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  • Kirsty Partridge

The Best Paper for Coloured Pencil Drawing

Coloured pencils can seem overwhelming! From picking the right materials to selecting the best colours for your drawing and even knowing which techniques to use.


One question I get asked frequently is ‘which paper is best for coloured pencils?’



Over the years I have definitely tested my fair share of different papers and have gradually narrowed it down to a few favourites.


The techniques that you use with your coloured pencils (including how you choose to layer and blend) has a massive impact on what you want to look for in your paper.


Paper Surface


One of the most important things to consider when choosing your paper is surface texture. Do you want to use ultra-smooth paper? Or a paper that is rougher? Think about the result you want to achieve when deciding the best surface for your drawing.


When to use smooth paper?

  • I use smooth paper when I am drawing portraits with coloured pencil. The smooth texture allows you to get really smooth blending, which makes it easier to draw smooth skin.

  • When using the burnishing method to blend. I tend to use the burnishing method to blend portraits.

Burnishing - applying pressure to your pencils in order to get the layers of pigment to blend together.

NOTE: A downside to smooth paper is that it limits the amount of layering you can do because there is not much tooth for the coloured pencil to grip onto. That is why it is really important to plan out the colours you want to use and how you want to layer them, before diving into the colouring process.


When to use a paper with more texture?

  • When using solvent to blend. This is the biggest reason I use a more textured paper. If you use smooth paper the solvent with simply sit and slide around on the surface and you will not be able to layer well on top of it.

  • If your drawing requires lots of layering and detail. It will be easier to achieve this result if the paper you are using has a little more tooth. So, if you are not drawing a portrait that requires smooth shading then I would opt for a more textured paper instead.


Watercolour Paper for Coloured Pencils


Yes, you read that right! Watercolour paper is one of my favourite types of paper to use with coloured pencils.


I use cold-pressed watercolour paper when I plan on using solvent to blend my coloured pencils. This is because solvent is a liquid and you need to use a paper that can handle wet media.

I use solvent to blend most of my coloured pencil drawings, especially my animal studies. This is because solvent eliminates graininess, gives vibrant colours and allows you to build up lots of layers with your pencils.


It doesn’t matter what brand of watercolour paper you use. However, you do want to avoid watercolour paper that is rough, as very textured paper will make it harder to add detail to your drawings.


Paper Tone


Only considered using white paper? Maybe it is time to try out some toned paper!


Toned paper is usually a midtone value and is great if you want to practice your values and contrast. The midtone value of the paper means that when shading both your highlights will show up, as well as your shadows (unlike white paper where you already have your brightest highlights.)


You can get toned paper in all different colours- most commonly in a grey or tan colour.


I really recommend getting a pad of toned paper in order to practice your values, as a good understanding of values is key to creating awesome artwork.



My Favourite Papers


Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper

My favourite smooth paper

Best for:

  • Portraits

  • Drawings where I am burnishing/ want smooth shading


Strathmore Bristol Vellum Paper

My favourite medium surface paper


Best for:

  • More detailed drawings

  • Great all-round paper for all subject matters

  • Great for lots of layering

  • Textured enough to use with solvent (but not my preference)


Arteza Watercolour Paper

My favourite paper for blending with solvent

Best for:

  • Blending with solvent

  • Great for detailed drawings (as it isn’t too textured)


I also like the Fabriano Cold Pressed Watercolour Paper for blending with solvent.


Strathmore Toned Papers

My favourite toned paper

Strathmore has a great range of quality toned papers. I personally like the mixed media toned grey pad because it is really thick and sturdy, with a surface that allows for lots of layering.


Also, the Strathmore toned tan and toned grey drawing pads are brilliant for practicing drawing on toned paper.


Now that you have an idea of which paper is best for your coloured pencil drawings it is time to dive into drawing with this medium!


But, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed with where to start?


Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Get started with my FREE beginners coloured pencil class where you will learn all of the essential techniques you need to create impressive drawings.


You will learn:

  1. What materials you need to start out with coloured pencils

  2. How to pick the best colours for your drawings

  3. How to layer and blend your pencils

And much more!


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© Kirsty Partridge Art 2020
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