- ABOUT DRAWING SURFACES
weight - materials - types - finishes
ABOUT DRAWING SURFACES
It is possible to draw on almost anything, but artists mainly use paper. There is a huge assortment of artists' papers available, but only those rated archival should be used for permanent work.
Papers are graded by number of plies or by weight. For drawing, 90-lb., and even 60-lb. paper is often adequate, although artists who erase a lot or who employ vigorous drawing methods surface should choose heavier papers.
Papers are made from either wood pulp, cotton and linen rags, or a blend. Wood pulp is the least costly and is reasonably permanent when chemically treated; if not treated it rapidly deteriorates. Rag papers are more durable, permanent, and versatile than wood pulp and are available in surfaces that range from extremely rough to very smooth and in many weights. Blends of rag and pulp are more economical than rag alone and are an improvement over purely pulp papers.
In addition, there is also a variety of beautiful Japanese papers hand-made of plants found only in the Far East. Some are bleached white, but many are natural in color.
Papers for many purposes exist, and artists are not confined to papers made specifically for drawing.
Newsprint is a lightweight pulp paper usually sold in pad and sheet form. Because it is so inexpensive, but has poor performance characteristics, it is usually used only by beginning students or for quick sketches and “throw-aways.” Charcoal, conté, and the like perform reasonably well on newsprint, but it does not respond well to pencil or wet drawing media.
The distinction between "sketch" and "drawing" paper is vague, but basically sketching paper is lighter in weight (around 50 lbs. or 75 gsm) than drawing paper (60-100 lbs. or 90-125 gsm). In addition to white and natural, many companies offer colored papers as well as recycled varieties.
Bristol board is 100% rag and sparkling white. It is available in several surfaces, and in two-ply, three-ply, and four-ply weights. Bristol board accepts all dry drawing media, as well as pen-and-ink and washes. It is especially appropriate for pencil drawing.
Fairly light in weight, charcoal paper has a pronounced tooth for shaving material off the charcoal stick. Less expensive charcoal papers are machine made and possess a mechanical-looking surface. Pastel papers are usually a little heavier than papers labeled for charcoal. Besides white, tints of many colors are produced.
Printmaking papers are hot-pressed. Most can withstand rigorous drawing techniques but some are easily abraded by erasing. In addition to white, they are available in a number of pale tints.
Watercolor paper is an excellent material to draw on. It is rugged, available in a variety of surfaces and weights, and withstands repeated erasures.
A selection of beautiful Japanese papers are handmade of plants found usually only in the Far East. Some are bleached white, but most are natural in color.
Illustration board is simply a piece of cardboard to which a sheet of paper has been bonded. There is great variety in the quality of the paper used, but it is always either hot- or cold-pressed.
There are several types of surface finishes.
Cold-pressed papers are not as coarse as "rough" papers but have a pronounced tooth acceptable for charcoal and conté.
Hot-pressed papers have little tooth and are appropriate for most drawing media, particularly pen and pencil.
Laid describes the rough, mechanical looking pattern that typifies the coarse surface of some papers.
Plate finish refers to a grade of Bristol board with an exceptionally smooth surface. It is excellent for drawings of great precision and delicacy.
Watercolor papers labeled as “rough” are too craggy for all but the most expressive drawing techniques.
Vellum surfaces have a slight tooth and are appropriate for all drawing media and especially for careful drawing methods.
DRAWING MEDIA AND PAPER BRANDS
- Paper Brands
- Pencil Brands
- Graphite Sticks
- Charcoal Brands
- Conte Crayon
Paper is available in many forms and finishes. Several brands and types are evaluated below.
For a somewhat soft and poetic surface I like Arches hot-pressed watercolor paper with its slight tooth.
Canson produces a wide assortment of papers and pads. The company's Mi-Teintes paper in many colors is a popular paper for charcoal and pastel, although I personally find the paper's texture rather mechanical and insistent. Canson's drawing pads are economical but of only mediocre quality.
The company's Artistico hot-pressed watercolor paper makes a lovely surface for pencil drawing, and its Ingres is a good choice for charcoal or pastel.
