With so many good looking Sketch Books and Pads now available its easy not to question what’s between the covers – so here is a quick guide …..

The best traditional paper and canvas we use to draw and paint on has been made from plants, Cotton and Linen being used for both surfaces. Linen has the reputation for being the very best. Papers made from Cotton or Linen are often called Rag because in previous centuries, when textiles were all made from natural fibre, old clothes ( rags) would be recycled as paper.Modern paper is more often made from wood cellulose which although cheap requires much chemical processing to remove problems such as lignum and often does not last as long as traditional paper. We have all seen the way paperback books and newspapers made from wood pulp discolour with age and become fragile.


Artists Papers are finished with different surfaces that result from the way they are pressed to complete their manufacture – the most natural is the Rough surface, the next is Cold Pressed which also referred to as NOT i.e. Not Hot Pressed. Hot Pressed is the smooth very firm surface.  The texture of the Rough surface is often preferred by painters, the NOT surface is more general purpose while the HP paper is best for pen, ink and fine graphics.

Papers are also made in different thickness which are measured by weight, now usually Grams per Square Metre ( GSM ) a standard weight for drawing is about 130gsm and for watercolour 300 gsm. They are treated for different uses and to control the absorption of ink and water. This treatment is known as sizing which can be just a surface coating or fully mixed with the pulp in manufacture. ( Tub Sized )

Marker Paper,  some graphic arts papers are especially made for markers and inks to prevent the ink bleeding through the paper, and give sharper marks and cleaner colours.

Pastel Paper has a more open texture than watercolour or drawing paper so that it has a ‘tooth’ that will hold Pastel, chalk or charcoal far better than a smooth surface, and it is often tinted with dye to provide a ground.

Natural Papers, internationally a vast range of papers have been made from different plants and textiles. At Newcastle Arts Centre you will find some really interesting papers from Nepal, Japan and China.

Most sketch books and Pads are well labelled but if in doubt just ask the friendly staff at ‘details’ art shop at Newcastle Arts Centre.

Mike Tilley