Your Complete Guide to Finding the Best Paper for Art Projects

Kinds of Paper for Art Projects Paper is a marvelous material that can be used for many types of projects ranging from simple printed documents to complex papercraft installations. In art, its use is far from limited to children’s crafts and throwaway holiday decorations, especially with more specialized varieties. It’s important to note that different types of paper are better suited to different uses depending on the types of art supplies you’re using and your desired final product. Here, we’ll discuss the uses and properties of different types of paper for crafting, drawing, and other types of projects.

Painting

We do not tend to think of painting as a paper craft, and if you’re painting on canvas only, that makes sense. But paper can make a perfect medium for laying down images with paint and brush.

Acrylic and Oil

Painting with acrylic and oil is typically done on canvas due to the weight and thickness of these types of paint. However, a paper that is thick enough to sustain the weight of these types of paint will also do well. If your paper has enough weight, it should be able to stand up to oil and acrylic paint whether it is smooth or rough in texture.

Your paper will need to be primed first. To prime paper for acrylic or oil painting, use a water based primer like Gesso and a foam applicator. Apply a thin layer and allow time for the primer to dry.

Watercolor

Paper for Watercolor Painting Watercolor painting is among the most accessible ways of painting, and the paints are non-toxic. Watercolor paints work well with three types of paper:

  • Hot-press paper goes through an ironing process so it comes out smooth and hard. The rigidity it gets from this process makes it work well for watercolor painting.
  • Cold-Press paper is less smooth than hot-press paper and makes it easy to do fine detail. It’s an especially good choice if your watercolor paints are a bit runny.
  • Rough paper is both coarse and rigid. It’s perfect for making bold washes of color, though it takes a little longer to dry. Because of its coarser texture, it keeps your paint where you want it even if your colors are quite runny.

Drawing

Drawing is a wonderfully easy way to show your creativity. Almost anyone who wants to draw can easily obtain the necessary materials. Many experienced sketch artists are surprised to learn how much more they can get out of their art simply by trying different types of paper.

Pencil

Copy paper, usually used for computer printouts, is relatively smooth and firm, and is suitable for pencil drawing, no matter the pencil grade. With the possible exception of notebook paper, it’s also the easiest variety of paper to obtain. It has a moderate strength, which is important when doing a lot of erasing, as you might as a pencil-sketch artist. Copy paper is inexpensive, plentiful, and even if you don’t use it all for your drawings, it has other valuable uses from printing documents to children’s crafts.

Colored Pencil

There are many types of papers that work well with colored pencils. The best choice is usually a paper that has a bit of texture and is not overly smooth. This is due to the fact that colored pencil cores are fairly soft and generally break more easily than a standard number 2 pencil. To avoid breaking the tips of your colored pencils and make them last, you want the color to print on the paper easily with only light pressure. While your paper doesn’t need to be incredibly coarse, having a slightly textured paper helps.

Charcoal and Dry Pastel

While they can help you achieve incredible visual effects in your art, dry pastels and charcoal are flaky, dusty, and dry. These characteristics can make them difficult to manage, especially when shading large areas or rendering fine detail. It will be that much more difficult to create your charcoal and dry pastel drawings with smooth or thin varieties of paper. For best results, you want to use paper types that are tough, thick, and coarse.

Oil Pastel

Paper for Oil Pastels Another versatile choice, similar to crayons, oil pastels are bright, thick, and will go on easily. The types of paper you choose to use will depend largely on personal taste and the type of image you wish to create. Because oil pastels go on readily, smooth paper will work fine. It can be difficult to control oil pastel edges. For that, a rough textured paper may be better suited to generating finer detail. Use rough surfaces or smooth paper, up to 300 pounds.

Lettering/Calligraphy

While handwriting and calligraphy may be an underrepresented art form these days, it’s still a demanding one that can create breathtaking results with the right combination of skill and material. In order to produce the level of detail you need for lettering and calligraphy, it’s necessary to use smooth paper or translucent bond paper. Unless you’re going for a specific artistic effect, avoid textured paper. Textured paper will not allow you to achieve the level of precision usually demanded in professional lettering. If you’re looking to do lettering for formal events, make sure your paper is smooth and thin, or even translucent.

Papercraft

It’s there in the name — paper is essential to any papercraft project. But just like with the projects above, the kind of paper you want to use depends on what your plan is.

Origami

The ancient art of origami is a discipline all its own, and like many storied art forms, it is easy to start and difficult to master. Origami’s folding techniques and designs call for thin, specialized paper that can accommodate precise creases. Luckily, the delicate thin paper squares made for different origami styles are not hard to find. They can be found in nearly any art store, some office stores, and occasionally at your local department store. Most such packs come with paper in a variety of different color patterns, which makes the art form even more fun.

