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Links to pastel arts websites; plus an art paper lesson

Michael Preston
Online art gallery of original oil pastel drawings and commissioned works by Michael Preston. Vibrant works of art!
Online art gallery of original oil pastel drawings and commissioned works by Michael Preston. Vibrant works of art!

Suzana Stojanovic - The Magical World of Horses
Glamorous highly realistic paintings of horses - original oil on canvas and pastel paintings - artworks by Suzana Stojanovic an artist
The Equine Art of Suzana Stojanovic an artist. Original oil on canvas and pastel paintings. High Realism.

An Art Lesson

Selecting the right paper for your project

Whether you work in watercolor, drawing, pastels, or pen and ink, the type and quality of the paper you choose is at least as important as the pigment that you place upon it. Paper selection is a personal choice but plays an essential part in determining the final appearance of the work, both technically and aesthetically.

Key to understanding why certain types of paper are better for specific applications is what they have in common as well as what makes them different. One feature that all papers share, to varying degrees, is their surface texture or “tooth.” This characteristic is generally divided into three areas: Rough, Not, and Hot Pressed.

Rough textured paper is usually created from material that has been dried without any smoothing or press ing. This paper is often handmade or mouldmade and has coarse fibers that are most effective for drawings and sketches of vivid contrast.
Not (or Not Hot Pressed) textured paper is typically made from finer fiber than Rough to create a medium textured surface. Other terms include cold pressed, mat, regular, and satin. Since this type of paper has tooth and holds moisture and pigment well, it is suitable for watercolor and other wet pigment applications.

When paper is pressed either through hot glazing or cold polished rollers (a process called Hot Pressed – or H.P.), the result is a very smooth, hard finish. The surface appearance of this type of paper is usually glazed or sheen. This density and smoothness makes a good surface for the detailed lines of calligraphy and other pen and ink works.

Other treatments affect surface hardness and how paper responds to applied pigment. Sizing is applied to some papers so that inks and wet pigments will not readily penetrate or diffuse on the surface. The degree of sizing defines the bond of the paper. Bristol board takes this treatment further by heavy sizing and then com pression of the paper. This renders it moisture resistant and makes it perfect for use with watercolors and inks.

Paper surfaces are also coated with materials such as colored ink, metallic powder, crushed sand, china clay, etc. This, along with variations in the above processes, helps create many different types of paper for just about any application or appearance.

Most watercolor paper is available in the Not variety and contains a surface sizing treatment. This construction and finish determines the color and brilliance of this paper. Higher quality watercolor papers are made from 100% cotton fibers because of their high strength and long life. Watercolor paper is available in loose sheets, pads, or laminated into boards.

Medium weight white paper with a slightly toothed surface is most popular for drawing. Often these papers are machine made and pressed through rollers, but thee are also non pressed varieties that derive surface strength from sizing. Good drawing paper must always maintain surface integrity through repeated rubbing and reworking.

Charcoal and pastel paper must have enough tooth to grab and retain the grains of applied color. A medium toothed paper is generally most effective for this purpose. Some papers contain sand coating so that they will “bite” and grind the pigment uniformly. This type of sketching paper must be strong enough to withstand repeated rubbing, erasure, and varying degrees of charcoal hardness.

Some artists prefer soft colored, tinted paper which can accent the tones of a drawing by providing either interesting complements to applied pastels or similar shades for monochromatic works. Drawings of stark contrast can be created by using dark charcoal on light paper or the inverse (for example, light pigment on dark paper).

Oil pastels can be combined with turpentine to create a wash of color that can be applied by either stick or brush. If this is what you intend to do, you will need a sized paper that will not separate or warp when solvents are applied to it.

Pen and ink papers are normally waterproof and will dry to a slightly glossy, hard film. The surface of these papers must be smooth enough so that the pen tip (nib) glides over it. Softer papers should be avoided, since they have a tendency to catch the pen tip and cause tears. Better paper will be surface sized, which allows for controlled pigment washes, stippling, and cross hatch patterns. For exaggerated blending and diffusion, a softer paper with greater absorption may be desirable.

For printing applications, a medium paper that is hard enough to resist pick up (or the lifting of fibers from the paper’s surface) is most desirable. Using a sized paper will also help applied pigment remain fast. As always, It is best to first make proof prints to determine how a certain type of paper will react to the print process before mass replication begins.

