Best Paper for Colored Pencils That’s Easy to Work On

While a seemingly amateurish medium, colored pencils are one of the most expressive art tools you can use. Relatively cheap to acquire, colored pencils work wonders for adding detail to acrylic or watercolor paintings.  

When considering the materials for your masterpiece, one often focuses on the medium at hand, i.e., the colored pencils. Consequently, the surface on which we’re drawing is often overlooked. 

But, choosing the correct paper is essential if you want to produce high-quality artwork. But where do you start? Paper is everywhere! It comes in varying quality grades, colors, textures, and weights. Settling for a less than ideal product (without even realizing it) is easy!

In light of that, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the best paper for colored pencils.

Let’s jump in! 

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paper

When choosing your art base, there are five key factors to mull over:

  1. Fiber
  2. Weight
  3. Surface Texture
  4. Longevity
  5. Tone

Below, we look at each in turn:

Fiber

Scetchbook

From a young age, we’re that told paper is made from trees. But, in reality, paper isn’t restricted to this. Common plants used in the manufacture of paper include:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Flax
  • Jute
  • Hemp
  • Bamboo
  • Rattan

The size and form of these fibers determine the structure and appearance of the paper. For example, the shorter the fibers, the thinner the paper becomes with rigorous use. 

Cotton is the most commonly used because they have longer fibers than the majority of alternatives. This is why 100% cotton rag is considered the best quality paper on the market.

Instead of the plant-based materials listed above, paper can be made out of wood pulp. These kinds of cellulose papers are usually less expensive and boast better longevity than fiber papers. 

Weight

When talking about the weight of paper, we’re referring to its thickness. Paper is usually weighed by the ream (500 sheets), and the higher the ream count, the thicker the paper. 

So what thickness should you use? 

If you use lots of colors to layer up your drawings, a higher-weight paper is advised. This reduces the likelihood of tearing. Also, if you use solvents to blend your colored pencil drawings, a higher ream is essential. This goes a long way to stop the paper from buckling and disintegrating. 

How do you identify a paper’s weight?

Nowadays, manufacturers have converted a ream to grams per square inch (GSM). The higher the GSM, the higher the ream count. So, look out for GSM count when buying. 

Texture or Finish

A paper’s surface texture varies depending on the drying process at the time of manufacture. Three methods result in varying textures. 

These are:

  • Air Drying. This produces a rough finish. Rough paper isn’t smoothed or pressed, resulting in a very textured paper. This is ideal for water-based art and pastels but not colored pencil drawings as it tends to snag on the pencil. 
  • Cold Press. Cold press paper is created by pressing it before its dried. Whether pressed by hand or machine, this process puts pressure on the fibers to smooth it out somewhat. This paper has a slight texture and is extremely popular for most art forms as it comes in varying weights. It’s ideal if you’re applying several layers of color to your work, as the paper’s slight texture allows you to re-work the same area. Plus, the added texture is excellent if you’re using solvents to blend colors together. This helps the paper absorb the solvent into the paper rather than saturating and tearing.
  • Hot Press. Similar to cold press, this process is pretty self-explanatory. Where cold pressing is cold, hot pressing is… well, hot. All texture is removed from the paper using metal rollers heated to a high temperature (but not so high that the paper scorches). This paper’s smooth quality makes it ideal for printing, etching, and… you guessed it, colored pencil drawings!

Paper Longevity

Most artists create art to keep for the future, not just as a pastime for the present. As such, you’ll want to use a paper that stands the test of time. 

When considering your options, establishing a paper’s archival properties can be challenging. However, here are a few tell-tale signs:

  • Archival papers don’t tend to yellow or fade over time. 
  • They’re usually acid-free
  • Wood-pulp papers tend to be non-archival

Tone

Most drawing paper comes in varying shades of white. However, colored paper can add a different dimension to your drawing. By providing a base color, the artist can focus on light and shadow to produce their artwork. Be sure to factor this into your decision before you begin your masterpiece. 

So Which Paper Should I Use?

At the end of the day, choosing paper is down to personal preference, but here are a few product suggestions to help get you started.

Legion Stonehenge Pad

Colored Pencil on Stonehenge by Ester Roi

Interestingly, this paper was initially made for printmaking purposes rather than for colored pencil drawings. However, fast forward to today, and Legion Stonehenge is a widely respected and highly rated paper for soft-leaded colored pencils.

