What To Look For When Choosing Drawing Paper

Choosing Drawing Paper | How To Draw... Pencil Portraits- A Step By Step Drawing Tutorial Paper is paper, right?… Not quite! There are different types of paper made to be used with different mediums. This page will guide you through choosing drawing paper that is made for use with pencil.

Paper designed to be used with pencil is commonly known as Cartridge Paper, and can be purchased in different sizes, weights and textures.

Paper Size Chart

Below is a diagram illustrating some of the most common different paper sizes;

Choosing Drawing Paper | How To Draw... Pencil Portraits- A Step By Step Drawing Tutorial From this diagram, you can see that A5 is the smallest. A5 paper is a common size for advertising flyers, or what I like to refer to as “bleepin’ junk mail”!

A4 is twice the size of A5 and is the most common size you come across everyday for your printer, magazines and writing pads.

A3 is twice the size of A4. This is common in pencil portraiture and other kinds of art, which is why I use this size most often. It is also the standard size for advertising posters.

A2 is twice the size of A3, and is also used in art along with A1 which is twice the size of A2. These larger sizes are usually available in separate sheets and not pads, but are useful for portraits of full-body or several subject’s.

Paper Weights

As well as different sizes, there are also different weights of drawing paper.

The weight is the grammage determined at the pulping stage of the paper. It is used in conjunction with caliper and density which is the thickness of the paper. It is all very complicated, and you can click here to find out more if you can’t sleep one night!

All you need to know is you want a paper around the 200g/m² mark for pencil drawing.

This paper is strong and tough, and feels really sturdy.

What Drawing Pad Do I Recommend?

Having tried many, many different pads for my pencil portraits I have a fair amount of experience with drawing paper. Yet there is only one pad that I feel has all the qualities perfect for pencil drawing, and it is the one I will always use.

Choosing Drawing Paper | How To Draw... Pencil Portraits- A Step By Step Drawing Tutorial Daler-Rowney A3 200g/m² Acid-Free Fine-Grain Heavyweight Cartidge Paper

Number Of Sheets: 30

Price: Approx. £8

Why I Like It!

The reason I like to use this paper for my pencil drawing is because it almost helps and cheers you on to draw better!

What I mean by that is because the paper feels so strong, and handles the lead so well, drawing becomes a real pleasure as this paper pretty much lets you try different things because of the texture.

Choosing Drawing Paper | How To Draw... Pencil Portraits- A Step By Step Drawing Tutorial Texture

I love blending pencil to give a tight consistency between tones, and I have never come across drawing paper which helps me do this better than this pad.

Many pencil artists will argue that pencil can not be blended. Or should not be blended, but then I argue they just haven’t found the right pad yet!


This paper is acid-free, meaning if used with water then the pH level will be neutral. This helps to preserve the art work for longer.

Choosing Drawing Paper | How To Draw... Pencil Portraits- A Step By Step Drawing Tutorial What Mediums Is This Pad Suitable For?

The mediums this pad are best suited to are indicated along the top. They are, from left to right;

  • Pencil
  • Paint
  • Cartridge
  • Charcoal

How Much Is It?

Around £8.

Crafty-Arts are an online retailer who sell many drawing products through the Amazon Marketplace.

They sell this pad from £7.45 to £8.54 at the time of writing this, which is about what I paid for my pad around eight months ago from the high street (before they went bust, that is!).


Best Budget Alternative?

Winsor & Newton Cartridge Paper Pads Medium Surface – Spiral A3 150gsm

Number Of Sheets: 25

Price: £3.30

Why Is This My Best Budget Alternative?

This drawing pad is less than half the price of my favoured pad above, and Windsor & Newton have done a pretty good job in the value for money stakes with this one.

Compared with the Daler-Rowney Cartridge Pad above, this paper is a lot lighter and more nimble. To put this in perspective for you, everyday copy inkjet paper that you put in the printer is around the 80g/m².

This paper is around twice the weight and sturdy-ness of that; which isn’t great, but neither is it bad for £3.30.

It isn’t acid-free either, but to be honest as long as you are not using the pad for painting that is irrelevant, since pencil doesn’t yield water!

Overall, I would recommend this pad;

  • If you want to get some practice in!
  • To begin with to test the water!
  • As a well contested alternative pencil drawing pad!

It is available to purchase from bluecoatbooks on the Amazon Marketplace for £3.30!

Don’t Be Scared To Experiment

Before we look at Choosing Drawing Pencils in the next part, I just wanted to tell you about something called Creative Licence!

A Creative Licence is simply your prerogative as a pencil artist to experiment; try different things out and find the materials that work for you.

An artist is defined as someone who uses their imagination and knowledge to create something meaningful. It doesn’t need to be meaningful to everyone; in fact it doesn’t need to meaningful to anyone else except you.

Creating art, whatever medium, is a very personal experience to you, so you will never be a bad artist in the same way you will never be the best artist; they don’t exist simply because art only exists within you!

So, claim your Creative Licence now and start experimenting!

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