I have searched for this question here but I did not see anything in regards to paper. I ask this question because some have chosen different types of paper when illustrating and I do not understand why. The majority of people would typically choose matte paper but there are some benefits to choosing glossy paper such as:


  • Better finished quality
  • finer detail capabilities
  • Doesn't work well with ball point pens


  • easier to work with pen
  • sometimes cheaper than glossy
  • Harder to achieve finer detail

Other than those pros and cons is their a reason why someone would choose glossy paper over matte paper?


Paper determines line quality

My first assignment in graphic design class was, "Using a black marker, create a 6" x 6" composition in the centre of a 9" x 12" sheet of bond paper."

The lesson helps to demonstrate how paper and ink interact. Some marker-paper combinations allow a thin clean line while others bleed to enable smooth streak-free area coverage. No marker/paper combination can do both equally well. The nature of the paper determines the line quality.

Artists become aware of this difference and choose their materials according to the effect they wish to use for illustration. Software packages such as Corel Draw and Adobe Illustator try to emulate the effects of different materials and textures with software.

Sketching is usually done with pencils which are by nature, pressure sensitive and whose line can be refined, adjusted, or removed. The sharper the pencil point, the darker the line produced. Different hardnesses can be used on bond paper which is usually a rough and absorbent surface. Markers can cover areas smoothly on matte surfaces. The degree of roughness of paper is referred to as the pic.

Drawing is usually done with a fine line rather than a broad one. Smooth paper lends itself to using technical pens and very fine-line markers for detail. Contrast is enhanced with smooth surfaced papers. Smooth surfaces are harder to erase cleanly and if abused can be damaged. A line drawn through such a rough area is visibly different. Many smooth papers are coated with a white clay (baryta) coating to achieve the surface finish and opacity.

Edit: I also use tracing paper/vellum. It is transparent and allows working (with a marker, say) on both sides of the paper for added versatility. Tracing paper is highly underrated as a working material. To scan work on tracing paper, back it with white.

Note: For other scanning, always use black paper for backing-up to minimize print-through shadows from the back of the scanned page.


I don't have any hard research on this, merely what I like.

Ultimately stock or paper choice comes down to workflow and final desired piece.

For many things nowadays I'll use practically any uncoated stock for sketching. My preference is 100% rag layout bond but I will also use just general purpose bond paper (the kind for any printer) for sketching as well. I will never use a gloss or dull paper for sketching. The coating on the paper simply allows for way too much smudging and during sketching phases my hand is constantly moving about a page. By the end, things can simply look like a grey blob if using glossy paper.

In most cases, I'll then scan and clean up/redraw sketches digitally so the actual paper being used for the preliminary stages isn't critical. I prefer layout bond because it makes tracing one's own work easier due to its translucency, has a slight tooth, and won't generally smudge like a glossy or coated paper will.

I'll also use a general layout bond for some inking if I know the work is going to be scanned and refined that way. Layout bond holds ink well but does have a tendency to allow some "dot gain" to use a printing term. So fine, minute detail can be troublesome with layout bond. But inking some larger, less detailed pieces destined for digital tracing works really well with layout bond.

For actual hardcore inking, nothing beats Border & Riley Bleed Proof Paper for Pens in my opinion. I use this for all pieces which are ink (or marker) based and will ultimately be the final rendering. (okay, I may scan and do a levels/curves adjustment but that's it.) This paper allows for razor sharp lines when needed and can hold very fine detail if you draw slowly. The lack of any "tooth" or "grain" in the stock ensures you don't get "bubbles" of ink which glob together. I'd call this paper more of a "dull-coat" than a glossy in terms of finish. Ink will sit on the paper for a few moments and then dry. For this reason it takes some extra care to ensure work isn't smudged until it dries. Graphite will smudge at any time on this paper, even months or years later, therefore I don't use it for graphite or anything of that nature.


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