11 Best Paper For Color Pencils In 2022: Reviews & Buying Guide

Colored pencils on a sketchpad

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When it comes to coloring, the type of paper you use can make a big difference in the results. Different papers absorb color differently, and some are better than others for blending pencils. 

In this blog post, we will discuss the best paper brands for coloring with pencils. So whether you're a beginner or an experienced artist, read on to find out which paper is right for you!

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Strathmore 477-9 Colored Pencil Pad

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Runner-Up: Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks
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Best for All Colored Pencil Types: Bachmore Sketchpad
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Best for Watercolor Pencils: Zenacolor Watercolor Pad
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Best for Mixed Media: Strathmore 362-9 Mixed Media Pad
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Best Journal Size Sketchbook: Conda Spiralbound Sketchbook
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Best for Art Classes: Sax Sulphite Drawing Paper
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Best for Metallic Colored Pencils: Canson XL Series Black Drawing Paper
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Best Environment-Friendly: Nil-Tech Toned Sketchpad
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Best Pocket-Sized: Moleskine Art Sketchbook
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Best Bristol Paper: Canson XL Bristol Paper
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1. Best Overall: Strathmore 477-9 Colored Pencil Pad

Artwork on Strathmore 477-9 Colored Pencil Pad

Why We Think It's Great

  • ACID-FREE PAPER: Avoids discoloration and cracking of the paper.
  • DURABLE: It can withstand multiple erasures and layering.
  • VELLUM SURFACE: Slight tooth to handle various pencil types.
  • MICRO PERFORATED SHEETS: This allows you to remove the sheets easily.
  • VERSATILE: Perfect for colored pencils, graphite, charcoal, and other sketching supplies.

What We Don't Like

  • The paper looks too dark.

What Our Editors Say

“The paper in this sketchbook is very nice, affordable, and can hold several layers of wax-based and oil-based colored pencils. Although it has texture, it is smoother than most textured paper, so your colored pencils don't wear out immediately.

It is also a little heavier than other Strathmore drawing paper types. However, it is more expensive than other brands, considering that there are only 30 sheets in this 9x12-inch sketchpad.”

Country of Origin: USA | Product Options: 9” x 12”, 11” x 14”, 18” x 24”, sheets of 30 | Binding: Wire-binding

Related: The Best Colored Pencils For Coloring & Shading

2. Runner-Up: Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks

Artwork on Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks

Why We Think It's Great

  • COLD-PRESS PAPER: Prevents buckling or warping when wet.
  • HANDY DESIGN: Easily fits in an artist's bag.
  • HEAVYWEIGHT: 230gsm paper resistant to disintegrating when used with wet media. 
  • ACID-FREE: Prevents discoloration and crinkling of the paper.
  • HARDCOVER: The sketchbook has a hardcover and elastic band that protects the paper inside.

What We Don't Like

  • Sewn pages are glued together at the spine.

What Our Editors Say

“Arteza watercolor sketchbooks feature a smooth side for alcohol markers, pens, and regular markers, while the textured side is best for watercolors and colored pencils. 

Be mindful when working with wet media on the paper’s soft side because you may experience pilling. It may also experience slight warping or buckling when applied with water, but you can minimize this by taping or using a clip to hold the paper down during the painting and drying process."

Product Options: 7” round sheets, 8.25” square sketchbooks | Binding: Linen-bound

Related: How to Blend Colored Pencils

3. Best for All Colored Pencil Types: Bachmore Sketchpad

Artwork on Bachmore Sketchpad

Why We Think It's Great

  • SUITABLE FOR VARIOUS DRY MEDIA: Works for oil-based and wax-based colored pencils, pastel pencils, charcoal, graphite, and oil and soft pastels. 
  • MICRO-PERFORATED SHEETS: This makes it easier to remove the sheets.
  • ACID-FREE PAPER: No worries about discoloration and yellowing. 
  • STRONG HARDBOUND: Robust front and back cover will keep your artwork protected and intact.
  • MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE: Replacement or full refund of the sketchpad's price if you’re unsatisfied with it.

