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How Do I Choose the Best Sketch Paper?

Sketch paper is used for sketching, or drawing, images.
Artists may use compressed charcoal sticks when sketching.
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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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Sketch paper is typically lighter and less expensive than archival quality paper used for drawing. Differences between sketch papers may relate to the weight and feel of the paper, but when practicing techniques there is typically no single best paper. It is true, however, that certain papers are better suited to specific drawing substances, like graphite or crayon. In many cases, sketch paper is available bound in attractive books, and the style of binding can also affect the desirability of the paper.

Choosing the best sketch paper often takes a little bit of trial and error. Your drawing style can affect the type of paper best suited to your sketches. Some people, for example, are extremely bothered by paper that is off-white and must draw on clean paper, while others prefer to have slight variations on each page. As sketches are typically not meant to be presented, many people use plain paper for sketching that might not be suitable for fine art presentations.

Sketching on the paper is a good way to determine if the paper is a good fit for a person's art. It is important to think not only about how the drawing looks on the paper but also how it feels. This can end up being a major factor in determining how well the paper fits someone's work.

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In many cases, sketch paper is sold in books of paper that are bound in attractive styles. The type of binding can, in some cases, be more important than the quality of the actual paper. Some people, for example, find spiral binding to be the most attractive because the papers inside can be completely flat. Other people find that sketch pads or bound books are more appropriate because they are sometimes more attractive and can bend in ways conducive to drawing while providing a hard surface.

One important feature to consider when choosing the best sketch paper is whether you need archival quality paper. In most cases, people do not need to sketch on high-quality paper because these pieces are not meant to last forever and are merely practice for more formal drawings. In certain special cases, higher quality paper may be better for sketches. If a person plans on painting or otherwise coloring the paper over the sketches, it may be a good idea to purchase thicker paper in either a bound or unbound form, as the thickness and wetness of the colors may bleed through.

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Discuss this Article

watson42
Post 7

As a kid I used lots of inexpensive paper and always switched back to things like printer paper.

When I was a teenager, though, I started asking people for things like sketchbooks for Christmas or my birthday, since they were expensive for my budget. I think they make great gifts for a beginning artist, and are pretty easy to buy for someone who isn't too picky. These days I buy my own, and one of my favourite was a small spiral bound sketchpad, sort of like a journal, with a durable black binding. It was easy to carry anywhere for when I got ideas, and it looked nice too.

drtroubles
Post 6

@manykitties2 - If you have a dollar store in your city you can try and look for some kids sketch paper. Usually this huge pad drawing paper is ideal for reworking ideas on, and you can get about 30 sheets or so for $1. The paper is usually heavy enough that it doesn't get wrecked if you need to erase something.

Another thing you can try is buying a notebook that has unlined paper. This isn't advertised for sketching, but I find they work great for simple sketches. Plus, you can usually get them really cheap around the beginning of the school year, as all the school supplies go on sale.

manykitties2
Post 5

There are so many kinds of sketchbooks that it can be tough to figure out which one is best. For someone who is a beginning artist, and just looking to do some practice sketch drawing, what kind of paper is best?

I have noticed that a lot of drawing pads are quite expensive, and when I go to peek around an art store, everything seems quite fancy. I have been drawing on just plain printer paper, but I think that it is a bit of a waste, as I usually end up erasing what I draw and starting over. Printer paper just smears like crazy when you use it to draw on. I want something that doesn't get ruined if I need to start over.

Perdido
Post 4

Since I don't have much of a budget for my art supplies, I use an old pad of newsprint to sketch on. I believe this is probably the cheapest and most flimsy type of paper you can buy, but that suits my purposes.

If all you need is scrap paper on which to jot your ideas and plan the proportions of a painting or drawing, then newsprint is for you. Arts and crafts stores sell newsprint pads as large as 18”x24” at cheap prices.

The paper is a sort of off-white that leans toward gray. Think of a page of newspaper with no ink on it.

seag47
Post 3

@orangey03 – My teacher also made me keep a sketch book, but I never ended up wanting to display any of my rough drafts of drawings. She taught me to use the sketch book as a brainstorming tool, so mine was filled with squiggles and quickly drawn lines.

We actually had to do a certain number of rough sketches each day. She would collect our sketch books at the end of the week and make sure that we had done this.

Because of the way in which we used our sketch books, we got away with buying the cheapest kind. The paper was thin and bound to the book. It was kind of freeing to know that it was okay to make a mess while forming my ideas.

wavy58
Post 2

The quality of sketch pad paper can have an effect on your decision of what medium to use in the final piece. I started out using low quality, rough sketch paper, and I think I gave up on many projects because of this.

I like to use pastel pencils, and the paper would not allow me to smudge the colors smoothly. The texture was so rough that the drawing looked unrealistic, and I gave up on that medium.

One day, I used a really excellent piece of drawing paper to start a sketch. The pencils smudged wonderfully, and I was able to make realistic shadows and highlights.

I realized all that I needed was better sketch paper. I looked back through my old sketch book and started on several abandoned projects, and they turned out to be wonderful.

orangey03
Post 1

I had to keep a sketch book in my college art classes, and I often got frustrated by the bound notebook. It seemed that I generated some of my best work spontaneously, but since it was stuck in the spiral bound sketch book, I couldn't hang it up.

A couple of times, I loved a sketch so much that I attempted to cut the paper along the edge with a box cutter. I never got a straight edge, and I usually ended up cutting through to the other pages.

I finally invested in a sketch book with pages that had perforated edges for easy tearing. The paper was also thicker, so if I accidentally drew a stroke of genius, I could tear it out and mount it.

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