Copperplate from Hahnemuhle is excellent for both general drawing and printmaking. Ingres, another of the company's products, is appropriate for charcoal and pastel.
Hot-pressed Lanaquarelle watercolor paper provides a hard, smooth surface for careful drawings in pencil or ink.
Purchase the brand that is least expensive.
Stonehenge is available in assorted natural colors.
Strathmore produces a range of papers in sheets and pads, including excellent Bristol board. Drawing and watercolor paper in pads are ranked by series. For students, 200 and 300 series papers are inexpensive but not archival. I recommend the archival quality and heavier weight of the 400 series spiral bound drawing and watercolor pads for the serious artist.
Most companies that make artists' pencils offer both the wooden barreled type and loose lead rods meant to be held in a gripper.
From top to bottom: 3-pack of leads, 12-pack of leads, gripper, deluxe gripper, wooden barreled pencil. Across the bottom are pointers for sharpening lead rods in a gripper. On the left is a pocket version, and at right a desk-top model.
Excellent wooden barreled artists' pencils.
faber-castell Limited selection of mediocre artists' pencils.
In addition to its Turquoise line of good quality wood-barreled artists' pencils and excellent graphite rods, Prismacolor also offers an extensive range of colored pencils.
Staedtler makes a good product, but for lead rods I prefer Prismacolor Turquoise.
In addition to pencils and rods, graphite can also be obtained in the form of square-ish or round sticks 1/4" to 1/2" thick in hardnesses of 2B, 3B, 4B, and 6B. Graphite sticks allow for broad application to produce large areas of tone swiftly. I have never seen graphite sticks labeled by brand or manufacturer.
There are 2 basic types: vine and compressed (willow is a sub-category of vine).
Offered in extra-soft, soft, medium, and hard in thin-stick, thick-stick, and tree-stick (1/2" diameter). It is readily brushed away, making it very easy to make corrections.
Composed of vine charcoal dust that has been formed into a stick with the help of a binding agent. It is not as easily erased or smudged as vine charcoal. Charcoal pencils have "leads" of compressed charcoal.
Invented by Nicolas Conte in the late 1800s, conte is sold as individual sticks or in sets of many colors. It is permanent and handled in a manner similar to that of compressed charcoal or pastel, but does not produce dust like those materials do.
Shown are historical colors of conte crayons.
There are many imitations today, but genuine conte is still produced by the company established by Nicolas: Conte a Paris.
- Pencil Sharpener
- Lead Pointer
- Blending Stumps
- Erasing Shield
Spray fixatives protect drawings from smudging. Workable types allow the work to continue after the drawing has been sprayed. Permanent fixatives make further work difficult but provide more protection.
Just as effective as the name brands, but cheaper.
Like most large art supply retailers, Utrecht offers its own inexpensive house brand of fixative.
The best known brand, but no better than others.
In a pinch, hair spray may be used as a fixative.
Extremely soft swatch of thin leather used to erase or smear vine charcoal around. It is also used by some pencil artists.
The best quality is normally found at art supply strores, not at automotive shops.
Plastic pocket sharpeners seldom produce an adaquate point; metal sharpeners are preferred.
Hand-held and desktop pointers are made for graphite rods held in a gripper.
Paper rolled up into a cylinder with a point at one end, stumps of various diameters are used to smoothly blend tones of charcoal, pastel, and similar materials.
A thin sheet of metal about the size of a credit card, small holes in the shield allow for precise erasuring while the shield protects surrounding areas. Many different patterns are made.
There are many types of artists' erasers. In addition to being used to make corrections, they are also "subtractive" drawing tools.
Can be used vigorously without damaging the paper's surface. Leaves a crumbly residue
Easily cleaned by kneading it in the palm of your hand, its malleability allows it to be shaped.
Right: Soiled kneaded eraser. Left: After kneading it clean.
More rugged than gum , it is useful for erasing heavily worked areas of a drawing.
Plastic erasers are made in many shapes and leave no residue.