What We Don't Like

  • Not suitable for mixed media or watercolors.

What Our Editors Say

“The paper in this sketchbook is very affordable and of medium thickness. However, the surface feels too smooth, so you may unknowingly cause burnishing of the paper.

This sketchbook makes an excellent gift for sketch artists, but it’s not the best choice if you want some tooth on your sketchbooks.”

Country of Origin: China | Product Options: 9” x 12”, sheets of 100s | Binding: Wire-binding

Related: The Best Gifts for Sketch Artists

4. Best for Watercolor Pencils: Zenacolor Watercolor Pad

Artwork on Zenacolor Watercolor Pad

Why We Think It's Great

  • BRIGHT WHITE PAPER: Keeps your watercolor pencil projects vibrant.
  • EASY TO DETACH BINDING: Strong glue binding keeps the sheets together but is still easy to remove.
  • SUITABLE FOR VARIOUS PROJECTS: Works for dry and wet media, markers, and paint.
  • 300 GSM: The thick paper won't warp or buckle when applied with water.
  • 30-DAY MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE: Get a refund within the guarantee period if you’re unhappy with the product.

What We Don't Like

  • It may bleed when doing wet on wet technique.
  • The paper is not acid-free.

What Our Editors Say

“This watercolor paper is inexpensive to practice with watercolor pencils and mixed media art. However, the 300gsm paper may warp when applied with water, so it is best to spray fine-mist water and weigh it down with a few heavy books while drying the sheets to solve the issue.

The paper uses wood pulp, but it doesn't mention lignin-free or acid-free, so don't use it for professional jobs to avoid the disappointment of discoloration.”

Country of Origin: China | Product Options: 9” x 12”, 32 sheets | Binding: Glue binding

Related: How to Use Watercolor Pencils

5. Best for Mixed Media: Strathmore 362-9 Mixed Media Pad

Artwork on Strathmore 362-9 Mixed Media Pad

Why We Think It's Great

  • VERSATILE USE: Use this sketchpad for water-based paints, pencils, colored pencils, pastels, and collage art.
  • MEDIUM WEIGHT: The 90gsm paper is best for art students and newbie artists.
  • ACID-FREE: Prevents your projects from getting ruined by discoloration and brittleness.
  • MICRO-PERFORATED SHEETS: The easy-to-detach sheets is best for working on mixed media and water-based paints to prevent them from bleeding. 
  • HEAVY CARDBOARD BACKING: Supports the sheets during the painting and drawing process.

What We Don't Like

  • It bleeds through the page when using too much watercolor.
  • The pad’s yellow cover is thin and flimsy.

What Our Editors Say

“This is our go-to sketchpad when working with mixed media because of its smooth surface, weight, and overall performance. You can choose three sizes, perfect if you want a small sketchpad for portability or a larger one for large-format projects.  

The Strathmore 362-9 mixed media paper doesn’t respond well with high-quality oil pastels like Sennelier, so use chalkier oil pastels instead.”

Country of Origin: USA | Product Options: 5.5” x 8.5”, 9” x 12”, 11” x 14” | Binding: Wire-binding

Related: The Best Oil Pastels for Beginners

6. Best Journal Size Sketchbook: Conda Spiralbound Sketchbook

Artwork on Conda Spiralbound Sketchbook

Why We Think It's Great

  • LIGHTWEIGHT: 100gsm paper with just the right thickness to prevent pencil markings from appearing on the next pages.
  • COMPACT SIZE: The 5.5” x 8.5” sketchpad is best for traveling artists as it fits well in backpacks. 
  • ACID-FREE: Lignin-free paper that protects your art from discoloration and prolongs the quality of your projects.
  • WITHSTANDS NUMEROUS ERASURES: Erase and reapply your colors without smudging or causing them to bleed to subsequent pages.
  • EASY-TO-DETACH SHEETS: Micro-perforation allows you to separate the sheets conveniently.

