Top 10 Best Charcoal Drawing Paper Reviews by An Expert
As an artist, you have one great benefit. There’s a wide assortment of drawing paper to work with. From newsprint and watercolor paper to Bristol board, the choices are endless.
In this article, we’ll focus on charcoal drawing and sketching. And so the question you’ve been asking pops up: what is the best paper for charcoal drawing?
How you choose your art paper should reflect what you mean your drawing to be and whether you intend to archive it.
That’s why you cannot use just any paper. For instance, using newsprint with the idea of archiving the design won’t work. Newsprint is not durable.
This post is created to help you choose the right drawing paper for graphite and charcoal while showing you where to find the ideal product.
Let’s get started.
Strathmore 300 Series
5 out of 5
Canson XL Series
5 out of 5
Strathmore 455-3 400 Series
5 out of 5
U.S. Art Supply
5 out of 5
Arteza Drawing Pad
4.5 out of 5
Choosing the correct paper for charcoal drawing rests on the things that you desire out of the drawings you’re planning to create. Consider the media you’ll be using. What are their characteristics? Are they wet or dry?
For instance, when using charcoal, something with lots of texture is the ideal platform to draw on, as it will pull in the charcoal. On the contrary, ink or pencil will work better on a surface whose tooth is smooth.
Here are some factors to keep in mind when looking for a suitable paper for charcoal drawing:
Level of smoothness
Charcoal’s nature is that it is powdery and crumbly. Hence, it needs something to cling on to. Smooth surfaces are, therefore, not ideal. If you need the paper for charcoal drawing, you’re better off with rougher paper that is heavy and textured.
Paper for charcoal drawings is available in all sorts of colors. The major ones are black, white, gray, tan, and blue. If you’re considering to use light media like white, then darker tones like black and blue are very appropriate. On the other hand, if you’ll be using darker colors like black, lighter drawing material like white is a better choice.
The idea is to make the color of your drawing pop. Be sure to check the exact color of the paper you’re interested in.
Weight and construction
The construction of the paper matters. It entails the weight and size of the paper. One thing with sketching and charcoal drawing is that they involve lots of mark making and erasing. You need a paper that can hold up to that sort of abuse.
Look for a weight level of around 60 to 90 pounds. More than that would be okay but less is unsuitable. As for the size, that entirely depends on your preferences. Check the length and width, keeping in mind factors like the size of your drawings and portability.
For charcoal drawing, thicker is better as it makes the paper resilient in the face of rough use.
Perhaps from your science classes, you remember the effect of acid on paper. Acid makes paper deteriorate rather quickly, hence the importance of this factor. When a paper contains acids, it yellows and warps and generally gets ruined fast. For the sake of durability, choose charcoal art paper that is rated non-acidic.
Time to look at the reviews now. Let’s jump in.
Our Top 10 Best Charcoal Drawing Paper in 2023
1. Strathmore 300 Series
The Strathmore 300 Series is a nice and smooth turquoise paper that is considered middle grade. The pack contains 32 sheets of paper measuring in at 9 by 12 inches.
If you’re just beginning art classes, it’s helpful to have the right supplies. In charcoal drawing, the paper you use determines the experience you’ll have. Do you know why the Strathmore paper is so highly regarded?
It offers artists a means to create designs with charcoal easily. With the paper, you don’t have to worry about bleeds or other issues seen in cheaper paper.
When looking for the best charcoal drawing paper, one of the important things to consider is the weight. Heavy is better than lightweight in many scenarios. For instance, it can withstand heavy erasing and mark-making while lightweight paper cannot.
This paper has a weight of 64 pounds, which is perfect for charcoal drawing and other dry media.
Packaging also matters considerably. Thankfully, this charcoal painting paper comes in 32 sheets that are properly packed inside a notebook with hard covers. That way, you’re assured your work stays protected.
Keep in mind before getting this paper that it is thick and textured. You might find it hard to use it at first, and find that only hard and medium pencil works, but eventually, you’ll appreciate the quality.
