The #1 secret to getting your drawings to look more like photographs is the type of paper you use.
I know, I know…I can hear some of you saying, “But what about pencils?”
Yes, pencils are very important too, and they are #2 on my list of must haves to create a stunning drawing.
However, no amount of great pencils can save you from garbage paper.
In my experience I have found that if I use the wrong type of paper, I can’t get that smooth, airbrushed look I want my drawings to have, no matter how hard I try.
It’s true that if you know how to properly shade with a pencil, you can draw well on any type of paper.
But if you are like me and you want your drawings to look more like a photograph than a drawing, then you’re gonna want to go with the best quality paper you can afford.
During my learning years (well, actually I’m still in my learning years, so I’ll just say earlier in my learning years ), I would always use basic sketch pads or charcoal paper for my drawings.
And while I got decent results, I just couldn’t get the results I wanted. I always felt frustrated because I thought I just simply lacked the skills necessary to draw the way I had envisioned in my head.
But then one day, I discovered Bristol paper… and I’ve never looked back.
Bristol paper is something special. It’s both heavy and smooth – two things that are very important for pencil drawings.
The smoothness of the paper allows you to capture very fine details and the heaviness allows it to stand up to A LOT of erasing….something I do very often!
I can’t stand it when I’m struggling with some part of my drawing and every time I erase, I break down the surface of my paper and then end up ruining the texture. Makes me wanna scream!
Strathmore is one of the best brands of paper you can get here in the U.S. and they make three different grades of Bristol paper:
1) 300 Series Bristol Board – Often called “student grade” paper is the least expensive, but will give you better results than using just plain old drawing paper. Don’t be fooled by the cheap price. I started with the Bristol 300 and I have been very happy with the way my drawings come out.
2) 400 Series Bristol Board – Slightly more expensive, but better than the 300 series in its smoothness and thickness. This paper is among the best for creating realistic drawings.
3) 500 Series Bristol Board – Most expensive and superior in its ability to deliver smooth texture and blending.
I have also heard good things about hot press (not cold press) watercolor paper. Apparently, the hot press process used in creating this paper makes it really smooth and great for blending and shading.
Every artist has his or her own favorite paper to draw on. Really the best thing for you to do is just start drawing, and soon you will develop your own preferences. Just use my list as a starting point and you can grow from there and try different paper as you see fit!
I hope this post will help you figure out which paper you need to buy. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below!