Sketching Paper vs Drawing Paper: Which Is Best?

Sketching Paper vs Drawing Paper: Which Is Best?
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Choosing the right paper for your artwork requires you to consider how you want to use it since there is no one right answer for everyone. The kind that you need may also change depending on each project you undertake.

Whether you’re looking for the correct paper to use for sketching, tracing, or drawing, it’s essential to know the differences between the properties and finishes of each paper type. As such, you can better understand their artistic uses.

When you’re looking at buying sketching paper vs drawing paper for example, understanding the vocabulary used in the industry will give you a better idea of what to expect from each. Thus, we will discuss the different paper types available on the market to help you understand exactly what it is that you are buying.

Sketching vs. Drawing

A sketch usually implies a speedy drawing that is used to practice or develop an idea or process. A sketch can be a quick record of a moment, to hold the image in your mind, and it is usually more unrefined with less detail and shading. As such, sketching paper tends to be cheaper so that you can use a lot of it to practice your final piece of artwork.

On the other hand, a drawing can be the outcome of a sketch, whereby the sketch has been used for initial guidance and study of the subject matter. A drawing will often refer to a finished piece of artwork containing more detail that may end up being framed or displayed. For this reason, final drawings are usually made on heavier and more expensive paper where a better depth of color and texture can be achieved.

This isn’t to say that these assumptions are set in stone since often, a finished piece of art can have an intentional “sketch-like” quality. Generally speaking though, sketching is seen as a more informal process than drawing, but when it comes to choosing the right paper for your art, it should come down to preference over manufacturer labeling.

Paper Types

With the massive variety in quality available when it comes to different types of paper, rather than choosing paper based on its name (sketching or drawing), you’re better off considering the materials, finish, and weight.

Materials Used

The first thing you should really consider is what the paper is made from, as some types of paper are more durable than others and can handle a lot of erasing.

  • Cellulose Fiber

Cellulose fiber paper is the most common type of paper available and is made from wood pulp. Any paper made from this type of fiber will be pretty decent at holding up to a fair amount of erasing. It is also acidic, so drawings made on cellulose fiber paper will tend to fade more quickly over time.

  • Cotton Fiber

On the other hand, paper made from cotton fibers is more durable. It is generally higher quality, with a price tag to match, and for this reason, it can handle a lot more erasing and revising.

Bristol paper is made of cotton fiber that is well-known in the industry for its durability and versatility. It can be one-ply for tracing, up to four-ply.

Types of Finish

The finish of the paper will give an idea of how smooth the paper you are buying will be. The paper finish is another important consideration, especially where your preferred choice of drawing implements is concerned. Charcoals, for example, will slide off more smooth surfaces so that you’ll want to go for rougher finishes to hold the pigment in place more easily.

  • Unfinished

Unfinished or rough paper is ideal for charcoal and pastel sketches and drawings. The rough finish will hold the lines and color much better than a smooth finished paper.

  • Cold Press

Cold press paper sits right in the middle ground of paper finishes available. The cold press process will smooth the surface of the paper and is great for sketching if you like to experiment with many different types of drawing implements and tools. It’s slightly weaker tooth sits really with many artists who like to use various mediums for their work.

  • Hot Press

Hot pressed paper is smoothed out completely in a process similar to clothes pressing. The smoothness of the surface means that you can achieve the finest details, making it great for use with pens, and final pieces of graphite artwork.

Paper Weight

The weight of the paper will determine the thickness of each sheet of paper irrespective of its size. It is measured by grams per square meter (gsm), so the higher gsm, the thicker and more durable your paper will be.

Sketching Paper vs Drawing Paper

Due to many of the assumed differences between sketching and drawing, as outlined above, the main differences between sketching paper and drawing paper are as follows:

Sketching Paper

  • Lighter weight (generally 50lb or 79gsm to 60lb or 89gsm)
  • Less durable
  • Generally less expensive
  • Used for practicing and quick drawings
  • Good with most dry media (graphite, charcoal, and conte)

Drawing Paper

  • More commonly used for finished artwork
  • Heavier weight (generally 64lb or 104gsm to 100lb or 163gsm)
  • More durable for revisions and fine details
  • Great with all dry media (graphite, charcoal, conte, colored pencil, and pastel)
  • More expensive and therefore usually fewer sheets in a pad
  • Toothier surface is better for creating more intense areas of light and dark

Preference Rules

Typically speaking, the differences between sketching paper vs drawing paper come down to quality, quantity, and cost. A sketchpad will usually have more sheets in it for your money, but be of lower quality. That’s not to say sketch pads contain low-quality paper, just, generally speaking, would usually tend to be lower quality than drawing paper.

When it comes to choosing the right paper for you, it really does come down to preference. While you may wish to use this knowledge as a guide, you really should choose the paper that you feel most comfortable working with. If you can, practice drawing on all different types of paper to get a feel for each and then pick which works best for you and your favorite mediums.

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