Selecting the Perfect Paper for Your Charcoal Drawing

Selecting a paper for your charcoal drawing is often a matter of personal preference; however, knowing the different types of paper can be helpful in making the right choice.

Walking through an art store can be daunting because of the vast selection, so how do you know which paper is best for your project?

Nitram Charcoal is available in soft, medium and hard batons. Nitram’s medium baton (HB) is in the middle range and can provide the most versatility. Soft charcoal produces a darker value and is easier to blend. Hard charcoal produces a grayer shade and can be layered, but is more difficult to blend. It’s great for adding fine detail and adding lighter values.

Charcoal Paper Choices
Stonehenge, Cason Mi-Teintes reverse, Cason Mi-Teintes front and Lanaquarelle


Tone and value are important when considering a charcoal paper. A smooth, non-glossy paper, such as vellum, can be used but keep in mind that dust will be more prevalent and the charcoal may not adhere as well without using a workable fixative periodically. A fine toothed paper is better suited to adhere the charcoal and creates less dust, while a rough toothed paper will adhere but can be more difficult to blend. Papers with a shiny or glossy surface aren’t suitable because the charcoal won’t adhere properly.

The ideal paper for those unsure of what they are looking for or for those wanting to save money is a paper that has a different front and back texture. Many companies produce a paper that is smooth on one side and has a slight tooth on the other. An example of this type of paper is Canson Mi-Teintes. The front side has a smooth surface and the back side has a slight texture. The paper is available in a multitude of colors but it is a thinner paper and does not withstand a lot of erasures.

Stonehenge papers come in a variety of colors and have a smooth surface with a fine, even grain. It is a heavier paper and has enough texture for multiple layering yet produces a smooth finish. Stonehenge can withstand multiple erasures and can be used wet without buckling or tearing. Stonehenge can be used with water-soluble watercolors, colored-pencil and graphite but does not take acrylic or gouache paints well.

Another excellent paper for charcoal drawing is Lanaquarelle. A more expensive paper, it’s heavyweight and has a more textured surface than Stonehenge and Cason Mi-Teintes. Lanaquarelle can withstand multiple erasures and can be used wet with most mediums. Acrylic and gouache paints adhere well and are perfect for mixed medium work with Nitram Charcoal.

It’s also important to be sure the chosen paper is “archival quality” if the finished work is intended to last for decades. When a paper is of archival quality, it has been made to last for years without breakdown or discoloration. The paper will not contain acid or any additives that can cause paper to deteriorate or lose color value.

With Nitram Charcoal and the right paper, you can create a masterpiece to last for decades to come!

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