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 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).

paper_hierachy

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

(euro)

Price per A4 sheet
Printer Paper

(white)

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

(white)*

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
Hahnemühle

Technical drawing paper

40 Smooth 0 0.33m x 50m 262 8.00 3.05

cents

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.)

Mounting Watercolour paper on board with staples (no masking tape)

A popular method for fixing watercolour paper to a board or work surface is by using masking tape or gummed brown paper tape. The paper may or not may not be stretched prior to mounting to a board/surface. Washi tape also seems to be an option suggested by various artists on Youtube. I tried both methods and I was really not impressed by the Washi tape. The paper keeps peeling off the surface, I tried both wooden (laminated and unlaminated) and formica desktop surface, and it was a nightmare working with the tape. I returned to using masking tape which is ok but I really hate throwing the masking tape away after a few uses. I purchased gummed Brown tape (Loxely brand, vegan-friendly, not tested on animals) and I had much better results. However, its difficult to take the brown tape off the board or work surface as well as the paper.

A few months ago, I watched a Drawing course video (Russian Academic Drawing Approach by Iliya Mirochnik on the New Masters Academy). The instructor demonstrated a traditional method for mounting drawing paper on board before drawing or painting on it. I found it really useful for mounting paper on board for coffee sumi ink work and I thought why not apply it for my watercolour paper preparation.

I will go through a detailed discussion on my vegan-friendly watercolour painting supplies in a separate post. I found some reasonably priced Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper rolls (1.4 m x 10 m, 100% cotton, 300 gsm, Vegan-friendly) online for Austrian and German customers on sale. I have Fabriano Artistico soft, Fabriano Artistico fine NOT and Fabriano Artistico Hot Press. I am learning to paint on Fabriano Artistico NOT surface, Hahnemühle Bamboo Mixed Media paper (1.25 x 10 m roll for 78 euros, 95% cellulose from bamboo, 265 gsm, vegan certified) and Canson Montval (A3 jumbo pad, 100 pages, 300 gsm, Cellulose).

Materials:

Materials for Stapling the paper

Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper (cold press, 300 gsm), Art cradle (diy or wooden photo frame 30 cm x 30 cm), staple gun, staples, a pair of scissors, water in a reservoir for wetting the paper, a clean surface which is suitable for water spills, kitchen towels, jar for collecting used staples (after removing the paper from the frame), flat head screw driver or a blunt cutlery knife, a pair of pliers

Materials for watercolour wash

Winsor Newton Cotman tube paints (Ultramarine, Cadmium Red Hue Deep imit.), da Vinci Spin 5080 synthetic flat brush 40, filtered water

Procedure

  1. I cut watercolour paper from the roll and cut a rectangular piece which was roughly 1 inch larger than the wooden frame (on all four sides).
  2. I submerged the watercolour paper gently in the water and allowed about 2 minutes of contact. The paper seemed nice and flexible.
  3. I placed the rectangular watercolour paper piece on the work surface. Then I placed the wooden frame (or art cradle) on the paper as shown in Figure 1.

    stapling_01
    Figure 1: wooden frame on watercolour paper (wetted)
  4. The paper was folded and fixed to the frame using a staple gun as shown in images below in Figure 2a-b.
    staple_02JPG
    Figure 2a: Stapled paper on long sides

    staple_03
    Figure 2b: Stapled paper on all sides
  5. I also stapled the sides of the frame to ensure that the paper was stretched and secured to the board (Figure 3).

    staple_fig 3
    Figure 3: Stapling the sides of the paper.
  6. I allowed the mounted paper on the board to dry before applying the graduated washes.
  7. Staple were removed from the board after painting using a blunt flat cutlery knife and a pair of pliers.

Observations and thoughts

The watercolour paper remained taut and fixed when applying the graduated washes. I set the board at an angle of about 25° for working on the surface. It was a satisfying experience. Here is my first result, shown in Figure 4.

staple_05
Figure 4: Graduated washes with W&N Cotman French Ultramarine and W&N Cotman Cadmium Red Hue Deep Imit on Fabriano Artistico Cold press paper stretched and stapled on a wooden frame.

These are the advantages of stapling watercolour paper to a wooden frame instead of using some adhesive tape :

  1. FEWER BACKRUNS:   I was able to control the paint washes and directed the overflow of paint on the edges of the frame, to avoid any backruns. I noticed that when the paper was mounted on the board with brown gummed paper or masking tape excess paint pools on the edges and result in backruns if not removed rapidly. So it seems easier to avoid backruns with the paper stapled to the wooden frame.
  2. LESS PAPER WASTED: After removing the staples, the paper used around the edges on the frame can be reused as testing pieces or for collage work in the future (Figure 5).

    staple_07
    Figure 5: Remnants of watercolour paper retrieved after removing the staples.
  3. NEATER WORK AREA: The lack of a visible border around the paper (no masking tape, washi tape, or brown gummed tape) was more inviting to work on. (Figure 6). Sometimes a frame can be useful but visualising a full piece of paper is a different experience. Of course a frame maybe needed if you are framing the finished painting or drawing.

    staple_04
    Figure 6: Neat work surface (no frame, no bezels)
  4. Neat edges on the finished pieces (Figure 7). The paper is simply taken off the board by removing the staples and cutting the edges neatly (well-defined creases on the paper make it easy to get a neat result.)

    staple_final02
    Figure 7: Final piece after removing the staples and cutting the edges neatly with a pair of scissors.
  5. Used staples are collected in a jar (Figure 8) and then disposed along other with metal recycling waste, or these can be collected over the years and melt them down and make an armour.
    staple_final
    Figure 8: Used staples collected in a jar.

    No sticky mess with adhesives and wondering if the adhesive on the tape is vegan-friendly or not. Stapling is a good alternative to using adhesive tapes.