The Strathmore 300 Series is an acid-free and non-toxic charcoal drawing paper made in the USA. Quality is guaranteed.
2. Canson XL Series
For an art enthusiast or a student up to college level, the Canson XL Series is an excellent choice. This pad of paper features superior construction. The heavy weight of the paper (140 pounds) makes it possible to make marks and erase as much as you like without ruining the paper.
The most amazing thing about the Canson XL Series is the versatility it offers. For starters, the paper is very suitable for watercolor. Why is that?
It is nice heavy paper with a light texturing to it. That’s perfect for watercolor. When doing watercolor art, there is one issue you’re likely to try to avoid: dulling the colors, which is a huge tendency with watercolor. The good news is that you don’t have to soak or saturate the paper, and yet the colors don’t dull.
How is the absorbency? I was glad to find that the paper absorbs paint beautifully. What’s even more fulfilling is that the paper does not warp.
There is one shortcoming you need to know about before you get this paper. It is not for very wet applications. If you try using lots of water, the paper will disintegrate. But if you’re not looking for paper for very wet applications, you’ll love the Canson XL Series.
Its weight and texture make it good for watercolor and charcoal drawing.
3. Strathmore 455-3 400 Series
For a heavyweight and durable charcoal painting paper that will allow you to explore through colored pencils, graphite pencils, sketching sticks, charcoal, and more, try the Strathmore 455-3 400 Series. It’s a very popular choice from Strathmore, a highly respected brand in the industry.
If you’re a student, even up to college level, this could be the ideal paper for you. That is because it has a fine-tooth surface, which is quite suitable for practice and experimentation, especially with dry media.
But the paper is not just for learners and beginners. It is also a great choice for professionals. Firstly, the paper is heavy. That means you can draw and apply force without worrying about the paper getting ruined. Also, heavy erasing is not a concern.
The arrangement and packaging of the paper is quite commendable. It comes in a booklet containing 100 sheets of 9 by 12 inches. You might be wondering how you’re supposed to keep so many sheets together, but the way the booklet is arranged makes everything easy and straightforward.
Double-spiral binding is used to keep the sheets together. But whenever you need to pull out a sheet, the task is a piece of cake. The sheets are microperforated, making the tear easy and clean.
Be warned before getting this sketch book, that heavy inks and watercolor pens tend to soak it. But if it’s for dry media, you got yourself a perfect drawing paper here.
4. Charcoal Drawing Paper by U.S. Art Supply
The U.S. Art Supply is relatively heavyweight, weighing in at 90 pounds. That is a perfect weight level for drawing paper when dealing with charcoal.
With a somewhat textured surface, the paper is able to hold the drawings, particular pencil and charcoal drawings very well. If you’re looking for a good but inexpensive sketchbook to use with conte crayon, graphite, and charcoal, this product would be a good selection.
Compared to the typical sketchbook, the U.S Art Supply paper is quite heavy. Furthermore, its surface is quite pleasing. It features a somewhat embossed pattern with enough tooth to hold a few layers of conte crayon or charcoal.
If you’re looking for a solid layer, this paper is unlikely to disappoint. How does it accomplish that? The paper blends well with the ink, and as it is adequately heavy to take lots of ink or heavy drawing, it enables you to achieve a solid layer without falling apart.
The appearance of the paper is crucial. It determines how the drawing will appear. Many papers out there are not a true white but have been brightened with chemicals to glow in the dark. This paper, on the other hand, is a natural white, which helps the images come out beautifully.
There are a few shortcomings. Crucially, the line and the nib chatters bleed when you try to use anything apart from charcoal. Secondly, the paper doesn’t keep the drawing for a long time.
I’d recommend this paper only for learners. It’s not for pros.
5. Arteza Drawing Pad
For an acid free and durable drawing paper with the measurements of 8 by 10 inches, consider the Arteza Drawing Pad. This unit is suitable for kids and adults alike.
