Let me tell you how to choose the best paper for Charcoal drawing. The visual pleasure of charcoal painting lies in the fine dust on the paper. The paper teeth bring out the variations in charcoal intensity. Additionally, the paper needs to be sturdy enough to stand the force of constant erasing.
Another deciding factor is the acidity of the paper. As you know, paper is an organic product. The pulp contains acid which degrades the paper over time. This results in yellowed sheets and damaged paintings. In order to make your paintings last long, you must opt for fabric sheets.
There are many other factors that play equally important roles. This guide tries to summarize all the factors that an artist needs to pay attention to while choosing the paper.
Basics of Charcoal and Charcoal Drawing Papers
Charcoal is the drawing medium that gives amazing contrasting effects. Typically, charcoal is made from willow tree branches or grapevines that are slowly smoldered in an airtight container. As a drawing medium, charcoal is dry and flaky.
Unlike graphite, its minute dust flies all over the paper. Often, artists use fixatives to keep the dust in place. Fixative saves the painting from smudges and accidental damage.
When you are looking to get the best paper for charcoal drawing, it needs to have a good density of teeth. Read on to know what other factors should you pay attention to while getting the best paper for charcoal drawings?
What Are The Best Papers for Charcoal Drawings?
The best papers for charcoal drawings are Canson and Strathmore because they have excellent teeth density, 100% cotton with durability and non-acidic. These features make the drawing paper ideal for charcoal drawings.
Furthermore, Castle Art Supplies is the best smudge-resistant drawing paper for charcoal paintings. If you are looking for the best drawing paper for both dry and wet media, you should go with the Canson XL series Mix Paper Pad.
I compiled a list of 15 best drawing papers for charcoal painting available in the market:
- Best Overall: Canson XL Series Watercolor Charcoal Drawing Paper
Best for long-lasting paintings! Affordable, micro-perforated, and heavyweight paper. Allows seamless blending and erasing. No acid means durable paintings.
- Best Budget: Strathmore Tan 400 Series Charcoal Drawing Paper
Micro-perforated sheets with heavy chipboard backing. Best to be used with dry media!
- Best for Wet And Dry Media: Canson XL Series Mix Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
Handles both wet and dry media! Micro-perforated, acid-free heavyweight sheets
- Best for Beginners: Pacon 4794 Sketch Diary Charcoal Drawing Paper
White sulfite all-purpose paper best for practicing for the beginners. Affordable and recyclable!
- Best for Sketching: Strathmore 350-9 300 Series Charcoal Drawing Sketch Pad
Micro-perforated acid-free sheets! Suitable for classroom practices with dry media.
- Best for Use with Mixed Media: U.S. Art Supply 9″ x 12″ Paper For Charcoal Drawing
Heavyweight and acid-free paper! It can be used for all kinds of media like markers, charcoal, and pens.
- Best Smudge-Resistant Paper: Castle Art Supplies Premium Charcoal Drawing Sketch Books
These are erasable and smudge-resistant papers, which is great for doodling.
- Best Affordable: Bachmore Sketchpad 9” x 12″ Charcoal Drawing Paper
Uniquely designed pad suitable for both left-handed and right-handed artists! Suitable for use with dry media.
- Best for Kids: Arteza 8” x 10″ Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
Thick and lightly textured paper! Best suited for dry media
- Best for Contrast Painting: Arteza 9” x 12” Black Sketch Pad For Charcoal Drawing
Twin loop wire binding leaves paper fit for framing. Black sheets let you experiment with lighter undertones.
- Best Portable Pad: Articka Note Hardcover Sketchbook Paper For Charcoal Drawing
Premium pages with an attractive cover! Handles dry media very well.
- Best for Advanced Artists: Strathmore 455-3 400 Series Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
Heavyweight, micro-perforated sheets that handle dry media beautifully.
- Best for Retaining Paintings: Canson Artist Series Sketch Book Paper For Charcoal Drawing
Acid-free sheets, micro perforated, best suited for dry media. Durable wire spiral keeps sheets in place.
