Watercolor paper and drawing paper for artists and creative people

Which paper is suitable as the basis for your creative projects

If you like to draw or paint, you need a paper that is perfectly suited to the job in hand. After all, the choice of paper determines how you work on it and what your creative project will look like in the end. Some techniques can also only be realised on specific types of paper.


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The right paper will bring out the best in your work

Paper for artists and creative people is of high quality. It should be easy to work on so that the finished work looks as good as it can be. The paper should be as affected as little as possible by temperature, exposure to light or the acid content.

While it is less important which paper you use for sketches and preliminary work, it is definitely worth using a special paper for the final artwork or illustration. It really brings out the best in your work.

Sue und Yasmin, Watercolor artists

Papers for artists’ needs differ greatly in their surfaces and textures. The color also plays a role, so Tombow watercolor paper is subtly cream-white colored in order to accentuate the delicate translucent watercolor colors particularly beautifully. Tombow Bristol paper, on the other hand, has a bright white tint that is particularly rich in contrast for drawings created with pencil or fineliner and allows for intense shading.

What does the term Bristol paper mean?

You may already have noticed that many manufacturers also call their drawing paper ‘Bristol paper’. This is a term for paper that is glued together from multi-layered sheets. In the past, paper mills sent their best papers for gluing to the English city of Bristol and so the name became associated with a particular level of quality.

Bristol paper has a satin-coated, smooth surface. It is particularly good for designs and drawings using pen and ink, and for working with markers or brush pens. Bristol papers and Bristol boards have robust surfaces and are perfect for final artworks and illustrations that you may want to work on a little longer and more intensively.


Choose the right paper for your drawing technique

Smooth papers like the Bristol pad are especially good for sketching with pencils and colouring with felt-tip pens or handlettering with Brush Pens.

Structured paper is well suited to drawings done by pencil because the graphite can be easily worked in. You can spread and blend it well using your fingers. In contrast to sketch paper, drawing paper is usually heavier and thicker, which means that the sheets can be worked on and erased over a longer period of time as the paper is more durable. Often it is also fixed in place with masking tape, so it must not be too sensitive to tearing when the tape is subsequently removed.

For watercolours using brushes or Brush Pens you should always use watercolour paper because it absorbs more water and has a textured surface.

Acid-free, lightfast and resistant to ageing – what do these terms mean when applied to paper?

You’ll often find different terms on drawing and painting pads. What do they actually mean?

Acid-free: For printing high-quality publications and graphics, printers mainly use ‘age-resistant paper’ or ‘acid-free paper’. It is produced without free acids and lasts for centuries.

Lightfast: Light fastness means that the paper does not visibly change color or even decompose even when subject to prolonged illumination by sunlight (UV light).
Resistant to ageing: Paper is made from natural materials and decays over time. Books and high-quality artist paper must be produced in such a way that they are resistant to ageing. This means that they have a minimum life of several hundred years.

Eraser resistant: You can easily erase on the paper without accidentally roughening it.

Opacity: Opacity indicates how translucent a paper is. If the paper is not translucent, color or writing will not show through. This isn’t just about the strength of the paper; thin paper, for example for book printing, can also be opaque.

Once the work is ready on the computer, I like to print it out and continue painting with Brush Pens to work out the clothes, bodies or hair. Mixed media works thus create a beautiful link between different techniques.

Chen-Long Chung, Manga-ka und Illustrator

Watercolour paper is the top choice if you’re working with water

Watercolor paper such as the Tombow aquarell paper pad  is good for working with wet colours such as those used when watercoloring. There are various techniques that can be used in this respect. You can moisten the paper with water before you actually start painting. The inks can then be applied easily and the strong paper will lie flat on the pad even when damp because it is glued to the block at two edges. You can also paint wet-on-dry by taking the paint off the palette with a brush or water tank brush and painting it onto the dry paper. Or you can paint directly with the ABT Dual Brush Pen onto the dry watercolor paper and then blend it with a brush and water.

If you like to work more artistically with different media (mixed media), you can also print drafts that you have e.g. created on the computer using digital graphics programs onto watercolor paper and then work on them with watercolor paints. In this case, it is important that you do not paint onto the printed color, as water-based paint will not adhere to it. Instead, complete the design by applying watercolor to the free surfaces.



Why particularly smooth paper is very important for the tips of your Brush Pen when lettering

When lettering with Brush Pens, very smooth paper is particularly advantageous because the brush tips glide over the paper surface with less resistance than with rough, uneven paper. This enables a very even brush stroke. Above all, the brush tip will be protected and will fray less if you work on smooth paper. You can create different line thicknesses by applying either less or more pressure on the Brush Pen tip. This creates the typeface typically seen in lettering. Since the pen is not only pulled, but also pushed against the fine brush tip, it is particularly important not to exert any pressure when pushing and to use very smooth paper so that the tip is protected from fraying. If you work with a lot of color and water, aquarell paper is recommended.

I have high expectations of the paper I use for my illustrations, because nothing is more annoying than when it suddenly dissolves and becomes crumbly after a long period of working with the Brush Pen.

Chen-Long Chung, Manga-ka und Illustrator

Glued at the edges – how do I get the watercolor paper off the pad?

Watercolor pads are usually joined at several edges, i.e. held together on up to four edges with a layer of glue. This has the advantage that you always have a stretched sheet in front of you when working, even if you prepare the sheet in advance with water. This makes it very easy to work with watercolors, because the page will not slide around.
To remove the top sheet from the pad, the best way is to:

1. Wait until your work is completely dry.
2. Insert a flat, sharp knife into the opening between the first and the following sheets.
3. Go along the edges of the sheet carefully with the knife and cut through the glue.
4. Remove the top sheet from the pad.
5. Now remove the adhesive residue from the free sheet so that it does not stick to other sheets when stored.

And the pad itself is ready for your next piece of work.


How to store your paper – and your works of art

To store your paper and your finished works, you should take a few basics into account. Paper is a natural product made from wood. It therefore reacts to weather influences. It should be stored in a dry place without direct sunlight. Moisture can cause stains and mildew. However, if it is too dry, the paper may become brittle and break. If you are in any doubt about how high the humidity in your rooms is, you can measure it. Also make sure that you do not store the paper in too warm a place, for example in an uninsulated attic. The cooler the place where the paper is stored, the longer it will last.

Creativity on paper.
In our magazine you will find many examples.

Tip: Try out different papers

Every artist works a little differently and applies varying levels of pressure and uses varying levels of water – that’s why the demands on the material also vary. Try out different papers to see what works best for you – and your pens.

Have fun – and stay creative.