour it has to withstand, any erasing and any blending solution. As a general rule it is best to opt for anything over 140 lb or 360 gsm. The gsm weight is the most consistent across different brands of paper but some brands will specify in pounds too.


The size of the paper you want to use is determined by personal choice. Are you the type of artist who works on large scale projects or smaller ones? As a beginner though, it may be a good idea to start with A5 or A4 sizes.


White paper is widely used within the art community but it also comes in other tones. Some popular ones are the grey toned, the tan toned and black papers. I love the toned papers as they can give art some dramatic effects that you wouldn’t normally achieve with white paper. My personal favourite is the the toned tan paper.

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The longevity or how archival the paper is, is a must if you want to sell your art. You want the paper to last a long time and not to discolour after only a few years. If this is the case then you will want to ensure that your paper is archival and acid free. Papers that are 100% cotton will last the longest but unfortunately these are the most expensive.

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  • Don’t use expensive papers to begin with
  • Don’t use expensive papers to practice on or for everyday sketching and drawing
  • The more serious and the more skilled you become, then you can pay a little more for the professional grade paper
  • Buy the pads of paper when you have found the right one for you
  • Keep experimenting and trying new papers
  • Keep practicing
  • Have fun

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