Weighing in at a considerable 250GSMs, it’s also one of the heaviest options on our list. As such, it can withstand vigorous artistic creation. 

Crafted from 100% cotton, this paper is chlorine and acid-free, contains no optical brighteners, and boasts a natural pH. This being the case, time won’t mar the paper’s appearance, nor will it quickly deteriorate or yellow. 

Legion Stonehenge also comes in five different sizes, so you’re bound to find a paper that suits your needs:

  1. 5” x 7.”
  2. 8” x 8.”
  3. 9” x 12.”
  4. 11” x 14” 
  5. 18” x 24” 

However, this superior quality comes with a considerable price tag of about $1.13 per sheet. Meaning you may want to avoid using it haphazardly for texture or technique practice and reserve it for professional application. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, Legion Stonehenge is one of the best papers for colored pencil use. The texture and material create an archival quality that’s hard to match and lends itself perfectly for color layering. 

Canson XL Series Mix Media Paper Pad

Canson XL Series Mix Media Paper Pad

Founded in 1557, Canson’s had plenty of time to craft the perfect paper for every artistic whim and fancy. This being the case, it’s no wonder Canson is loved by artists using various mediums for its quality and high performance. 

Though Canson isn’t usually a name associated with budget supplies, this Mix Media Pad is actually one of the cheapest on our list. With a price tag of just $0.17 per sheet (the pad includes 60 sheets). 

This paper pad is perfect for beginner artists who want to explore and practice new techniques with their colored pencils. 

Available in the following sizes, there’s plenty of selection, and at such an affordable price, you could plump for multiples sizes – say, one for studio work and another for traveling around:

  • 5″ x 8.5″
  • 7″ x 10″
  • 11″ x 14″
  • 14″ x 17″
  • 18″ x 24″

The Bottom Line

The Canson Mix Media Paper Pad is perfect for beginners and those wanting to practice their artistic skills. The pricing, consistency of texture, and quality make this paper ideal for those on a budget who don’t want to compromise quality. 

Moleskine Art Sketchbook

Moleskine Art Sketchbook

A popular and instantly recognizable brand, Moleskine’s art sketchbook makes it onto our list due to its versatility, functionality, and size variety. 

Although this sketchbook wasn’t explicitly designed for colored pencils, it’s excellent if you’re making quick sketches and outdoor studies. Its durability and compact size make it the ideal travel companion.

The sketchbook’s pages are acid-free, toned ivory, feature rounded corners, and comes with a pouch on the back pocket. Here you could store flat tools like color swatches, rulers, etc.

The weight of the paper comes in at 165GSM, which is suitable for colored pencils. Additionally, there are four sizes to choose from, allowing for greater flexibility:

  • (A3) 75″ x 16.5″ 
  • (A4) 25″ x 11.75″ 
  • (Large) 5″ x 8.25″ 
  • (Pocket) 5″ x 5.5″ 

The Bottom Line

Moleskine is a much-loved brand for a reason. Quality and high-functionality are always assured, and the Moleskine sketchbook is no exception. Its durability is perfect for outdoor adventures and testing out colors and swatches. 

Fabriano Artistico

Fabriano Artistico

If you’re searching for the perfect paper for slightly harder colored pencils, look no further than Fabriano Artistico. Though technically watercolor paper, the surface allows you to blend, scratch, and erase harder pencils.

Most watercolor papers are cold-pressed, as this allows for greater tooth and texture. However, this pad is actually hot pressed, which dramatically reduces the tooth but still boasts a heavyweight 300 GSM, making it one of the heaviest papers on our list. 

This paper is also available in blocks, rolls, and individual sheets. If you’re looking at blocks, the following sizes are available: 

  • 5″ x 7″
  • 9″ x 12″
  • 12″ x 18″
  • 14″ x 20″
  • 18″ x 24″

However, the downside to this paper is the price tag attached to it. At $1.40 per single sheet, it’s our most expensive recommendation. Really and truly, this paper is best suited to professional artists wanting to utilize their harder coloring pencils. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, this high-quality paper allows for beautiful layering and texturing. However, this is only the case if you’re using more complex leads. 

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Vellum Pad

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Vellum Pad

Thanks to its quality standards, Strathmore is a company loved and trusted by many artists. Though this pad wasn’t technically designed for colored pencils, the 300 Series Bristol Vellum Pad is recommended by us. for artists looking to explore different textures and surfaces.

