When looking at a drawing, painting or photograph, how often do you think to yourself: ‘I wonder what sort of paper they used for that?’ Not very often, I imagine. While studying for a Fine Art degree at university, it took me until my third year to actually consider how the paper I was using to draw on was impacting the final look and feel of my work.
Being a student, I often chose budget options to save a few quid, but it wasn’t until I had a catch-up with one of my tutors that I realised how much it could affect my drawings. The next day I was sent on a trip to Atlantis (an art shop in the East End, not the mythical island) to try out some different papers. While I was aware of there being various thicknesses of paper, I wasn’t aware of the huge variety of different textures and finishes that paper can have.
In my practice most of the time I use ProMarkers, which are high quality, alcohol based permanent markers. The markers have a watercolour-like effect that allows you to build up colours a layer at a time. When using cheap porous papers, they have a tendency to bleed or destroy your paper, which isn’t ideal when you want to draw precise lines and shapes. Looking back, it didn’t make sense that I would use high-quality inks on a paper that didn’t match in quality. Not only did the edges of the lines change due to the bleeding, but so did the vibrancy of the colours, even with the same brand of marker.
After trying out numerous papers, I decided on a 250gsm uncoated paper called ‘Bristol Board’, a thick, smooth, white paper that allows me to draw with precision and without any bleeding or change of colour. For this reason it is often used for watercolour paintings as it is able to withstand the amount of moisture used on the paper.
Despite spending four times the price I was previously spending on paper, it was definitely worth it in the end due to the more vibrant drawings produced and a much more enjoyable drawing experience, thanks to the ability to get the most out of the materials I was using. For anyone using paper in their practice or workplace, I would recommend you experiment with the paper types you use – you might find you get more out of your inks and a much more attractive result.