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There are so many different kinds of paper available for drawing that it can be confusing to decide exactly which one is going to work for your drawing project. Your paper has a direct effect on the look and feel of your artwork, and so it’s important to make the correct choice.

In this video you get to watch over my shoulder as I test 5 different papers from the wonderful St Cuthberts Mill. It should be noted that St Cuthberts Mill recommend each one of these papers for a range of different applications. Each has certain strengths and advantages, but in this case I am specifically concentrating on use with graphite pencil.

Towards the end of this video I recommend my favourites from the papers I’ve tested. So join me on my journey through the world of paper from St Cuthberts Mill.

Video Transcript

I’m investigating five different papers, they’re all by St Cuthberts Mill and I want to see how they react with graphite pencil.

It’s really important to consider your paper before you begin your drawing and it’s all relative to what subject you’re going to draw, so if you’re drawing something smooth and shiny for example you might choose a smooth paper, and if you choose to draw something rough like wood or rocks you choose a rougher paper with a different surface again.

So today I’m looking at three different qualities:

  • I’m looking for the texture of the paper to see how rough or smooth it is, and how that is good for the graphite pencil drawing more suitable or not as suitable.
  • I’m also going to be looking at the weight of the paper, how thick the paper is and whether it can hold many layers of graphite; that’s another important thing.
  • I’ll also be looking at the colour of the paper, and when we look at the colour of the paper there are different types of white, different shades of white.

So we’re going to look at these three things today; the color the texture and the weight of the paper.

Saunders Waterford HP+ High White 300 gsm

So I’m going to begin with the Saunders Waterford hot pressed paper in the high white colour.

When I first look at this paper I love the color of it. It’s a nice bright white. Now having a bright white paper is really valuable because it means that you can either leave the area blank where you want your full light area to be, or you can erase back into it and pull out a beautiful bright white. So that’s important.

I can also see that it’s a little bit thick which is really nice, and this paper is 300 gsm which is a very good weight for paper. That means it’s going to hold quite a few layers.

The other thing I’m noticing when I first look at it is it’s relatively smooth but it’s got just enough tooth so that the graphite can adhere to it. It’s also a nice surface, a nice appearance. It’s not very rough, it’s just right, so I’m excited to give this a go.

Now I have already tested it but I’d like to show you how this paper reacts to graphite. Now first of all I’m using a 4B pencil and I’m just going to apply the smooth shading technique. What I’m looking for when I shade with the smooth shading technique here, is I’m looking for a beautiful even coverage of the graphite. Some papers are very uneven and so you get quite a patchy sort of effect, but look at, that is beautiful. It’s very even I can see a wonderful lovely full spread of even graphite smoothly applied all over that surface there, so I’m very happy with that, the way that it’s covering there.

Now I’d like to try a little bit more robust by adding some more pressure using the tip of the pencil and see how how that works. What I’m looking for now is making sure that the paper isn’t baubling, and when I say bauble that means little tiny areas of the surface of paper gathering little lumps of graphite. So what we don’t want is for thoselittle baubles to appear, they look quite messy in our work. That’s looking fabulous.

So that’s working really well. There’s a few tiny little areas but they’re fine, that’s nothing to really worry about. In general it’s a wonderful application, so I really like the look of that. It’s beautiful and even. I can go very dark. I’d love to see how it reacts now to some hatching, so some line strokes.

That’s working very well as well. Now the reason why I can hatch and use line work very easily and beautifully on this paper is because it’s quite smooth, the surface is smooth. One more thing I would like to try, is to see how well it layers.

If we used a hatching stroke, laying it alongside each other, some tight strokes alongside each other, first of all lightly with the HB (pencil). I just want to see how it layers, and grab the 4B, and that is beautiful; the 4B is going over the top of that really well. Now if this paper surface was too glossy then that second layer would have had trouble adhering to the HB (pencil) underneath. So that’s great.