Vellum used to be made out of animal skin, which posed an ethical dilemma for many. Fast forward to today, and this paper comprises plant materials layered on top of each other. Consequently, creating a more robust surface (due to it being multi-ply rather than just a single sheet). It also carries a considerable weight of 270 GSM. 

There are four different sizes to choose from, including:

  • 9″ x 12″
  • 11″ x 14″
  • 14″ x 17″
  • 19″ x 24″

Unfortunately, there isn’t a pocket-suited size. So if that’s what you’re after, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

Overall, if you’re looking for a paper you can get rough and ready with, the Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Vellum Pad is a good option. Its multi-ply construction lends itself perfectly to withstanding rugged use without showcasing the rough or textured quality that many watercolor papers have. As such, this pad is perfect for studio use.

Bee Paper Bee Creative Colored Pencil Book

Bee Paper Bee Creative Colored Pencil Book

The Bee Creative Colored Pencil Book by Bee Paper is perfect for beginners and those exploring the versatility and creativity of coloring pencils. This spiral-bound, acid-free, 50 sheet journal is specifically designed for colored pencils, a rarity in the paper industry!

The textured surface lends itself to withstand plenty of layers of colored pencils, partly because the book is crafted from 30% post-consumer paper. Not only does this make this pad an environmentally friendlier option, but it’s also sturdy enough to withstand frantic eraser use. 

Despite this paper’s robustness, it’s one of our lightest paper recommendations, coming in at 147 GSM. 

Furthermore, it’s also one of our cheapest offers. At only $0.30 per sheet, it’s the perfect starting point for those wanting to practice and hone in on their layering and stroke techniques before moving onto more premium paper. 

With only three sizes available, there are slightly fewer dimensions to choose from than the previous recommendations:

  • 5″ x 8″
  • 5″ x 11″ 
  • 8″ x 8″

Despite the smaller selection, these sizes suit various uses. For instance, the smallest size lends itself perfectly to outdoor sketching. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Bee Creative Colored Pencil Book is ideal for beginners looking to practice and perfect their creative coloring skills. The paper’s durability not only allows for mistakes, but it’s also environmentally-friendly. Adding to this, the price tag is much more affordable than some of the other options on this list.

Strathmore 400 Series Colored Pencil Pad

Strathmore 400 Series Colored Pencil Pad

As previously noted, Strathmore is universally trusted and loved by artists because of its versatility and quality. The above-mentioned Strathmore paper is excellent but wasn’t explicitly designed for colored pencils. If you want a pad that is, this may be a more suitable option.

Though polarizing, generally speaking, this paper’s best feature is considered texture. It’s much rougher than most, making it fantastic for layering without tooth showing through the finished piece. This being the case, artists with smoother, softer leads will benefit from this paper’s harsher texture. 

It also has one of the heaviest weights on the list, coming in at an impressive 270 GSM, allowing artists free reign with their eraser techniques. 

Additionally, the paper is acid-free and offers four sizes, including its new travel-friendly option:

  • 6″ x 8″
  • 9″ x 12″
  • 11″ x 14″
  • 18″ x 24″

In terms of price, we think it comes at a fair cost of $0.75 per sheet. Though just above average, we feel the slight hike in price is appropriate because few papers are specifically designed for colored pencils.

The Bottom Line

As is the case for most Strathmore products, this paper is a solid and quality performer. This paper’s texture allows for rougher work and exploration of color- you will either love it or hate it. However, if you’re a beginner, you may want to consider one of the cheaper options, as the pricing, albeit fair, in our opinion, is a little higher than average. 

That said, if you have softer coloring pencils and are looking for a paper that comes in various sizes, including travel-friendly, this may be the perfect option for you. 

Strathmore Colored Pencil Textures Pad

Strathmore Colored Pencil Textures Pad

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see our last recommendation is another Strathmore pad. By now, it’s clear that they offer an extensive and loved range. However, although this pad uses the same paper as the 300 Series Bristol Vellum Pad, it’s unlike any other recommendations on this list. 

Why?  What makes this pad stand out is that it contains drawing lessons and tips for beginners! The 12 lessons are accompanied by video tutorials and are aimed to guide those who find the blank white sheet intimidating.  

12 sheets of blank paper with a considerable weight of 270 GSM are included. This instructional pad comes in two variations- textures and nature. The textured pad provides step-by-step texture lessons and tips, while the nature pad focuses on step-by-step nature drawing lessons and tips. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, this pad is very different from our other options. It’s perfect for beginners who don’t know where to start.