What We Don't Like

  • It works on dry media only.

What Our Editors Say

“This pad is very affordable and thin at 100gsm, but the sheets can easily withstand ink from water-based and alcohol markers, calligraphy pens, and colored pencils. We suggest using this paper for practice only.

The small size of this sketchbook also makes it great for taking notes and practicing calligraphy. In addition, its chipboard cover is strong enough to hold the sketchbook together and protect its contents.”

Country of Origin: China | Product Options: 8.5” x 11”, 9” x 12”, 11” x 14”, 5.5” x 8.5” | Binding: Wire-binding

Related: Alcohol Vs. Water-Based Markers

7. Best for Art Classes: Sax Sulphite Drawing Paper

Artwork on Sax Sulphite Drawing Paper

Why We Think It's Great

  • BRIGHT WHITE PAPER: Enhances the color of the paint, markers, colored pencils, and other media.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT: 68gsm loose-leaf paper in affordable 500-sheet packs. 
  • COMPATIBLE WITH VARIOUS MEDIA: The paper responds well to colored pencils, graphite and charcoal pencils, watercolors, and tempera.
  • EXCEPTIONAL STRENGTH: Withstands wet and dry media without disintegrating.
  • ERASES WELL: Erasures won't scratch the surface of the paper.

What We Don't Like

  • The paper exudes a strong smell.

What Our Editors Say

“Colors applied on bright white paper remain vibrant after application compared to toned and post-consumer paper. However, because of the bleach applied, it does not have the same archival property as acid-free paper.

We recommend using this paper on an inkjet or laser printer, especially if you're reproducing coloring papers for young or adult learners. But please note that it has an unpleasant smell, which can rub off on your table, your hands, and other tools you normally use.”

Country of Origin: USA | Product Options: 9” x 12”, 12” x 18”, 18” x 24” | Binding: Single sheets

Related: The Best Oil-Based Colored Pencils

8. Best for Metallic Colored Pencils: Canson XL Series Black Drawing Paper

Artwork on Canson XL Series Black Drawing Paper

Why We Think It's Great

  • DEEP BLACK PAPER: Dark-colored paper is produced using beater-dye technology.
  • USES HIGH-QUALITY PIGMENTS AND DYES: The brand uses fade-resistant dyes and high-quality pigments for the best performance.
  • DUAL-SIDED: Smooth on one side for pens and markers, textured on the other for colored pencils, standard pencils, and pastels.
  • ACID-FREE PAPER: Prevents the fading and discoloration of the dyes, pigments, and colors applied to the paper. 
  • MICRO-PERFORATED: Detach the paper along the bound side so you can work without affecting the next sheets.

What We Don't Like

  • It is suitable for opaque media only.

What Our Editors Say

“Black paper is a good medium for metallic markers, colored pencils, and neon pastels. We also tried white and colored charcoal pencils with impressive results. The texture is nice and won't bleed a lot.

The Canson black drawing paper also responds well to acrylic paint, even though it is lightweight. While most artists prefer white paper for their art projects, some prefer black, especially when working with inverse and negative paintings.”

Country of Origin:  France | Product Options: 7” x 10”, 11” x 14”, 9” x 12” | Binding: Wire-binding

Related: The Best Metallic Colored Pencils

9. Best Environment-Friendly: Nil-Tech Toned Sketchpad

Artwork on Nil-Tech Toned Sketchpad

Why We Think It's Great

  • TAN TONED PAPER: Unlike craft paper, toned paper works perfectly with light highlights and dark shadows. 
  • USES POST-CONSUMER MATERIALS: Made of recycled post-consumer fibers, this paper is eco-friendly and will help you save money on your art supplies.
  • MIDPOINT THICKNESS: 175gsm paper can take on various dry and ink media without damage. 
  • COMES WITH BONUS TUTORIAL: Each purchase includes a step-by-step drawing tutorial and access to an online library.
  • DUAL-SPIRAL BINDING: Helps keep the pages flat while you're working on them.

