Art paper is available in numerous sizes and formats to cater for every approach to creativity. Here we explain the difference between a pad and a block, what materials you can apply to paper, and present our invaluable table to paper sizes.
What art materials can I use on paper?
Paper is available in a range of formats, each uniquely suited to meet the varied needs of artists working on paper. Artists work on paper with a multitude of different media including graphite, charcoal, watercolour, inks, coloured pencil and pastel. Many artists choose to work on paper for its tactility, simplicity, and ease of use; formats like spiral or glued/gummed pads, sketchbooks, and blocks make working on paper convenient and inexpensive, letting artists have the versatility of working in the studio or on-the-go. These formats are perfect for producing quick sketches or detailed studies using a variety of mediums. They are suitable for use with traditional drawing media and, depending on the paper surface and quality, can also be worked on with watercolour, gouache, acrylics, oils, markers, and inks.
Sketchbooks and pads will protect paper that you need to carry with you
A good sketchbook for such use is likely to contain paper with a bit of weight (100gsm or more). Drawing pads that are intended to be taken to classes, to the studio, or with you wherever you go, will ideally have a hardcover to help protect the work within. A spiral binding will help a book stay open when working.
Loose sheets of paper often come in imperial sizes, using inch measurements. Pads and blocks of watercolour paper usually come in European (ISO) ‘A’ sizes (these use metric measurements). Pads produced in the USA usually come in inch sizes but are neither Imperial nor A sizes.
What are watercolour blocks?
Blocks are pads of paper that have been glued on all 4 sides. Sheets can be worked on without them wrinkling as they become more saturated with watercolour, and once dry sheets can be sliced off the pad with a craft knife. Higher quality blocks are suitable for repeated working, scrubbing, lifting, as well as painting in other media. Lesser quality blocks still provide an excellent working surface and are best for practising new techniques, drafting works, and general experimenting – most are still artist-grade papers which mean they are good enough quality for presentation and exhibition.
Loose sheets and rolls for large scale artwork
Loose sheets and rolls provide an excellent way of working, often useful for artists who wish to complete a final work of art in a range of drawing materials. Rolls allow artists to cut to the paper their desired size, helping them to produce more unique sizes and shapes which might not typically be provided by manufacturers. Artists looking for a more traditional feel might choose to work with loose deckled-edge sheets, which provide an irregular hand-torn appearance.