FAQs

Question: Can I use colored paper for my coloring pencils?

Answer: It depends on what you’re looking for and what you want to achieve with the piece of art. The recommendations above are suggested because they provide a clean, blank space for creativity. In contrast, the colored paper doesn’t always complement all hues and can distort how the shades can come across. 
For some projects, using colored paper can save time and enhance a piece of work. For example, working on black or dark paper can be a real asset if you wanted to do a night scene. You’ll save time working on the background and ensure some of the other colors really pop. 
Have a play around and swatch the colors you want to use to double-check you like the color payoff.

Question: Is paper the only surface I can work on?

Answer: No, there are many surfaces you can use, though we find paper to be one of the most versatile and easiest. You could play around with canvas or even wood, but again, sometimes, the colors will change on various surfaces, or the lead may not work well with the surface’s texture. 

Question: Should I choose smooth or textured paper for colored pencils?

Answer: It really depends on what you want to achieve and the techniques you want to use. As a general rule, the smoother the paper, the more detail you can draw. In contrast, the rougher the paper, the more layers you can add to it.

Question: Can I use printer paper with coloring pencils?

Answer: This is a common query as many beginners want to know if they can just use what they have already in their homes. The answer is simple- of course, you can use printer paper, nothing is stopping you. If you have a tight budget and only want to practice drawing techniques, printer paper works. 
However, for those serious about learning art and developing their artistic skills, printer paper isn’t recommended. Namely, because regular printing paper isn’t designed for this purpose and as such, it’s too thin. Plus, it doesn’t have enough teeth to produce the best effects colored pencils can make. 

FAQs

Question: Can I use colored paper for my coloring pencils?

Answer: It depends on what you’re looking for and what you want to achieve with the piece of art. The recommendations above are suggested because they provide a clean, blank space for creativity. In contrast, the colored paper doesn’t always complement all hues and can distort how the shades can come across. 
For some projects, using colored paper can save time and enhance a piece of work. For example, working on black or dark paper can be a real asset if you wanted to do a night scene. You’ll save time working on the background and ensure some of the other colors really pop. 
Have a play around and swatch the colors you want to use to double-check you like the color payoff.

Question: Is paper the only surface I can work on?

Answer: No, there are many surfaces you can use, though we find paper to be one of the most versatile and easiest. You could play around with canvas or even wood, but again, sometimes, the colors will change on various surfaces, or the lead may not work well with the surface’s texture. 

Question: Should I choose smooth or textured paper for colored pencils?

Answer: It really depends on what you want to achieve and the techniques you want to use. As a general rule, the smoother the paper, the more detail you can draw. In contrast, the rougher the paper, the more layers you can add to it.

Question: Can I use printer paper with coloring pencils?

Answer: This is a common query as many beginners want to know if they can just use what they have already in their homes. The answer is simple- of course, you can use printer paper, nothing is stopping you. If you have a tight budget and only want to practice drawing techniques, printer paper works. 

However, for those serious about learning art and developing their artistic skills, printer paper isn’t recommended. Namely, because regular printing paper isn’t designed for this purpose and as such, it’s too thin. Plus, it doesn’t have enough teeth to produce the best effects colored pencils can make. 

Although you may just want to know which paper is best for colored pencils so you can get on with it, as you can see from this review, it’s not as straightforward as that. You have to consider what you want from the paper and what you’re using it for. Adding to this, you need to consider your budget.

That said, for beginners on a tight budget, our winner is The Bee Paper Bee Creative Colored Pencil Book.

This pad is perfect for those just starting or looking to improve their technique. The paper’s texture and weight make it ideal for easy erasing – something all of us newbies end up doing! Plus, this paper is environmentally-friendly, provides a few sizes, and comes at a reasonable price.

For those who are more experienced artists, our winner is The Legion Stonehenge Pad.

This pad is widely used, respected, and loved by experienced artists, and for a good reason. The paper’s archival quality and texture make it a fantastic surface for those wanting to explore, experiment, and layer with coloring pencils.

There’s lots of information here to think about, but we hope this has helped you in your quest to find the perfect paper for coloring pencils. Overall, you won’t go too far wrong with any of the above recommendations!  Let us know in the comments box below what you opt for and your experience. We’d love to hear from you! 

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