The last thing I’d like to try is erasing. Let’s see how it erases. I’m just gonna erase into this. That looks great. Now the thing that I was looking for there when I was erasing is to make sure that the paper didn’t tear or become disturbed in any way, and that paper stood very solid there and it also pulls the colour almost back to the white of the page which I like as well. So that tells me that this is a perfect paper for graphite drawing, for the type of drawing that I like to do, which is smooth shading technique and some hatching and various other line work. So it’s great paper.

I’ve also got the same paper in this colour, the plain white colour, but I’ve notice that it’s a bit more creamy and I prefer to use a whiter paper most the time for graphite drawing so I’d choose that white one in that case. Now I’d like to look at another one.

Bockingford HP White 300 gsm

Let’s look at the Bockingford. Now I have the Bockingford as a hot pressed paper, so this hot pressed paper is a nice smooth paper, and hot pressed is usually more smooth than your cold pressed or you’re not pressed, so it’s a smooth paper but the thing I really like about it is it has also got some texture so it feels good it’s looking promising so far. The colors great, it’s a nice bright white which is very good and it’s also a good weight.

This is a 300 gsm as well, so let’s give this one a try. I’m starting out again with my 4B pencil, this is just a graphite pencil and I’m looking for again that lovely even surface quality. Wow look at that! That is beautiful! That’s lovely and even again. So this is the Bockingford hot pressed paper from St. Cuthbert’s Mill. Look at that that is gorgeous. I really really love that.

Now I’m just going to see how it works with a nice firm pressure, again it’s really nice, and the reason why I
like it so much is that the surface texture appears to be quite tough because there’s no baubling and it’s just a beautiful application, beautiful even application.

Let’s try it with line work. I’m assuming it’s gonna be great with line work because it’s a smooth paper. There we go, that’s looking great as well. Let’s just do another test to see what the erasing is like. Wow look at that, That’s beautiful. So that’s another really great paper. I would say that for my pencil drawing this would be another fantastic paper, the Bockingford. So that’s the Bockingford hot pressed.

Bockingford CP(NOT) White 300 gsm

I just wanna look at this other Bockingford. Now this one’s the cold pressed and/or not pressed which means that it’s a lot rougher texture.

Now I’ve been experimenting with a little bit here but i just want to show you how this paper reacts using a 4B pencil, just on the side with the smooth shading technique.

Look at the difference with this paper. This is very interesting to note. You can see how we have all these white specks of the paper showing. Now that can be a good thing especially if you wanted to draw something like bark or little bushes and trees, things that have got a rough texture, or rocks, rock walls, things like that. You can use that to your advantage. But if you were trying to draw something that was glass or shiny, an apple, or items that are shiny, you wouldn’t really want to use this paper because it’s very hard to fill those little spaces; and they’re the things you need to think about when you first begin your drawing in graphite. What sort of paper you want to use; do you want plenty of texture, do you want no texture, a little bit of texture.

The main thing to take into consideration though when you’re drawing with graphite is it is a slippery sort of medium so you do need to have a little bit of texture in your paper, just a bit, we don’t want to be too shiny.

So this is a rougher texture paper. Let’s see how it erases. That is beautiful. It’s beautiful because it’s not damaging the paper at all when I erase, so this is a very strong paper. It can withstand quite a lot of pressure.

Now all of these papers by St. Cuthbert’s Mill are also recommended for other mediums, but what I’m looking at today is just with graphite. So that’s a really lovely nice paper. Very strong but more for textured artwork.

Somerset Velvet Radiant White 250 gsm

Now I’ve got another one here; this is the Somerset Velvet paper. So Somerset Velvet. Now let’s have a feel of this. This one feels quite different to the other papers.