The product comes as a set of two pads, each with 50 sheets of the said measurement. You know what is most surprising about it? The entire package goes for a price of less just about twenty bucks. Considering the quantity offered, and the quality, you can rest assured there’s no better deal.
How are the pages in terms of quality and ease of flipping? Firstly, the pages are spiral-bound. The way the spiral is designed doesn’t do any justice to the ease of flipping, but it’s not bad to the level of being annoying.
On the brighter side, the perforations on the pages make it really easy to remove them, which is crucial for art students and pros alike.
Let me tell you something about acids and why it is crucial for drawing paper to be free of acids. Acids are toxic to paper. They make it deteriorate at a high rate.
Luckily, the Arteza drawing pad is acid-free. For that, the paper stays in shape for a long time.
There’s something I didn’t like about the paper. It looks a bit yellowing. Not uncomfortably yellowish, but for many people, natural pure white is the best. Still, it is a truly good paper that packs great quality.
6. Canson Artist Series Universal Paper Sketch Pad
If you are looking for a truly quality sketch pad to create charcoal drawings on that’s not very expensive, then the Canson Artist Series Universal Paper Sketch Pad. This is a heavyweight paper weighing in at 65 pounds. I’ll break down the reasons why this might be the best drawing paper for charcoal drawing.
First of all, the weight level of 65 pounds is perfect for sketching. It gives the paper resilience so that you can put pressure on it with the pens and erase as much as you like without ruining it.
The surface is composed of a nice and smooth tooth. That provides you with a good surface on which to put your designs. This works pretty well especially if you’re using dry media such as graphite pencil, pastels, and charcoal.
Yellowing is one of the issues that badly affect paper drawings. If you’ve ever drawn on paper that later turned white, you know precisely what I am talking about.
But do you know what causes yellowing?
The main culprit is acids. Luckily, the Canson Artist Series Universal Paper Sketch Pad is acid free. Because of that, you never have to worry about yellowing. Your designs stay in their original form for a long time.
There is something to be cautious about before getting the pad. It is not for watercolor or liquid drawings, as liquids soak the paper. Other than that, it’s a great paper for dry media.
7. Bee Paper Company Big White Drawing Pad
Are you a charcoal drawing enthusiast looking for a good paper for charcoal drawings with a rough surface to work with? You have got to try the Bee Paper Company Big White Drawing Pad.
This product is available as a pad containing 50 sheets. Each sheet measures 9 by 9 inches, though you can get them in a few other sizes when buying from amazon.
One of the most important things when dealing with paper pads is the construction. The way the paper is made and arranged will determine the ease of use with regard to factors like ease of turning the pages, as well as the durability of the sketch book.
Thankfully, the Bee Paper Company Big White Drawing Pad is very well designed. The sheets are bound with a double spiral of a plastic-like material. This keeps the book intact without making the flipping a difficult task.
The paper is made of 25 percent cotton. Because of that, it takes the drawing seamlessly and holds it, ensuring that you designs last.
There are two problems that come with this paper. First, the sheets are a bit wavy, which can get very distracting when trying to create an impeccable design. Secondly, the paper doesn’t work with liquid media. Water damages it. But if you’re using dry media like charcoal, you’ll not face this issue.
8. Black Sketch Pad 9X12
Need an amazing black paper on white to sketch with colored pencils, pastels, opaque gel pens or white charcoal? You just found it: the Black Sketch Pad 9X12.
This paper has such a nice and smooth surface that your gel pens will write seamlessly on it.
If there is one thing I can say I absolutely love about this paper, it is the design. The color is true black. It looks fantastic. That wonderful cat drawing on the cover makes it even more attractive. It is something you can be proud to show to your friends or family or anyone else.
Still on the design, I have come to discover that most sketch books are held together at the side like other note books. This sketch book, on the other hand, is held together at the top. The design makes the book not only unique but also so easy to use. It’s also suitable for the spirit of art, which stands for uniqueness.
The spiral format at the top holds the 32 sheets of paper for charcoal drawings in the book very well. Thanks to their good material and design, flipping the pages is a piece of cake.
