When I began my journey to draw and paint, I chose the least expensive but vegan-friendly art-materials to the best of my knowledge. The economy factor was based on how much I spent in one go rather than how long will it last, quality etc. As I draw and paint on a daily basis (or at least 5 days a week), I found that it was cheaper to buy bulk materials from the art and stationary stores. An advantage of buying large quantities of paper (in the form of paper roll) allowed me to purchase more expensive and better quality paper at an affordable price. The quality of the paper surface not only has a huge impact on the drawing and paintings, but learning to draw and paint on medium-high quality materials is helpful. I hope this post will be useful for anyone drawing and painting on a regular basis (daily to a few times a week). I endeavour to use cruelty-free art materials where possible.
A vast majority of art instruction books, tutors, and people sharing their advice on watercolour paper suggest using Arches Cold Press Paper (sized with gelatine) or Winsor & Newton’s Saunders paper (again sized with gelatine). However, these are really not an option for people like myself, who wish to use cruelty-free art material. Cellulose paper sized with starch is certainly inexpensive but most art books and tutors advise that we should begin with cotton based paper. However, cotton paper is rather expensive. As a student (self-learning with books and online videos), I had to balance requirements (ethical stance, properties and behaviour of the paper), quality and price.
I use different types of paper for various drawing and painting tasks, shown in Figure 1. I have split this blog post in various sections, in each section I will share the type of paper I use. All prices quoted are in euros and based on the current rates (2019-2020).
Figure 1: Paper used for various drawing and painting tasks.
Each drawing paper type has its unique attributes: texture, thickness, grip, tone, sizing, etc. I have a range of drawing papers for learning to draw. In Table 1, I compare the properties and prices. Purchasing paper in a roll format is generally cheaper than buying them as pads (typical savings can be in the region of 50%). Fabriano Artistico Paper is very expensive in the form of glued blocks and pads, typically 1 A4 sheet (or equivalent determined from the surface area of the sheets in a glued block) can cost 75 cents to 1 euro per sheet. However, purchasing the same paper in the form of a roll makes it affordable for me in the long run, as you can see I paid 43-47 cents per A4 sheet and have a large amount of sheets to keep me going!! If I paint and draw at least 4 days per week, the rolls can last me about 10 months to a year.
|Paper||gsm||Surface||Cotton||Format||Number of A4 sheets||Price
|Price per A4 sheet|
|80||smooth||0||500 A4 sheets||500||5.00||1 cent|
|160||smooth||0||250 A4 sheets||250||7.00||2.8 cents|
|Fabriano Recycled Paper Roll||200||Med-rough||0||1.5m x 10m Roll||238||20.00*||8 cents|
|Fabriano Accademia||200||Fine-med||0||1.5m x 10m Roll||238||23.00||9.7 cents|
Technical drawing paper
|40||Smooth||0||0.33m x 50m||262||8.00||3.05
|Hahnemühle Bamboo Mixed Media||265||Soft with texture||10||1.25m
|Fabriano Artistico Cold Press (fine)||300||Fine texture||100||1.4m x10m||222||95*||43 cents|
|Fabriano Artistico Cold Press (smooth)||300||Smooth med||100||1.4m x10m||222||95*||43 cents|
|Fabriano Artistico Cold Press (Rough)||300||Rough||100||1.4m x10m||222||105*||47.25 cents|
|Fabriano Artistico Hot Press (extra white)||300||Satin smooth||100||1.4m x10m||222||105* (2019)||47.25 cents|
|Fabriano Tela Oil Paper||300||Canvas texture and smooth||Not sure||1.5m x10m||238||63*||27 cents|
Table 1: Vegan friendly economical but good quality paper (Prices marked in * were prices I paid on special offers or seasonal sales.)
Printer paper (160 gsm) is very good for drawing and somewhat similar to Bristol board. I have a few pads of Bristol boards from Fabriano (block of 20 A4 sheets for 2.65 euros on sale, equivalent of 13.25 cents per A4 sheet). Printer paper is obviously a lot cheaper and gives similar performance.
Fabriano Artistico Paper (100% cotton) is sized internally and externally with starch and as there are different varieties of surfaces (rough, fine/cold press, smooth/cold press). I also purchased a roll of Moulin du Roy hot press roll from the Amazon Warehouse in Germany for 85 euros (thats about 38.3 cents per A4 sheet). Personally I preferred the surface on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper, it is excellent for graphite and coloured pencils as well as botanical/detailed watercolour.
Bamboo Mixed Media Paper (10% rag, 90% bamboo recycled paper) is worth considering for watercolours and inks. I enjoy painting on this paper. Although I purchase the paper in the form of a roll, I later discovered that purchasing the paper in the form of sheets (70 x 100 cm) was even cheaper. So if you are purchasing the paper, look at the formats available and calculate before purchasing one.
The beauty of Tela Oil Paper is that it has a canvas feel and is designed to work with oil paints. Purchasing vegan-friendly canvas from art shops is very difficult, as the prime ingredient is a glue derived from rabbits. Fabriano confirmed that the Tela Oil Paper is vegan-friendly, and I cut it different sizes and it has a canvas like feel to it. The Tela Paper is ready primed (no need to apply gesso), and I use it straight away with oil and acrylic paints. Also beware that gesso for oil painting is unlikely to be vegan-friendly and cruelty free unless you buy it from specific shops or make it using a cellulose based ingredients at home. I find the Tela Paper to be convenient and very economical, I highly recommend trying a small pad or a sheet out first. There are two sides both I think are usable, the top side has a canvas like feel to it and the other side is smooth. I use the top side for painting with oils and acrylics and the reverse side is fine for oil pastels (vegan friendly ones from Faber Castell or acrylic paintings). Storing the finished paintings is also easy.
I have one other pointer about the rolls. Working with the rolls requires some pre-planning this, cutting the paper and flattening it. Considering the savings made, this is a minor inconvenience.
In the next blog post, I will discuss how mounting the watercolour paper on the glass surface using a thin layer of water can be used (compared to the stapling method discussed previously) to minimise paper waste. I will also show how I flatten the paper on demand using an iron (as I dont have a lot of space to flatten the paper for days in advance.)