It’s got a little bit more of a texture, but it feels really soft to touch. Now St. Cuthberts Mill really recommend this for printmaking which is interesting as well. It’s also recommended the graphite drawing and colour pencil drawing and other mediums but I really love the feel of this, its soft; now, that’s the first thing I’m noticing.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that it’s a radiant white; it’s a beautiful white color so that’s good. I like a nice white color when I’m working with graphite and this one’s 250 gsm so that means it’s a little bit thinner. So let’s have a look, let’s have a go with this paper and see what it can do.

First of all I will try it with my smooth shading technique, which is when I lay the pencil on the side to see what it does with this. It’s an even spread. I can see it baubling quite a bit though, so it is really picking up the surface of the paper, and it is a soft fluffy paper, and the harder I’m pressing the more of those little baubles it’s picking up.

So what that’s telling me is that this is probably not my preferred paper for using the smooth shading technique. The surface is just a little bit too soft.

So let’s try it out for other textures. I’ll have look at it for some line work. Well that’s beautiful for line work. That is gorgeous. I really liked that a lot, and it feels really nice, it almost feels like a little pillow because you’re sort of pressing into it. I’d love this for fur. I would use this for fur for sure.

The other benefit of that feel, that sort of softness is that you could use indenting and impressing techniques for this and really press into the paper, and you can do that by just some laying down a sheet of tracing paper and then using an impressing tool over the top and then shade at the top of that. So this would be a great paper for impressing, and for sketching too. Look at that. It’s beautiful paper for sketching.

Let’s just test and see how it works with erasing this particular paper. When we erase I can see that it’s actually removing  the top surface of the paper so you have to be very careful when you’re erasing with this paper. Let’s see how it looks after we’ve erased. That’s not a very good appearance at all for the smooth shading technique, so I wouldn’t use this paper for the smooth shading technique as my preference at all. I would instead use this paper the drawing things like fur or any sketching.

It would be fabulous for sketching, and i’m sure it’s got many other uses that you can use it for; but for graphite I would prefer to use a different paper. So that is a beautiful soft texture though and it’s absolutely gorgeous for sketching and fur and linework. So more suitable for line that one.

Somerset Velvet Antique 250 gsm

I’ve also got the Somerset Velvet paper here in the antique colour, so this is just a different colour and its really good to use different colours. If you’re drawing animals for example you can use that colour as a part of the animal fur colour. So that’s the same paper and it’s just a different colour. That’s absolutely beautiful colour that one.

Somerset Satin White 250 gsm

Let’s have a look at the fifth paper that I’ve got here. This is the Somerset Satin. I want to just notice the difference between the Somerset Velvet and the Satin. The Satin is quite a bit smoother to the touch and it’s also 250 gsm so that’s a thinner paper.

Let’s see how this one reacts with a smooth shading technique. It’s a lovely even paper, it’s a beautiful even paper, but it is baubling again, so once again I wouldn’t choose this one either for the smooth shading technique because of this baubling surface. It’s just because the surface is quite soft and delicate.

I’m going to see how this works for hatching and fur like strokes. That’s beautiful for hatching strokes.

Lets see how it works for erasing. It’s not too bad at the erasing actually, but it is a bit softer, once again, no, with the erasing it’s just damaged that surface of the paper. So what I would use this for is more sketching and hatching strokes, things like fur, all linear work, it’d be perfect for that, but for the smooth shading technique it’s not quite so good and I would perhaps say in summary
that the papers that I prefer out of all of these wonderful papers, they’re all gorgeous by the way, and they’ve all got different uses…

My Favourite Papers…

…but my favourite papers that I’ve learnt from this experience is definitely the Saunders Waterford hot pressed high white 300gsm and I would also say the Bockingford.

Those two papers are perfect for all of the techniques that I use with graphite pencil drawing.

Share your Experiences, Ask Questions…

So what are your experiences of drawing with graphite on paper? Have you got any questions that you’d like to ask me, or any problems that you feel you need to have solved?

I’d love to help you, so leave your comments below in the comments section and if you really enjoyed this video please subscribe (to my Youtube Channel) and also press the like for me. I look forward to hearing from you.