What We Don't Like

  • Alcohol-based markers bleed through a bit.
  • The pages are quite difficult to remove.

What Our Editors Say

“We love that this sketchpad uses recycled material and is treated to make it acid-free. It is ideal for pastels, charcoal pencils, gel pens, and paint markers.

The sheets also work well for making craft cards and tags. It would be better to use the micro-perforation to detach the sheets.”

Country of Origin: USA | Product Options: 9” x 12”, 70 sheets | Binding: Wire-binding

Related: The Best Paint Markers

10. Best Travel Sketchbook: Moleskine Art Sketchbook

Artwork on Moleskine Art Sketchbook

Why We Think It's Great

  • ACID-FREE PAPER: Keeps your projects vibrant and unchanged after a long time.
  • MULTIPLE USE: Applicable for various projects and takes on several dry media, including ink and markers.
  • DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: Strong elastic closure and hardcover protect your artwork from accidents.
  • QUALITY PAGES: 165 gsm paper is ideal for colored pencils because it is thick enough to resist tearing but not so thick that it affects the pigmentation of the colors. 
  • EXPANDABLE LAYOUT: The thread binding allows for an expandable layout of the sketchbook, so it lays flat on the table.

What We Don't Like

  • It does not respond well to ink.

What Our Editors Say

"Moleskin continues to deliver the best quality sketchbooks that nest perfectly, giving you alternatives of the best size for your projects. Though we chose the A4 size journal for this review, other sizes are available for various projects.

These sketchpads are best for pens and markers, but the paper responds well to colored pencils and watercolor pencils. Don't forget to use a liner when working with watercolor pencils, and apply a controlled amount of water to avoid damaging the other sheets.”

Country of Origin: Italy | Product Options: Pocket, Medium, Large, A4, A3, 96 pages | Binding: Thread binding

Related: How to Set Up an Art Studio

11. Best Bristol Paper: Canson XL Bristol Paper

Artwork on Canson XL Bristol Paper

Why We Think It's Great

  • BRIGHT-WHITE PAPER: Keeps your colored pencil drawings vibrant and intense.
  • EXCELLENT ERASABILITY: No reason to worry about eraser marks on your paper.
  • SMOOTH SURFACE: Almost invisible paper texture for a better pencil hold.
  • ACID-FREE: No discoloration or yellowing on your drawings.
  • HEAVYWEIGHT: 260 gsm paper is strong and durable.

What We Don't Like

  • Pencil smudges can occur.
  • The spine does not hold the pages together.

What Our Editors Say

“The paper size in this sketchpad is perfect for large-format colored pencil projects. It also has the right thickness to take on various projects, including acrylic and watercolor media.

The paper has a slight texture, despite being advertised as smooth. However, the slight texture holds the pigment and allows for excellent erasability when using colored pencils.”

Country of Origin: France | Product Options: 7” x 10”, 9” x 12”, 11” x 14”, 11” x 17”, 14” x 17” | Binding: Fold-over

Related: The Best Erasable Color Pencils

Final Verdict

In general, the thicker the paper, the better it will work with colored pencils. However, not all thick papers are created equal. You want paper that is smooth and has a slightly textured surface. This will help the colored pencils to glide across the page without sticking or smearing.

Our tests found that the best paper for color pencils is the Strathmore 477-9 Colored Pencil Pad. This excellent paper is acid-free, durable, and has a vellum surface. You can also use it for various art and craft projects.

Best Paper for Color Pencils Buying Guide

  • Quality

Choose a paper that can withstand several erasures and won't buckle or warp when used with mixed media and watercolor pencils. 

Use archival or acid-free paper to improve the longevity of your projects. Archival paper is best for colored pencil masterpieces, while the acid-free paper is the more affordable alternative to quality paper since it won't deteriorate and cause discoloration.