- Best for Teenagers: Brite Crown Sketch Book Paper For Charcoal Drawing
Acid-free paper with smooth teeth texture. Handles dry media quite well.
- Best for Art Classes: Jack Richeson 12×18 Inch Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
Acid-free sheets, white tones, and strong chipboard back. Good teeth density handles charcoal well.
Top 15 Best Paper for Charcoal Drawings Comparison Chart
Here is the comparison chart for all the 15 best papers for charcoal drawings. A cursory glance and you will know which one serves your purpose best:
|Best Papers for Charcoal Drawing||Paper Weight||Number of sheets||Paper Size|
|Canson XL Series Watercolor Charcoal Drawing Paper - Best Overall||300 gsm / 140 lb||30||Multi sizes|
|Strathmore Tan 400 Series Charcoal Drawing Paper - Best Budget||118 gsm / 80 lb||50||5.5x8.5 inch|
|Canson XL Series Mix Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad - Best for Wet and Dry Media||160 gsm/ 98 lb||60||Multi sizes|
|Pacon 4794 Sketch Diary Charcoal Drawing Paper - Best for Beginners||94 gsm / 63 lb||70||8.5x11 inch|
|Strathmore 350-9 300 Series Charcoal Drawing Sketch Pad - Best for Sketching||74 gsm / 50 lb||100||9x12 inch|
|U.S. Art Supply 9" x 12" Paper For Charcoal Drawing - Best for Use with Mixed Media||160 gsm / 90 lb||30x2||9x12 inch|
|Castle Art Supplies Premium Charcoal Drawing Sketch Books - Best Smudge-Resistant Paper||89 gsm / 60 lb||200||9x12 inch|
|Bachmore Sketchpad 9” x 12" Charcoal Drawing Paper - Best Affordable||100 gsm / 68 lb||100||9x12 inch|
|Arteza 8” x 10" Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad - Best for Kids||130 gsm / 80 lb||50||8x10 inch|
|Arteza 9” x 12” Black Sketch Pad For Charcoal Drawing - Best for Contrast Painting||150 gsm / 90 lb||30||9x12 inch|
|Articka Note Hardcover Sketchbook Paper For Charcoal Drawing - Best Portable Pad||190 gsm / 128 lb||120||8x8 inch|
|Strathmore 455-3 400 Series Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad - Best for Advanced Artists||89 gsm / 60 lb||100||9x12 inch|
|Canson Artist Series Sketch Book Paper For Charcoal Drawing - Best for Retaining Paintings||96 gsm / 65 lb||108||8.5x11 inch|
|Brite Crown Sketch Book Paper For Charcoal Drawing - Best for Teenagers||95 gsm / 64 lb||100||9x12 inch|
|Jack Richeson 12x18 Inch Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad - Best for Art Classes||120 gsm / 75 lb||30||12x18 inch|
Top 15 Best Paper for Charcoal Drawings Reviews
Here is the detailed review of the 15 best papers for charcoal drawings:
Canson XL Series Watercolor Charcoal Drawing Paper
When you search for the best paper for charcoal drawing, several factors play an important role. Apart from the paper quality, its durability, size availability, and price are equally important.
Canson XL series watercolor pad is designed to hold different types of media like charcoal, watercolor, and pens similarly. You will not notice bleeding when using watercolors.
Neither will you notice smudging with the charcoal. The paper is cold-pressed which means it has the much needed rough consistency. That keeps the charcoal effect in place.
Apart from that, the affordability of this product makes it a hot favorite among artists.
- It is a cold-pressed paper
- It is acid-free and comes with a durable surface.
- It goes well with charcoal, pastel, watercolor, and all other types of coloring media
- Good texture for charcoal drawing
- Goes with all other coloring media
- No issues of bleed through
- Bad water absorption which can be a limiting factor in watercolor paintings
- Removing sheets from the pad is tricky
|Paper Surface||Cold Press|
It is a perfect product for starting a charcoal drawing. The paper teeth create enough of a rough surface for good undertones of charcoal.