Paper Sculpture

Paper sculpture is a fascinating and rewarding art form. Watercolor paper is the recommended material for sculpting work, especially for beginners. Thick sheets of watercolor paper around 300-pound weight are best for this art form, since they can be manipulated in many different ways. Using a sharp blade, such as an X-Acto knife, you can lightly score the paper to create folds and bends that produce extraordinary effects. Water can also help you shape watercolor paper into whatever form you desire. Given its flexibility and oppenness to manipulation, watercolor paper is the top choice for paper sculpture.

Scrapbooking

As its name implies, scrapbooking can be done with any “scraps” you wish to save and use. However, there are still a number of specialized materials that can take your scrapbooks from good to great. The paper most widely accepted as the best for scrapbooking is called patterned paper. Patterned paper is printed with various patterns on one side. Sometimes it features glitter or embossing. You can find it in just about any craft store in a wide range of colors and patterns to suit your style. While you’re there, you should probably also find a suitable craft glue to use in a scrapbooking.

More Paper Options

It must be said that when it comes to crafting of any sort using paper, the choice is ultimately up to you, the artist. You may find that a type of paper not recommended here for a given use helps you achieve your artistic vision better or more fully than the kind recommended. Such is the nature of creative people. As you grow as an artist, you’re likely to experiment with different types of papers for different purposes. Here are a few additional options you may want to experiment with.

Cardstock

Cardstock Paper for Crafts Given its name, it’s unsurprising that cardstock is great for making greeting cards. However, you can easily turn this thick crafting paper to other purposes. Cardstock is very versatile — it is rigid, tough, and rougher than most papers. In addition to greeting cards, it can be a great choice for 3D crafts, cut-outs, and other types of cards, such as business cards. It can be used to make borders for written work, mats for photos, and any mixed media projects you might dream up.

Metallic Paper

Metallic paper has an attractive shiny metallic finish. It sometimes features embossing and is great for a variety of uses. Metallic paper can be great for use with photographs or for making invitation cards, envelope liners, or holiday cards. It’s a great way to add lustrous details to any paper project you create. Keep in mind, however, that metallic paper usually can’t be recycled, so if you’re using it in a project, make sure to dispose of any scraps properly.

Kraft

Almost everyone is familiar with this paper, even if they aren’t familiar with its name. Kraft paper is the rough, thick, brown paper that grocery bags are made from. It has a unique appearance and is inexpensive. Kraft paper is a great choice for drafting and cutting clothing patterns if you sew. It can also be used as a core part of your creative projects if you want something sturdy and it fits the aesthetic of your work.

Cardboard, Poster Board, and Paperboard

No survey of paper for crafts would be complete without these three household names. Cardboard, poster board, and paperboard are probably familiar to you at least from school projects, if not from wider endeavors as an artist. They are incredibly versatile, and each is excellent for making costumes, signs, gift tags, posters, collages, and much more. With cardboard and the like, your only limit is your imagination. You can even upcycle plenty of cardboard from packaging you use in daily life anyway, like cereal and tissue boxes!

Vellum

This type of paper is thin and translucent, and it’s perfect for a variety of purposes where these characteristics are helpful, such as in tracing designs. It is also the ideal choice if you want to add an ombre effect to your paper crafts. Usually made from cotton, this semi-translucent paper is perfect for making windows in faux gingerbread houses. Try combining vellum with adhesive paper to create beautiful stickers that will look good on just about anything.

Adhesive Paper

Stickers are always fun, and kids love them. If you want to make your own stickers, the adhesive paper type is the way to go. If you’re tired of going to Redbubble every time you want a unique sticker, use this type of crafting paper to make your own instead! Of course, you can also use the same paper to make your own custom post-it notes, which is a great way to add some much needed flair to your home or workplace.

Tissue Paper

Tissue Paper for Crafts One of the thinnest forms of paper around, tissue paper is available in a wide variety of colors. It is ideal for adding delicate details to any project you may be working on. Use it to add color or create a gossamer effect. Use it to create tinted windows in model houses. Tissue paper is also a good choice as a temporary fastener for things that you want to be able to break away easily for dramatic effect.

Marbled Paper

You can make marbled paper either by printing it or by using an at-home DIY method. The materials you need to make your own will vary, but for one method, you’ll need a large pan or tray, food color, water, and something to swirl the ink. In another, you may use shaving cream. Experiment with different methods if you’re going for a specific look with your marbling. Regardless of how you source it, you can use marbled paper to create invitation cards, jewelry boxes, bookmarks, frames, wrapping paper, clipboards, and more.

Get Started on Your Next Papercraft Project Today

If you’re new to using varieties of paper in your art, then you have a lot of surprises in store for you. The variety of things that can be made with the types we’ve visited above as well as other paper products is just staggering. Paper sculptures, for example, can look like ivory sculptures and have some surprising features that we will leave for you to discover on your own. Looking into the many possibilities that paper for art projects can add to your Halloween or cosplay costume options can be a fun way to get started crafting with paper. Whatever route you choose, you’re bound to have tons of fun and learn a great deal!