How To Get Your Drawing On Your Paper

Piano Rose 1
This is the initial outline for my next painting, which will be done in inktense.

Need to sketch out a drawing and then only get a light outline onto your paper?  I know I’m really messy with my first sketch, and I don’t want all those lines on my paper.  To avoid that, sketch it out on tracing paper first and then use transfer paper to get your drawing onto your paper.  If you’re putting your drawing onto a canvas, you can get it in both black and white so that you can put the drawing over dark backgrounds.  Make sure to save the initial drawing on your tracing paper so you can bring back certain guide lines if you need to.

The transfer paper I use is pretty inexpensive.  It’s the package of four sheets of 9 by 13 from Loew Cornell.  You can reuse these sheets so they last a long time too.  They are a must have item for me.  What’s your must have item?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

Other Art Tips:

Inktense Tutorial and Review

Mixed vs Layered

Right Side vs Wrong Side of the Paper

5 Beginning Watercolor Mistakes

Is Realistic Watercolor Possible?

Varnishing Watercolor Paper

Testing Soft Press Paper

Test Rose

I’m trying to find my way back into a routine, and I decided to attempt that by testing out this 2 x 3 Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300lbs soft press watercolor paper.  Must the name be that long?  Anyway, I hadn’t quite figured it out on the rose, but the leaves got much better.  Fabriano is the only brand that has a soft press and it’s supposed to be an in-between paper for cold and hot press.  Once you get used to it, it’s very lovely to work with.  I like that you can easily get a loose look and a tight detail all on one paper.  You just have to control the amount of water on your brush and pay attention to the drying time.  I’m glad that it comes in a 300lbs since I work in so many layers.  I was noticing with the 140lbs paper I was working on, it just stopped taking layers at a certain point.

I found this paper amongst all the sample papers that Blick sent me.  I originally just asked for their hot press papers in certain brands, but I guess they just all come together, and I got the rough, cold, and hot of all of them.  I’m not complaining because that’s how I found this wonderful paper.

For those of you who want this piece, watch my Pinterest page this Sunday.  I will be hiding it somewhere on one of my boards and the first person to comment on it will get it.

Right Side vs Wrong Side Of the Paper

I’ve been experimenting with the “wrong” side of the paper.  It’s basically just the the smoother side of the paper.  It’s suppose to be better for getting finer detail and since I do more detailed work I thought I’d give it a try.  I really like the smoothness of it.  It actually makes me want to try out some hot press paper.  I’ll have to test that out and tell you my experience with that.  I didn’t notice too much of a difference in color, but I was able to get more of the detail I wanted because I didn’t have the grain of the paper getting in my way.  I also noticed that it dried flatter as well, which was interesting.

So I will probably use the other side of the paper from now on.  If you’re doing a style of painting that requires a lot of detail you might like using the other side, but if you’re going for a more impressionistic look the more textured side would probably work better.

If you try it out, let me know how goes for you!  Unfortunately I spilled my rinse water all over my painting so I don’t have a picture to show you for comparison, but I will soon.

Other Topics You Might Enjoy:

5 Beginning Watercolor Mistakes

Is Realistic Watercolor Possible?

Varnishing Watercolor Paper

3 Things Not To Do With Your Brushes

Staining vs Non-Staining Colors

Are You Using the Right Watercolor Paper


You may think there’s not much difference between watercolor paper, other than some being of higher quality, but that not the case.  There are different textures, weights, and colors.  That’s right, colors.  You thought it was only white, but there’s traditional, bright white, extra white, and absolute white, and depending on the company it can a noticeable or not so noticeable difference.  The color of the paper will effect the look of your painting.  A cream tone paper will give a brown or muddy look to your painting.  While a paper with a blue tint to it will make your yellows look slightly green.  So depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you may choose different papers at different times.

Many people are familiar with the different textures; rough, hot press, and cold press, but they’re not as familiar with what they’re just suited for.  Rough paper is the most grainy, and generally not good for fine detail, but since it is so smooth many people, especially beginners, have problems with paint sliding around.  Cold press is the most popular because it allows for the fine detail, but also has some texture to it.  Also with all of that, there’s a “right” and “wrong” side of the paper.  The “right” side is more textured than the other, so the “wrong” side would allow more fine detail.

Then there’s also weights of papers; 90lbs, 140lbs, 260lbs, and 300lbs.  Thinner paper needs to be stretched so that it doesn’t buckle when painting.  The weight you’ll need in order to not stretch it will be different depending on how you paint, but for many people, they need at least 260lbs.  Stretching a piece of paper isn’t the end of the world, but you may need a heavier weight in order for it to take the amount of layers you want, and if you tend to abuse your papers, you definitely will want a heavy paper.

So now that you’ve figured out the color, texture, and weight, now it’s time to buy the paper, but do you buy a roll, individual sheets, a pad, or a block?  These are the questions you need to ask.  How much paper do you use?  How do you paint and what sizes do you use?  How much are you willing to spend?  Rolls are nice because you can cut the paper to whatever size you want.  So if you’re using a lot of various sizes this might be a better option for you than buying tons of different pads.  Sometimes you get get deals on bulk individual sheets verses buying pads or blocks.  This is usually only an option for the artist grade paper.  Pads are the most commonly used and sold just because they’re convenient and cheap.  They store easy and you can tear off the page or keep it on.  Blocks are more expensive, but they have the convenience of not having to be stretched since they are attached on all sides.  If that’s something important to you, and you’re willing to pay for it, blocks could be an option for you.  However you can’t pull it off until it’s dry, so you can only work on one painting at a time unless you get more than one.

It all depends on your personal preference and style of painting as what paper you use.  I still wouldn’t recommend using anything less than acid-free.  After that, you can use a matte spray varnish if you wish.  If you’re just starting watercolor, finding a cold press 140lbs paper should work out nicely for you.  After that you can try experimenting to see if there’s something you like better.