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Guide to picking art paper

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The type of paper you use for your artwork depends on many factors. Paper comes in all sizes and textures to work in depending on the medium or how it is used. It is important that artists choose the right type of paper to both avoid damaging the artwork or spending money unnecessarily. Below is an explanation of paper types and suggestions to choose the best surface for your artwork.

If you look at the myriad of paper in the art stores, one of the first things that is noticeable is a long description of weight, surface types, and sizes on the front of each pad. Most papers will tell you if it’s acid free, but some will not. Most good quality art paper will, likely, be acid free unless otherwise noted. General copy paper, cardboard, and newspaper print are generally not acid free. Being acid free is important if you plan on keeping your artwork for a long time as acid in the paper is what causes yellowing as it ages. Non-acid free paper is great for temporary works and sketches, but not for professional artwork to be sold or displayed.

Paper can be listed as “cold-pressed” or “hot-pressed”. This refers to the processes in which water is removed when the paper is created. Most drawing papers are cold-pressed and have a rougher texture that holds on to both pigments and liquid. Hot-pressed papers tend to have a smoother, shallower texture and are ideal for watercolors.

On the cover of a pad of paper is a weight. In the U.S., higher numbers are usually thicker and have better water absorption. Weight is an important factor depending on what medium and what purpose you have for the paper. The higher the number, the more liquid it can absorb before it begins to lose shape. Drawing papers are usually about 70-90 pounds, sketching paper is usually 50-70 pounds, and copier paper is usually about 20 pounds. High quality watercolor paper is at least 140 pounds or higher.

In San Diego, stores that specialize in selling arts and craft supplies will have the best variety of papers to choose from. Blick art supplies in Little Italy and SDSU as well as Michael’s stores, among others, have a large selection to choose from.

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