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Which Art Paper Should I Use?

Which Art Paper Should I Use?
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Find the right art paper for your lessons, activities and projects.

By: Andrea Mulder-Slater

Many Projects, Many Papers

There are a multitude of paper options out there and here I have listed the most popular choices.  I always prefer buying paper in large sheets and tearing or cutting them down into manageable sizes. To do this, I use a metal ruler/straight edge, or a mat cutter.

Otherwise known as tag board or poster board, this is a nice smooth ground for dry or wet media including markers, all paints (including acrylic) and adhesives, making it ideal for collage.

Typically used in offices for printing documents, card stock is an inexpensive paper to use for most projects (wet and dry media).

You will only want to get into this material if you have a big budget, or you have a small group of students. Similar to stretched canvas on a frame or canvas boards, canvas paper provides a nice base for acrylic paint. As an alternative, you can buy large sheets of Masonite, cut them up and prime them with gesso.

This is a smooth, white paper, which is great for drawing with pencils, markers, crayons and oil pastels. It is an affordable choice.

Cellophane is a thin transparent material, which can be clear or comes in many colors. Think packaging that comes on gift baskets. It can be wonderful for drawing on using permanent markers, or for creating faux stained glass.

Construction paper is best for collage and weaving projects. It can also be used as a drawing surface for crayons and markers. But overall, it isn’t my first choice for drawing.


A big roll of paper will go a long way in your art room. Paper rolls are great for full body tracings, for laying out on desks, floors, etc., so lots of kids can work together side by side. And, it works as a desk protector too.

This is super cheap paper, which is great for disposable (recyclable) sketching exercises like blind contour and gesture drawings. I went through many (many) pads of it in art school. If you live near a newspaper printer, ask them if you can have the end rolls.

Colorful patterned scrapbook paper is great for collage work. You can find it on sale at most craft stores. Don’t buy it buy the sheet – look for pads. Because it comes in 12” square sizes, tear or cut it into smaller squares before use.

Most art teachers will agree that this smooth, white paper is their go-to paper. If using it for water media such as tempera paint, don’t choose anything less than 80lb or 90lb or the paper will curl and rip. Sulphite paper is perfect for oil and chalk pastels, markers, tempera and watercolor paint. It will also accept glue nicely.

This is a very lightweight, semi-transparent paper, which comes in a variety of colors. It also comes in bleed (colors will run when it becomes wet from water or glue) and no-bleed.

Because watercolors require a lot of water, you need a highly absorbent paper.  Student grade is generally 90lbs and I wouldn’t recommend using anything lighter.

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