Many are the times when you have to tear a page off your sketchbook. The manufacturer seemed to care about this need, which is evident from the micro-perforations of the sheets for ease of removal.
The Black Sketch Pad 9X12 is truly excellent. The only con I can think of is that there are only 32 sheets to work with.
9. Strathmore Tan Drawing 400 Series
If you use pencils often to make your drawings, you will love the nature of the Strathmore Tan Drawing 400 Series. Pencils glide very smoothly along this paper, making it quite easy to create drawings on it.
Many people prefer a specific color when it comes to drawing paper. White is rather popular, but it is not the only color you can work with. Have you thought of tan? It is a great color as it allows you to work with both light and dark media.
Tan is the color of this paper. It lets you use a wide range of media from white gel pens and chalk to China markers and charcoal. As you can see, it is quite versatile.
The pad comes as a booklet containing 50 sheets. Each sheet measures in at 5.5 by 8.5 inches. Unlike many other drawing pads I have come across, this one has all the sheets being uniform. They’re also not wavy but rather straight, which adds to the ease of use.
There’s only one thing I don’t like about the design: the fact that there are no options for the size. There is only the 5.5 by 8.5-inch size.
But everything else seems okay. Even the way the sheets are held together at the side. Double rings are used to keep the pages intact, and those perforations make it effortless to remove the pages.
10. sax sulphite drawing paper
That last item on this review is the Sax Sulphite Drawing Paper.
This is a high-grade drawing paper for charcoal that is made of 100 percent sulfite. Because of that, it is one of the very few drawing papers that can handle both wet and dry media. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you might agree that is something rather special, right?
One thing about this paper is that it is pretty heavy. Weighing in at 80 pounds, it is not as heavy as watercolor paper, but it has adequate weight for wet painting in addition to dry sketching.
If you’re just getting started with watercolor painting, or you just happen to have a low budget, you might agree that that watercolor is not cheap.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner. If you want to spend less without compromising your learning process, I’d suggest getting sulfite paper. And tell you what? The Sax Sulphite Drawing Paper won’t disappoint you.
In the description, the paper says “extra white”. I’m confirming that this is true. If you want your colors to pop, the extra crisp white of this paper will be very useful.
The one bad thing I have to expose about this paper is that it smudges a lot. You’d better have lots of erasers if you’re planning to sketch on it. Otherwise, it’s a great paper that lets you create great drawings.
Frequently Asked Questions About Charcoal Drawing Paper
1. Can I use smooth paper for charcoal drawing?
If you’re using graphite pencils, then smooth paper will come in really handy for making the drawing pop. It brings out the details impeccably. But when using charcoal, smooth paper is not suitable as it’s not able to hold the powdery and crumbly material very well. For charcoal, rough paper is appropriate.
2. What is charcoal in art and drawing?
In the context of art, charcoal refers to a black material that is made of carbon. It is a crumbly material that artists use to sketch and create under-drawings when painting.
3. Is watercolor paper good for charcoal drawing?
Many folks use watercolor paper for charcoal drawing when dealing with thick charcoal blocks as opposed to thinner charcoal sticks. The difference between charcoal drawing paper and watercolor paper is that the latter is heavier.
4. What is charcoal pencil and what can I use it for?
Charcoal pencil is like a regular pencil made of writing material enclosed in a wood jacket. The only difference is that instead of graphite, what is enclosed is drawing charcoal. If you need your drawings to have a deep black color and to pop and look crisper, use charcoal pencil instead of regular pencil. Here we discussed about top 10 Charcoal Pencils of this year.
Did this article help you find the best paper for charcoal drawing? I hope that I have given you the hand you needed. Now, you don’t have to waste too much time looking for the right product.
Remember, finding the right paper for charcoal drawings depends on your needs, especially your medium. Most of the available paper are able to tolerate dry media, but not wet media. There are some models that tolerate both wet and dry media.
Don’t forget to check important factors like the size, thickness, and weight. And lastly, make sure the paper is the color you’re looking for.