There are many types of paper commonly available for these and other types of works such as calligraphy and lithography. To create successful and permanent works of art, you need to use the best quality paper with the correct application.

Since each paper manufacturer has its own standards for materials, construction, and surface quality, it is always best to ask the people at your art supply store for recommendations. Keep in mind that one manufacturer’s fine tooth paper may be another’s medium fine, so experimenting with different types and qualities of paper is the best way to learn and check results firsthand.

Red Rule


Since 1892, Strathmore has designed papers that are the preferred choice of professional artists, art teachers and knowledgeable amateurs. Most Strathmore Artist Papers are made in our own mills, where each run is tested by machine and by hand. We hope this quick reference guide and glossary will be useful in helping gain a better understanding of common artist paper terms and the Strathmore product offering.

Acid Free Paper - Paper manufactured using alkaline papermaking technology. Acid free papers are buffered with an alkaline reserve, such as calcium carbonate, to neutralize acid compounds absorbed from the atmosphere or formed through natural aging.

Archival Paper - Paper manufactured to provide the ultimate resistance against natural aging. The most important characteristics are: no groundwood or unbleached pulp, a minimum pH of 7.5, and additional alkaline reserve of 2%.

Basis Size - Sizes based on traditions/customs which represent the industry standard for a specific paper grade. For example, the basis size of watercolor paper is 22" x 30".

Basis Weight - The weight in pounds of a ream (500 sheets) of paper in a given basis size. Thus, a 140 lb. watercolor paper will be one in which a ream of 22" x 30" sheets actually weighs 140 pounds.

Bond - A term that has grown to be a catch-all for many different types of paper. Essentially, Bond is a grade of writing or printing paper with varying degrees of translucency, known for strength, durability and permanence, while remaining comparatively light weight. Originally used in the printing of corporate bond certificates. In the art field, it is extensively used for general layout and visualizing purposes.

Bristol - Artist Bristol generally describes drawing paper that is pasted. Two or more sheets are pasted together to form 2-ply, 3-ply, etc. Sheets are pasted into Bristol to achieve stiffness, strength and to form a sheet with two identical useable (felt or top) sides.

Calendering - A process that takes place at the end of the papermaking machine. The paper is passed through a stack of steel rollers which gives it more uniform thickness (caliper). By varying the number of rolls used, and the pressure applied, degrees of smoothness can be achieved.

Caliper - The thickness of a sheet of paper, expressed in thousandths of an inch (.001).

Cold Press - A term used to describe the medium surface of certain textured paper used for watercolor work.

Deckle Edge - A decorative feathered edge produced during the papermaking process.

Felt Side - The side of paper that does not contact the carrying wire while traveling across the wet end of the papermaking machine. Also known as the “top side,” it is considered the preferred working side of a sheet of paper.

Fourdrinier - The formal name for a papermaking machine that forms a continuous web of paper on a moving wire screen. The vast majority of paper manufactured in this country is made on Fourdrinier machines.

Furnish - A term to describe the mixture of fibrous materials (pulp), sizing, fillers, dyes, other additives and water that eventually is processed into paper. The consistency of prepared oatmeal, furnish is what is fed onto the moving wire of a Fourdrinier paper machine or Cylinder machine.

g/m2 - A unit of measure for the weight of paper in the metric system. It is the weight of one square meter expressed in grams. A 140 lb. 22" x 30" watercolor paper is equivalent to 300 g/m2.

Grain Direction - The direction in which the majority of fibers lie in a finished sheet of paper corresponding to the direction the wire travels on a papermaking machine. Handmade papers have no grain direction.

Hot Press - Used primarily in describing watercolor papers with a very smooth surface.

Laid Finish - Describes a watermarked series of parallel, vertical and horizontal impressed lines in a sheet.

Lignin - An organic substance which acts as a binder for cellulose fibers in wood and certain plants, adding strength and stiffness to cell walls. Lignin is undesirable in the production of fine, permanent papers because it reacts with light and/or heat to produce henols (alcohols) and acids, which cause deterioration and embrittlement of the paper.

Mould (Mold) Made - Although originally describing a handmade process, today “mould made” papers are produced on a Cylinder machine. Cylinder machines differ from Fourdriniers only in the way the pulp is applied to the wire.