Strathmore Tan 400 Series Charcoal Drawing Paper
If there is one brand that is synonymous with quality papers for charcoal drawing, it is Strathmore. You can blindly buy the product knowing that it will suit your requirement.
Its 400 series is designed specifically for pro artists. It is intended to be solely used with dry media like charcoal. The ruggedness of the paper brings out the intensity and tones beautifully.
- Available in different sizes
- 100% recyclable paper
- Goes well with both dark and light media
- Kraft and bark fibers for added effects on the drawing
- Micro-perforated sheets
- Not suitable for use with wet media
|Paper Surface||Toned Tan Medium Surface|
A pro artist needs a thick and durable paper for the drawing to last long. This paper perfectly fits the requirements.
Canson XL Series Mix Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
(Best for Wet and Dry Media)
If you are looking for a drawing sheet that goes well for both wet and dry media, this paper is perfect for you. Often artists face the dilemma of using charcoal drawing sheets for other paintings.
If you are into experimental drawings, you often need a sheet that can double up as a pastel sheet. This paper is heavily textured with a smooth finish. Running charcoal as well as a graphite pencil is easier. It also absorbs the force of a kneaded eraser.
- Perforated sheets that absorb water
- Heavily textured
- Smooth surface finish
- Heavily textured and fine finish
- Perforated sheets
- No bleed-through
- Works well with alcohol markers
- Fine texture may not bring out the real charcoal effect
|Paper Surface||Fine Textured|
|Media Type||Wet & Dry|
If you intend to use wet media like watercolors, it will absorb the water, that ensures your painting does not get ruined. This drawing sheet is an intelligent choice if you wish to get the best of both the wet or dry media.
Pacon 4794 Sketch Diary Charcoal Drawing Paper
(Best for Beginners)
If you have just started charcoal drawing, you must be facing some elementary issues. There is not much control over the smudging or the shading. That gets better with practice.
For your skills to come out better, you need a good quality paper that comes at an affordable cost. It is the best paper for beginners.
If you are looking for a paper specially designed for charcoal, Pacon sheets is the perfect match. However, you cannot use it for pastels or watercolors.
- White sulfite paper suitable for different drawings
- Acid-free paper
- Recyclable paper
- Best suited for dry media
- Suits budget and requirement of beginners and intermediate artists
- Spiral binding makes sheets easier to separate from the pad
- Not suited for wet media
|Paper Surface||Standard Weight|
Strathmore 350-9 300 Series Charcoal Drawing Sketch Pad
(Best for Sketching)
It is one product that never fails to impress the artists. Its teeth density brings out the varied tones of charcoal beautifully. Moreover, it is economical. Each pad contains about 100 sheets (this differs according to packaging).
The company already markets it as the go-to drawing pad for beginners and intermediate artists.
Apart from being a little more expensive than its counterparts, the Strathmore series matches the expectations of every beginner artist.
- Acid-free paper that ensures the painting does not suffer yellowing
- Micro-perforated sheets that make it water-absorbent
- Natural white paper with a laid finish
- Teeth density perfect for charcoal drawings
- Perforated sheets make it pulling out individual sheets easier
|Paper Surface||Fine tooth|
U.S. Art Supply 9″ x 12″ Paper For Charcoal Drawing
(Best for Use With Mixed Media)
Painting is never confined to just one media. Someday you may wish to do a charcoal painting and someday you may want to experiment with pastels. So what kind of paper should you choose?
U.S Art supply is a paper that is suitable for both dry and wet media. You can use a kneaded eraser over it as well as pastels. It will bring out the painting beautifully in either case.
This sheet is designed to meet the expectations of two opposite poles of painting. Bringing charcoal and wet media paintings together is a tricky affair. This one manages to give features of both the world. It is great for sketching and practicing.