The paper for color pencils can be made of wood pulp or cotton fiber. Cotton fiber (or cotton rag) paper costs more than wood pulp paper, but it has strong archival features, making it perfect for professional drawings.

  • Texture

“Papers used for color pencils are usually hot-pressed (smoother texture) instead of cold-pressed (tends to be rougher). However, I prefer using cold-pressed papers for watercolor/gouache,” says artist Celine Chia, owner of Ccmonstersart.

According to Kathleen Fletcher, CEO of Kitty Baby Love, “Soft-textured paper is a little too slippery, and you’ll find it hard to maintain control as you draw. Rough-textured paper, on the other hand, can leave your pencil strokes looking a little jagged, and your picture will come out a little scruffy.”

“The medium-textured paper finds a nice balance between these factors. However, if you’re an experienced artist and want to create the cleanest, smoothest lines possible with your pencil, soft paper is the best choice for you,” she adds.

  • Weight

The types of colored pencils behave differently on paper. For instance, it is best to use thick paper, not less than 270 gsm paper, when working with watercolor and oil-based colored pencils.

When working with mixed media, it is best to use 300 gsm paper as its weight allows it to withstand different chemicals and substances. For traditional colored pencil drawings, 80 gsm or 100 gsm paper is enough.

  • Form

Paper for colored pencils comes in several forms: single sheets, tape-bound pads, wire-bound sketchbooks, watercolor blocks, boards, and rolls. 

Of these paper forms, single-sheet paper is the best type for newbie artists because you don't have to spend a fortune practicing with your colored pencil art. It usually comes in 20 or 50-sheet packs and 250 or 500-sheet reams.

If you want a bound sketchbook to keep your colored pencil projects in one place, tape-bound and wire-bound sketchbooks are your ideal choice. Tape-bound pads use higher-quality paper, but both are good for traveling artists as they come in various sizes. 

For artists using mixed media and watercolor pencils, use illustration boards, watercolor blocks, and other paper designed specifically to withstand changes in media composition. 

Paper rolls are also available, but not all paper types come in roll form.

Color Pencil Paper FAQ

Paper for color pencil

1. What paper is best for colored pencil portraits?

A soft vellum surface is the best paper for colored pencil drawings, especially if you're using oil-based colored pencils that need blending with solvents. The texture on this paper allows for blending and gives depth to the colors.

Artists discourage the use of smooth paper since it prevents blending colored pencils. As previously mentioned, smooth paper is best if you're not keen on blending. 

On the same note, don't go for overly textured paper. The result is often too loose, transitions too forced, and you can't achieve a photorealistic effect when using rough paper.

As an artist, you should know your limits. While experts recommend one thing, your experiences should push you into using a particular paper type. Don't let other people dictate what's best for you, but don't limit yourself until you have tried everything.

2. Which is better for colored pencils, hot press or cold-press paper?

Regular colored pencils don't require hot-press or cold-press paper. However, both paper types are okay if you work with watercolor pencils or mixed media art.

Hot press paper is smoother but less absorbent than cold-press paper. We recommend this paper type for watercolor pencils. 

On the other hand, cold-press paper is rougher but less absorbent. It is perfect with mixed media art using water-based paints and colored pencils. Be prepared to shell out more money for cold-press and hot-press paper.

3. What is the difference between Bristol and vellum paper for colored pencils?

Bristol is a category of paper in itself. It has multiple felt sheets on the outermost layers and paper ply inside. However, it is not cardstock because cardstock is a lot thicker than Bristol. 

Bristol also comes in two surfaces - smooth and vellum. Smooth Bristol, also known as plate Bristol, has a very smooth surface and is best for drawings with pen, ink, or markers. Being able to add fine details is the best feature of smooth Bristol. 

Meanwhile, vellum Bristol has a slight texture, making it best for colored pencils, charcoal, and graphite.

Why Trust Glytterati?

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Read Next: A Beginner's Guide to Drawing with Colored Pencils

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