The Best Paper to Use for Art

Coy fish draw on paper with Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil


Understanding the best paper to use for art is crucial to the quality and success of your work. The paper you choose affects how your medium of choice will perform. Watercolors and color pencils both have a specific paper designated to enhance and protect the qualities of that medium.

A blank piece of paper hosts endless possibilities in the eyes of an artist, but without the knowledge on what types of paper exist and how the paper will compliment your medium best, your vision may fall short of its full potential. Key qualities that define paper are raw material composition, acid content, and weight.

Cotton vs. Wood

Pulp Paper is typically made by cotton or wood pulp. When searching for the best paper to use for art, cotton is the popular choice. Cotton paper is durable with a lifespan of over 100 years thanks to its long fibers. Aside from longevity and durability, the paper has a distinct finish and ultimately gives colors a richer appearance.

Though popular in the general world of paper, wood pulp paper is artistically inferior to its cotton competition. There are various methods, mechanically and chemically, that wood goes through to create pulp. Wood pulp is made up of fibers called cellulose. Cellulose does not measure up to the durability and lifespan of cotton fibers.

Keep it Acid-Free

Acid is a molecule you want to avoid regardless of the medium being used. When choosing the best paper to use for art, confirm your paper is acid-free. Creating your art on acidic paper is creating art that will not last, as it can cause decay. Acid-free paper will withstand time, preserving your art and keeping it vibrant. Using acid-free media along with your acid-free paper is the best way to ensure the longevity of your artwork. Great examples of acid-free products include Faber-Castell’s Polychromos Color Pencils, Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils, and Pitt Artist Pens.


The weight of paper is a great indicator of how much material it can handle. Artists looking to work with watercolors should choose a heavier weighted paper as it can handle layers of strokes without compromising your art. Color pencil sketches are presented best when drawn on lighter weighted paper.


Paper is also available in different textures: hot press, cold press, and rough. These different textures are typically found to work best with watercolor paper.

To start, hot press paper is created from the use of heated cylinders, making it smoother. Hot press is the best paper to use when working on pieces requiring more detail such as portraits.

Cold press paper is created by cold cylinders. This process gives the paper more tooth and texture, perfect for creating a landscape or project that desires broad strokes and less definition.

As you can imagine, the rough paper has the most texture out of these three choices. The texture of rough paper works great with pigments, pulling more pigment off the medium you are using. Once you discover the best paper to use for art, the quality, vibrancy, and longevity of your work will improve and the full potential of your work will be revealed


More Posts