Types of Drawing Paper …And a Guide to Their Respective Sizes and Weights
Hi all…Today I am going to talk about different types of drawing paper! If you enjoy drawing, you may find yourself befuddled at the paper selection process. Some of it is thicker than others, some of it is glossier, but what does it all mean for YOU?
Glad you asked! I’ve always been a passionate, sometimes obsessed, drawer. It was always a hobby for me, and a way to relieve stress as well. I used to draw on anything – even slabs or scraps of wood. Or cardboard. Or, the backside of placemats. But I digress a little -I know you want to look at some “real” drawing paper. So let’s do that now.
Want to up your drawing game a little? Check out my Top 5 Drawing Tools Checklist…The form to get access to it is at the bottom of this post ✏️
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✒️ Sketch vs. Drawing Paper
Have you ever heard someone say “Where’s my sketch pad?” and wondered if it was the same thing as an out and out drawing pad too? That’s pretty commonplace – there is a difference between sketch and drawing paper, however.
Sketch paper is mainly a catch-all phrase for a slightly rough textured type of paper. It is great to have for doing thumbnail sketches, studies, and drawing on the fly, when opportunities could present themselves out of the blue!
First of all, drawing paper has more of a “tooth” to it, it’s somewhat heavier in weight than sketch paper, and it may cost a little more due to those factors. Sketch paper, which is more fibrous and has less of a “tooth” to the surface, while it handles charcoal and graphite well, may not stand up to the rigors of erasure, or moisture.
Here is another one of my pads below, this is newsprint paper – excellent for “experimental” work and what my former art teacher called “doing thumbnails”, but I wouldn’t do anything more ambitious with it.
Being thinner and more economical, it works well for practice when you’re trying to work out a composition. One negative is that it is not archival, so it may yellow or become brittle over time.
==>>Don’t forget, once you have some good paper on hand, check out my Top 5 Drawing Tools Checklist (go to the bottom of this post to get access.)
Drawing Paper Weight Explained
Paper for drawing and sketching has a metric system – also known as gsm (or “grams per square meter”) My sketch pad has a gsm of about 75 to 90, and closer to 50 – 60 lbs.
**The “lbs” refers to “pounds per 500 sheets” a standard measurement used in the cutting process – it does NOT literally weigh 50 lbs **
Drawing paper has more weight, a good pad has a weight of 70 to 80 lb. can support pencil , charcoal, colored pencils, and yes, sometimes ink depending on the type of pen.
These are two of my paper pads – the right one has a weight of 70 lbs and has a gsm of 104. It’s a little below the standard weight of watercolor painting paper, in which the standard is about 140 lbs and 300 gsm.
✒️ Drawing Pad Sizes
I’ve had my share of drawing pads over the years, and they all came in different sizes as well as weight. The sizes the paper comes in are labeled, usually with an “A” numbered range that starts at A0 (largest) to A5 (smallest).
A4 is the most common size that is equivalent to printer paper, and standard letter size 8.5″ by 11″. My drawing paper pads here are both 11″ by 14″, which is labeled as A3, in which the measurement is a little bit bigger and closer to 11″ by 16″.
|A5||5.8" by 8"|
|A4||8.5" by 11"|
|A3||11" by 16"|
|A2||16" by 23"|
|A1||23" by 33"|
|A0||36" by 46"|
The measurements above are not exhaustive and there are many more sizes than these – but these are the most common.
This is a very popular type of art paper that comes in two different finishes, smooth and vellum. Both have their place in your drawing endeavors.
Smooth paper works great with pen and ink and markers, and can handle a little moisture. In general, bristol paper pads are very versatile, and very popular with illustrators, and comic book artists.
Vellum finish bristol paper is considered best for charcoal and graphite pencils. It has a little “tooth” to it, and peaks that exist naturally, so you could come up with some interesting dimensional effects. It can also handle the necessary gesture of using an eraser from time to time which inadvertently lifts fibers.
Bristol paper pad sizes are pretty similar to the common drawing pads, and include the familiar ones like 9 by 12, 11 by 14, 14 by 17 and 18 by 24. The average weight is about 110 lb/250 gsm.
A good example of bristol board – in this case, smooth – would be something like I used to make the chart in this post showcasing different quilling paper shapes. I used a fine tip Sharpie pen to label the various shapes.
Illustration board is pretty similar to Bristol board. It’s described best as many sheets of drawing paper affixed to one board to produce a stiff work surface. I remember the college I used to attend back in the day; the campus bookstore stocked art supplies in one corner and illustration boards were one thing up for grabs real cheap.
I needed them for my classes and so I’d drop a little coin on a handful of them, plus some extras for practice later.
Hot Press Paper
This type of paper is usually made for watercolors, or pen and ink, especially the thicker type.
A hot press simply refers to the pressing equipment involved in the construction of the paper pad. The cylinders used in the equipment are heated which creates a smoother surface.
That may be a little more than you wanted to know, but just the way the process works in a nutshell, in case you’re curious.
Cold Press Paper
“Cold press” just means it involves the cylinders without heat, which produces a little more tooth – or raised texture – to the paper. Cold pressed paper works great with mediums like charcoal and graphite pencils, and oil pastels.
My drawing pad that you saw in the picture above, is a good example of cold-pressed paper sheets. I have used both pencil and pen and ink in this pad, with good results. I wouldn’t, however, employ full-bodied ink and water washes as it’s not quite thick enough to support moisture at that level.
Here are a few good examples of the paper I use most frequently in various sizes, both of which will suit home and studio use, and travel too.
✏️ “Draw” Your Own Conclusions!
So if you’d like to take your drawing skills to the next level, I hope this guide to different types of drawing paper sheets will be of help based on my own experiences. Don’t be afraid to experiment, nevertheless, with different pencils, and different paper types.
Don’t forget to check out my FREE Top 5 Drawing Tools Checklist! You can access it by filling out the form below: