Best Paper for Colored Pencils

Last Updated on 9 March 2023 by Proactive Creative

So, you’ve discovered that you love drawing with colored pencils. It’s so satisfying and fun, and you can create gorgeous artwork with very few supplies. But now you’re wondering, what is the best paper for colored pencils? 

There are so many different paper types, and they all look pretty similar. But the kind of paper you choose for your drawings will impact the finished result. So, it’s worth picking out the best drawing paper for colored pencils.

Then, you’re in the right place. In this guide, I’ll share what makes the best paper for colored pencils and some of my top recommendations. And for beginners, check out my guide on how to use colored pencils if you need some tips.

Buying Guide to the Best Colored Pencil Paper

Here’s what you need to know before buying paper for use with colored pencils. 

There are a few crucial factors that make a difference when you’re choosing colored pencil paper. These include the weight, texture, and quality of the paper. Let’s look at each of these factors to help you understand what you’ll need.

Paper Quality

You want to buy high-quality paper that will allow you to create amazing drawings. But the paper available can vary a lot in quality. And as a result, cheaper paper is often less durable and won’t hold up to erasing and other rougher techniques. Plus, it’s unlikely to be suitable for using wet media, like watercolor pencils.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great budget paper options. But if you can afford to spend a bit more on paper, it’s worth it. When you spend a long time creating painstaking drawings, you want them to look great.

One must-have for drawing paper is that it’s acid-free. That’s because any paper containing acid will break down and discolor much more quickly. So, opting for acid-free paper is a smart decision.  

Paper Weight

The weight refers to how heavy and thick the paper is. It’s often measured in gsm or grams per square meter. 

The higher the number, the heavier and thicker the paper will be. That could mean that it’s more durable and higher in quality – but not always. 

When choosing the best paper weight, you should think about your drawing style and the media you use. 

For example, thicker paper is best if you use wet media, such as watercolor pencils. The heavier paper weights are less likely to rip when you apply water or paint. 

Thicker paper is also the better option if you tend to erase a lot. But the downside to thicker paper is that it often works out more expensive. 

So, if you prefer regular coloring pencils, you could go for a lighter weight to save money. 

Paper Texture

You’ll find that paper varies a lot in texture. It’s often referred to as the paper finish or tooth. 

At one end of the spectrum, you have super-smooth and almost shiny paper that your pencils will glide over. And at the other end, you have richly textured, grainier paper. 

So, what is the best paper texture for colored pencils? Generally, it’s somewhere in the middle. You don’t want paper that’s too bumpy, or you could get quite an uneven look to your coloring. 

But many artists don’t want very smooth paper as it doesn’t provide much feedback when you draw. However, it is handy if you want to blend colors smoothly or layer them up. 

Medium-grain paper is a safe choice for most people, but you can experiment. Try out different textures and see what you prefer for your drawing style.

Paper Format

You might not have thought about this, but paper can come in many formats. For example, you can get loose sheets of paper, which can be great for making individual drawings. 

It’s handy if you want to display them in frames or on your walls. And if you’re working with wet media, it prevents any water from leaking through to the other pages. 

Other options include notebooks, spiral-bound sketch pads, and watercolor blocks. 

Notebooks and spiral-bound pads are useful if you want to keep all your artwork together. But it makes it more complicated if you want to display your drawings.

Drawing in a notebook isn’t the easiest option unless it lays flat. In comparison, spiral-bound sketch pads can be a good alternative. But these pads are often cheaper and don’t always have the best type of paper quality. 

The final option is to pay paper in rolls. It can work out more cost-effective, but you’ll need to cut it to the right size before you draw.

The Best Paper for Colored Pencils: Reviews

Let’s look at some of the best types of paper for coloring pencils. 

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Smooth Pad

Best Smooth Paper for Colored Pencils

The Strathmore 300 series paper is becoming a popular choice among many artists. It’s a great choice for colored pencils, thanks to its smooth texture. And it works just as well for sketching pencils or pen drawings.

This paper gets the balance right between price and quality. It’s made in the US to rigorous standards. The Strathmore 300 paper is a nice and sturdy heavyweight paper that feels durable. It’s also acid-free, so your drawings should last for a long time without fading. 

But it’s worth noting that this paper isn’t designed for use with wet media. So, it’s probably not the right choice if you like to use watercolor pencils. And while it’s acid-free, it’s not an archival-quality paper. 

In this pack,  you get 20 sheets of 9 x 12-inch paper. You can also buy it in single sheets in some places. And if you prefer a different size, it comes in 11 x 14, 14 x 17, and 19 x 24 inch options. 

So, this paper is versatile and high-quality. It works well if you like to create detailed drawings without the grain showing through.

Some artists find this paper a little harder to blend and layer colors. But if that’s the case, you could consider adding details with a pen or using a fixative. 

Overall, the Strathmore 300 paper is one of the best smooth papers for coloring pencils. It’s a strong option for any artist, from beginners to professionals.

  • The best smooth paper for colored pencils
  • It feels high-quality, heavyweight, and durable
  • It’s acid-free and made in the US
  • You can buy it in a range of sizes
  • It’s not archival quality
  • You can’t use this paper with wet media

Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper

Best Paper for Watercolor Pencils

If you like to draw with watercolor pencils, you’ll know that you need a special type of paper. Unfortunately, many paper options designed for coloring pencils can’t withstand wet media. 

So, you’ll need to pick your paper carefully for watercolor pencils. And the Fabriano ATW watercolor paper is one of the top choices. 

It comes in hot press (smooth) or cold press (more grainy). So, you can choose the texture you prefer for drawing with watercolor pencils. 

And the brand Fabriano has been making paper for over eight centuries. So, they know what they’re doing – and they do it well. 

The Artistico paper is made from 100% cotton. It has a strong surface, thanks to the unique manufacturing process. Although it’s not an archival paper, it’s durable and high-quality.

This is a smaller size of 25 sheets of 5 x 7-inch paper. So, it’s handy if you want a compact option for drawing on the go. You can easily slip it into any purse or bag to take with you, making it more convenient. 

You can also choose between two paper colors, Traditional or Extra White. And as for the format, it comes in glued blocks, deckle-edged, or rolls.

Fabriano is an excellent choice of paper for watercolor pencils. It’s hard-wearing and designed for wet media. And you have lots of options as to the size, format, and grain. So, you can pick the perfect type of paper for your needs.

  • The best paper for watercolor pencils and wet media
  • It’s durable and high-quality 100% cotton paper
  • You can choose between four different textures
  • This size is compact and portable, making it great for drawing on the go
  • It’s best suited to watercolor pencils rather than regular coloring pencils

Canson XL Series Mix Paper Pad

Best Spiral Paper Pad for Coloring Pencils

If you prefer using a drawing sketchbook or paper pad, check out this one by Canson. 

Using a paper pad offers many advantages over single sheets. It’s convenient and practical for use on the go. It protects your drawings and keeps them all organized, so you won’t crease or lose them. 

And you can easily remove the sheets if required. But the secure design ensures that the sheets won’t fall out by accident. 

This paper is of the heavyweight variety, measuring 160 grams. It’s also acid-free, which means it will last much longer. And this size is also handy for carrying with you. It’s big enough to create detailed drawings, but you can easily fit it in any bag. 

Another bonus is that you can use this paper with wet or dry media, giving you more options. It’s not called a mixed media sketchbook for nothing. This is a versatile paper pad for all sorts of art. 

However, you may want to take care when using watercolor. It’s best suited to light washes, otherwise, you could get some warping.

And the best part is that this paper pad is pretty affordable. So, it’s a great choice for beginners, students, or anyone on a budget. 

  • A handy and practical paper pad
  • It will keep all your artwork organized and safe
  • You can remove sheets if you want to display them
  • It’s high-quality, acid-free paper
  • It’s suitable for all sorts of media, including watercolor pencils
  • The paper can warp or buckle if you use a lot of water

Bee Creative Watercolor Book

Best Art Journal for Watercolor and Coloring Pencils

This watercolor art journal is perfect for all the watercolor artists out there. But of course, you can also use it for other media, including coloring pencils. 

The paper is made from 100% cotton milled in Europe. Each sheet is thick and sturdy, with a 300 gsm weight. So, it can withstand wet media, and it won’t warp, tear, or buckle.

And as with any sketchbook, it’s often more practical than using loose sheets. You can take it with you without worrying about protecting your paper. 

It won’t get creased or bent in your bag, giving you more options for where you work. And it’s fun to see all your artwork together and note the progress you’ve made over time. 

The double binding allows the paper to lay flat, which is essential for any kind of artwork. And the sturdy chipboard front and back cover make this art journal strong and durable. Even better, they’re made from 100% recycled cardboard, so it’s also eco-friendly.

You can easily remove any page when desired, thanks to the micro-perforation. 

This watercolor book is a fantastic option for watercolor pencils and coloring pencils. 

  • A sturdy and durable art journal
  • You can easily take it anywhere 
  • It’s made from high-quality 100% cotton paper
  • You can use any kind of media, including watercolor paints
  • It’s a bit more expensive than some options

Canson 100510941 XL Series Watercolor Pad

Best Budget Paper for Coloring Pencils

If you’re on a tight budget, this watercolor pad could be perfect for you. It’s a very affordable paper pad, suitable for coloring pencils and even for watercolor. 

So, you can create beautiful art without blowing your cash on expensive paper. But despite the low price, you get hard-wearing, acid-free paper.

This cold-press paper has just the right amount of texture and grain. It’s not as smooth as hot-press paper, but many artists prefer it. 

You can use all sorts of media on this paper. That includes watercolor and acrylic paint, coloring pencils, and pen. Plus, the durable surface allows you to layer several washes without it ripping. 

So, it’s perfect for students or beginners (or even more experienced artists). It offers performance at a reasonable price.

  • This cold-press paper has a nice texture
  • It’s suitable for all media, including wet paints
  • The paper is durable and acid-free
  • The pad format is handy and portable
  • It’s not 100% cotton

The Wrap Up

So now, you should have a much better idea of what kind of paper you’ll need for coloring pencils. 

The best paper for coloring pencils should be high-quality and durable. It needs to withstand erasing, blending colors, and possibly even wet media. 

But you also need to think about buying the right thickness and texture. And that comes down to personal preference as much as anything else. Do you prefer a smooth, polished look or a more relaxed, grainy style? You can try out different paper types to see what works best for you. 

I would recommend starting with the paper reviewed above. As an artist, these are my best picks for colored pencil paper. 

My top recommendation is the Fabriano paper, but the Strathmore 300 is close behind. So, you can see which one appeals most to you and test it out. Then, let me know how you get on in the comments below!

If you found this article helpful, feel free to share it on social media! And make sure to follow Proactive Creative for more creative content. I’ll keep you up to date on tips, tutorials, and reviews of the best art tools and supplies. 


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.


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