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How To Choose The Best Paper for Graphite Drawing

Drawing Paper

With so many different drawing papers available on the market today it may be hard to choose which one is right for your medium.

All drawing papers are not alike. Differences in tooth, material, finish, weight and colour can all make a big difference in the finished quality of your drawing.

You also have to take into consideration the archival quality of the paper and whether or not you are just sketching or doing a piece for commission or sale.


various sheets of white drawing paper


It can be hard to choose the best paper for graphite drawing. Read on to get more information about the papers available.

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For more tips on drawing, read my post on Drawing Tips. You can also check out  CreativeLive for their drawing classes along with other classes to help grow your art business.


black banner with white lettering


Tooth of the Drawing Paper


Tooth refers to the texture of the paper…how rough or smooth it is. The texture will determine how well the paper holds the medium you use.

Smooth texture is great for markers. Rough texture is more suited to charcoal or pastels. For graphite or colored pencil, a medium texture is best.


Weight of Drawing Paper


When we talk about the weight of the paper we are referring to the papers thickness.

Printer copying paper generally has a weight of 20lbs ( .75 gsm). The best paper for graphite drawing should be over 80 lbs. (120 gsm).

The heavier weight is better for drawing since it can take more erasure and can handle the constant pressure from the pencil better. Thinner paper will tear easier and ruin your work.


notebook with text overlay best paper for graphite drawing





Lower quality paper is made from wood pulp. They are generally acidic, so will fade over time. Newsprint is one example of this type of paper.

The best quality paper is made from cotton and is referred to as rag paper. It is usually hand made and has a distinctive torn edge. These are usually quite expensive.

Most drawing papers fall somewhere in between with a mix of cotton and wood fibers.


Archival vs Acid Free


Cotton fibres are naturally acid free, therefore cotton fibre papers are naturally archival. These papers will not fade or discolour over time.

Papers made from wood fibre or a combination of wood and cotton fibres are chemically treated to make them acid free.

Papers labeled acid free are more likely to fade over time but this usually takes many years.



drawing paper, pens, paint brushes



Cold Pressed vs Hot Pressed


Cold pressed paper has some texture to it and feels rougher to the touch. Hot pressed paper is smoother and will give you the most detail.

These terms usually refer to watercolour paper.

Some hot pressed watercolour paper has a lot of sizing on it to protect the paper during shipping. This sizing makes the paper slippery and doesn’t hold the graphite well.

When buying paper, it is best to get a good quality paper. A lot of artist like to use good hot pressed watercolour paper such as Arches hot pressed watercolour paper for drawing.


  watercolour paper block with pink cover

Best Paper for Graphite Drawing


Which drawing paper you use comes down to a personal choice. The type of paper is dependent on the style of drawing you do and the purpose of your drawing.

For everyday sketching, a good quality sketchbook is fine. For work you want to sell, finding the right paper for your style and making sure it is archival is important.

Here are some of my favourite papers to use. I recommend buying a small amount of different papers to try out and find the one that is right for you.



Strathmore 400 series Drawing Paper. This paper has a smooth to medium surface that enables me to get fairly decent darks.

It is not smooth enough to get super fine details but it serves well for most drawings.

The downside is that the paper is off white, so not the best choice if you want really white whites.



graphite drawing of a girl with green eyes
This drawing was done with graphite and a little colored pencil on Strathmore Bristol Vellum


Strathmore 500 series Bristol Vellum.  I like the smoothness of this paper for getting fine detail. It is much harder to get really dark darks, but recently I bought a set of Mars Lumograph black pencils which give me a pretty good dark.


Fabriano Artistico Hot Press Watercolour Paper.  One of my favourite papers to use for both graphite and coloured pencil. It has just the right amount of tooth and can take many layers of pencil.

I have heard that they have recently changed their manufacturing and the paper is not quite as good.  I have not tried the new paper yet but I will update this post when I do.


There are many other papers on the market that you can try. Don’t go for the cheapest you can find.

Quality paper means quality results. Try out a few different brands and types of paper to find the one that suits your drawing style and budget.

In the end, the best paper for graphite drawing is the one that you most enjoy using. I hope this post was helpful in making your decision.


If you need some drawing ideas here is a printable list of drawing prompts. Enjoy 😊 


list of sketching prompts

Thanks for reading.

Digital signature Marilyn with butterfly

9 thoughts on “How To Choose The Best Paper for Graphite Drawing”

  1. This article was very helpful, thanks! By the way, I like how the eyes popped because of the colored pencil.

  2. this is good information. thanks for posting. however, the photo you show as an example does not show up very well and I don’t see any colored pencil. You might want to re do the photo and repost 🙂

    1. I didn’t notice any reference to using coloured pencil. This lady has parkinsons and has done a beautiful drawing which she has shared, along with the rest of her site, for no profit to herself. The photo might not show on your computer , it is very clear on mine. I think your comment was disrespectful and not relevant.

      1. The way Pamela phrased it was not at all insulting, and I do think the photo was a little blurry. It is a very nive drawing but if the definition was a little clearer I think it might look even better.

  3. Pingback: How To Express Emotions In Your Drawing - Trembeling Art

  4. Pingback: 10 Tips to Improve Your Drawing Skills - Trembeling Art

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