Vegan & Economical Drawing & Painting Surfaces: Part 2: Why buying Paper Rolls is a good option?

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 some support from online tutors), 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
Printer Paper


80 smooth 0 500 A4 sheets 500 5.00 1 cent
Printer Paper


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

x 10m

198 66* 33 cents
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.)



Graphite Study 001: Graphite pencils and force applied on paper (Faber Castell 9000 series on printer paper 80 gsm)

Generally, drawing instruction books and tutors recommend soft pencils (2B, 3B or 4B or even 6B) for sketching and drawing. Hard pencils which include 2H to HB are thought to “damage” the surface of the paper as a result of excessive force (or pressure) and or the hardness of the graphite pencil lead.

1.0    Objective

The aim of this experiment was to study the approximate force applied (which approximately correlates to pressure = force/area) on the surface of the paper when shading circles with Faber Castell 9000 graphite pencils. This study would allow me to explore the general statements on pressure application on paper during the drawing process. Please note due to the limitation of equipment, this experiment and the findings should be read as approximate or general findings rather than absolute statements.

2.0 .   Materials & Methods

2.1     Materials

Printer Paper (Papyur Rainbow 80 gsm, Fawn colour), Faber Castell 9000 series set (2H-8B), a mechanical pencil sharpener, a pair scissors, digital weighing scales (2 decimal place), purchased from Ebay for 2 euros, calibrated with reference weights), Masking tape, Lab stand (to hold camera/phone during the experiment, IPhone 5 SE (for capturing video footage), Blu Tack (for fixing the digital scales, lab stand), lab gloves, Infrared Thermometer (Broadcare GM320, purchased from Amazon)

2.2    Experimental Setup

I wore gloves to prevent any grease marks or contamination transferring onto the test paper pieces during the experiment.
I cut some rectangular pieces (4 cm x 4.5 cm) of drawing paper (Papyrus Rainbow 80 gsm paper Fawn colour) using a pair of scissors. Then I placed a lid from my Vöslauer mineral water bottle and drew a circle in the middle of the rectangular piece. The resulting circle has a diameter of 3.1 cm, then I fixed the test paper pieced on a small kitchen/jewellers digital weighing scale (2 decimal places) using very narrow strips of masking tape.
The digital scales were also fixed with some Blu Tack to the table top so that it didn’t move during the experiment. The IPhone was held in place with a clamp/lab stand and it was aligned to capture both the test piece fixed on the weighing scale and the display screen.
The Faber Castell 9000 series were brand new, and I sharpened them using my mechanical pencil prior to the experiment.

2.3   Running the experiment

I checked the surface temperature of the paper piece using my infrared thermometer, before and after shading.
I began capturing the video footage prior to shading the circle on the test piece. During the experiment, I was trying not to look at the digital display and I tried using my personal judgement to apply even pressure while shading the circle.
All test pieces were shaded in one sitting, to avoid changes in humidity or room temperature.

2.4  Data collection

The video captured from these experiments were played back at a slower speed and I transferred the data time vs weight in a spread sheet (Numbers on my Imac). I took an average of 3 readings.

3.0   Observations and Results:

The humidity and room temperature did not vary during the experiment. I plotted weight (gram) against time (second) for each experiment undertaken, and this is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 01: Weight (g) applied with a range of Faber Castell 9000 series while shading a circle on printer paper (80 gsm) as a function of time (second). (FC is an abbreviation for Faber Castell 9000 series)

During the experiment, I was fairly convinced that I was applying similar pressure while shading. But it is clear from the graph, that may be misleading. For all grades of pencils, weight increases as a function of time, this is perhaps due to the fact that the pencil is gradually moving towards me so this results in more force applied to the paper.
I will conduct another experiment in which I will shade the circle in the reverse direction to prove or disprove my hypothesis.

Interestingly, I applied less pressure onto the paper when I was shading with harder pencils. What was interesting however, was with the softer pencils 2B onwards where I was really struggling to apply less force on the paper with my pencils. With very soft pencils the pencil felt like it was floating on the paper but the graph shows that the force (ie, the weight) applied was about the same if not more.

4.0    Conclusions
Assuming that using my personal judgement (or perception) I applied the same weight (or force or pressure) while shading the circles with pencils with varying hardness. My findings so far are as follows:
Hard pencils may damage the paper because of the hardness of the pencil lead rather than the perception/feeling of applying higher force or pressure.
I perceived that I applied less force or pressure while shading with softer pencils, but the graph shows that I may have applied more force on to the paper. This perception is perhaps due to the fact that the graphite easily transfers onto the paper surface, the feeling is like melting butter on a piece of toast. This encouraged me to easily drag my pencil across the paper.
Drawing with softer pencils actually may indicate that higher pressure is applied on the paper surface compared to shading with harder pencils.

5.0   Future Work
I will repeat the experiment with different drawing papers, primarily Fabriano Artistico Hot Press.
I will also report my observations of these test pieces when I study them under my usb microscope and I will measure the intensities of the graphite laid on the test pieces using my IR spectrometer soon.

6.0   Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Faber Castell for their permission (E-mail correspondence with Herr. Holger Unfried, Product Manager, A. W. Faber Castell Vertrieb GmbH) to share my experimental work freely.


In this blog, I would like to share my experiences in drawing and painting. I have a strong background in chemistry and my expertise lie in hydrocolloids, physical and analytical chemistry (PhD and postdoctoral projects). I left the field few years ago for various reasons. I am now studying drawing and painting on my own and with the help of online support tutors who provide me critique. As a scientist, it is difficult for me to separate the role of art materials (such as paper, paints, etc) from the drawing and painting experience itself. I don’t have access to high tech analytical equipment, but I have some inexpensive devices and passion.

I am also a vegan and personally I do my best to avoid art materials which contain animal-based raw materials or if the products have been tested on animals. I will share my experiences in commercial art materials which have been declared as suitable for vegans. Often I get asked “why should you care whether paints or pencils contain animal-based raw materials when you are not going to eat them?”. My answer is that I am trying my best not to hurt animals in any way I can. I am doing the best I can, it’s in no way perfect but what matters to me certainly, is that I am trying.

I will discuss my first hand experiences and thoughts on art materials (both commercially available as well as home-made/ DIY approaches) in a future post. My tutors consider this an interesting side-project, and urge me to concentrate on developing my technical drawing and painting skills primarily. At first, I was a bit disheartened as I worked rather hard to gather information and undertake initials studies. I think this maybe of interest to some people at least.

I believe that the spirit of the drawing and painting is linked to how we relate to the art materials. However, the general approach is it doesn’t matter how you make a drawing and painting the role of art materials is marginal. A skilled artist will make a masterpiece or close to it with inexpensive art materials, while an amateur will make a mess even with the most expensive and high quality materials. However, I think that my approach which seems “too intense” and “critical” is not wrong either. For example, Albrecht Dürer and J.W.M. Turner undertook ongoing research into art materials throughout their artistic career.

I am trying to make progress on both the nature of art-materials, and the drawing and painting process (interaction with art-materials). I am learning to draw and paint so I will share my attempts at drawing and painting.