Opacity - The property of a paper that minimizes or prevents the passage of light through the sheet.

pH - This is a chemical term, defining the acid-alkaline range of any substance. A lower pH indicates acidity, a higher figure shows an alkaline condition. A pH reading of 7.0 indicates neutrality.

Plate Surface/High Surface - For a special, uniformly smooth finish, sheets of paper are interleaved with highly polished metal plates to make a stack, or “book.” The “book” is then pressed repeatedly between steel rolls under great pressure, imparting the smoothness of the metal plate to a paper’s surface. Plate surface papers are ideal for pen and ink, airbrush, and mechanical layouts.

Ply - A single thickness (sheet) of paper. Artists’ papers and mounting boards, as well as other grades, are identified as 1-ply, 2-ply, etc. As each ply is pasted together the increased thickness and stiffness is described by the number of plies.

Post-Consumer Material - Paper, paperboard and fibrous wastes from retail stores, office buildings and homes after they have passed through their end‑usage as consumer items.

Pulp - Cellulose fiber material extracted by chemical or mechanical means from wood, cotton or other organic or synthetic sources. Pulp provides the fiber content in the furnish, which is used to form paper.

Rough Surface - A term used to describe a coarse, textured paper. Often used by artists when discussing the surface characteristics of watercolor paper.

Size (Sizing) - Additive substances such as starch or animal glue which are applied to the surface of the paper (surface sizing) and/or added to the furnish (internal sizing). Sizing is applied to the paper to improve the drawing, painting or printing qualities such as moisture hold out and paper strength.

Smooth Surface - A paper with a very smooth, hard finish. Ideal for pen and ink, marker, airbrush and mechanical layouts.

Vellum Surface/Medium Surface/Regular Surface/Kid Surface - A term used to describe the finish of a sheet of paper, with a minimum to moderate tooth. Ideal for pencil, charcoal, airbrush, pastel, crayon, and pen and ink, (not requiring a solid line).

Wire Side - The reverse of felt side. It is the side of the sheet of paper that comes in contact with the Fourdrinier wire on the wet end of the papermaking machine.


This art paper lesson written by

Other Important Links

Alice Yazzie has perfected the use of pastels....
Recognition of this ability was given to Alice when she was awarded Best of Painting Division at the1997 Indian Market and1st place for pastels at the 2000 Indian Market. Alice is also well known for having done the art work for the Navajo Nation Fair 1992...

Barbara Hamilton Kaczmarowska. Portraits in pastel....
Wonderful portraits in pastel by Barbara Hamilton Kaczmarowska...

Gail Adams; Canadian pastel artist...
Gail was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. She began her art training at age seven from a prominent Alberta artist. Taking weekly art labs lasting two to three hours, it demonstrated to her parents that the decision to enroll Gail into these advanced lessons was the correct decision. Being exposed to art at such an early age allowed Gail to experience many different mediums. ...

Pastel paintings by Jack Pardue....
A great artist who does wonderful work in figurative, still-lifes, and landscapes; he is also a very talented illustrator....

Michael Preston
Online art gallery of original oil pastel drawings and commissioned works by Michael Preston. Vibrant works of art!
Online art gallery of original oil pastel drawings and commissioned works by Michael Preston. Vibrant works of art!

Living in rural Iowa for 20 years, I've developed a deep appreciation for the soft pastoral beauty of the American Midwest. Layers of lush green trees and foliage...the native prairie, thick with tall grasses and wild flowers...the Iowa countryside is a constant source of inspiration for me....

Peter Saw Watercolors and Pastels... Link to Peter Saw Watercolors and Pastels
Gallery of Watercolours and Pastels by Peter Saw of Leicestershire, UK. Site includes free tips, step by step paintings, tutorials, Art links & Painting Holidays....

Suzana Stojanovic - The Magical World of Horses
Glamorous highly realistic paintings of horses - original oil on canvas and pastel paintings - artworks by Suzana Stojanovic an artist
The Equine Art of Suzana Stojanovic an artist. Original oil on canvas and pastel paintings. High Realism.

Barbara Hamilton Kaczmarowska. Portraits in pastel....
Wonderful portraits in pastel by Barbara Hamilton Kaczmarowska...

These web site links and art lessons are listed as a convenience to my visitors. If you use these links or lessons, I can take no responsibility and give no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of these third-party sites.

Phone:(507)263-7989  |   30253 Oxford Mill Road, Cannon Falls, MN 55009   |

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