- Acid-free paper that keeps the painting from yellowing
- Spiral-bound sheets for easy removal
- Semi-textured sheets for use with charcoal as well as wet media
- Available in many sizes
- Suitable for sketching and shading
- Not recyclable
- As it is semi-textured, pro artists find it uncomfortable for use with charcoal
|Paper Surface||Lightly Textured|
|Media Type||Mixed media|
|Brand||U.S. Art Supply Store|
Castle Art Supplies Premium Charcoal Drawing Sketch Books
(Best Smudge-Resistant Paper)
This one features a durable back with erasable paper. Also, the sheets are smudge-resistant. It means you need not freak out over the casual sliding of your palm over the charcoal bits. With great teeth density, using charcoal is fun.
Anyone who is into charcoal drawing knows that a kneaded eraser can wreak havoc on the drawing sheets. This sheet being resistant to both these rough uses promises an easier painting experience.
- Neutral pH
- Smudge resistant and erasable sheets
- Can be used with all kinds of dry media like charcoal, dry pencils, crayons and color pencils
- Easy to tear out sheets
- Acid-free sheets
- Paper density is low
- It does not go well with wet media
|Paper Surface||Smooth Textured|
Bachmore Sketchpad 9” x 12″ Charcoal Drawing Paper
Is painting limited to just right-handed people? If not, then why are the drawing sheets? You will observe that all kinds of drawing pads are designed to keep right-handed people in kind. It can be problematic if you are left-handed.
This drawing sheet solves your issues. With a slight change in the basic layout of the pad, it suits both kinds of artists.
- Medium weight
- Smooth textured sheets
- Suited for sketching and doodling
- Easy to carry
- Very affordable
- Suitable for different dry media
- Not for wet media
Arteza 8” x 10″ Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
(Best for Kids)
If you are looking for a thick yet light-textured paper for charcoal drawing, this can catch your fancy. Measuring 80lbs and 130GSM, it is suitable for experimenting with dry media. As it is an acid-free paper, you need not worry about your painting getting yellow over time.
- Perforated sheets that are spirally bound for easy detachment
- Thick paper
- Lightly textured
- Suitable for dry media like charcoal and pens, pencils and crayons
- Easy to take out from the pad
- Great for sketching
- Only for dry media
|Paper Surface||Thick, lightly textured|
This paper is best suited for use by kids and teenagers. Its smooth texture makes it easier for them to use a pencil, pen, or crayons. If someone is aspiring to be using charcoal, this gives them a practicing ground.
Arteza 9” x 12” Black Sketch Pad For Charcoal Drawing
(Best for Contrast Painting)
By charcoal drawing, the obvious image is always black charcoal. But there is white charcoal too in the market. Now, the white charcoal cannot be used on conventional white papers. To bring out their effect, you need a black sketch pad. Here this sketch pad comes into play.
- Black colored sheets suited for white charcoal
- Microperforated and spiral bound for easy detachment
- Suited for dry media
- Heavyweight paper
- Best for creating contrast effect
- pH neutrality not mentioned
Charcoal drawing does not involve only black charcoal. You can experiment with your skills on the black sheet using white charcoal. It will beautifully bring out the contrast effects.
Articka Note Hardcover Sketchbook Paper For Charcoal Drawing
(Best Portable Pad)
Sketching while traveling is the favorite hobby for many. What creates issues is the sheets getting crumpled. Articka note handbook sketchbook is designed for those artists who love to sketch on the go.
The hardbound cover keeps all your sheets secure. The elastic closure and rubber marker make it easy for you to begin whenever you get the time.
- Erasable and smudge-resistant durable paper
- Portable design
- Suitable for dry media
- Great portability
- Not suitable for wet media
Strathmore 455-3 400 Series Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
(Best for Advanced Artists)
If you are a pro artist, this notepad is meant just for you. The paper beautifully carries out the graphite, charcoal, soft pastels and oil pastels. You will never get tired of experimenting with your painting media on this drawing paper.
The sketch pad comes spirally bound that looks aesthetically pleasing. You can easily take out any sheet if you want. If you are an aspiring artist, you can easily keep track of your progress.
- Suitable for dry media
- Fine tooth surface
- Suitable for creating masterpieces
- Painting does not yellow over time
- Not suitable for wet media
|Paper Surface||Fine tooth|
As an artist, if something can make or ruin your craft, it is the quality of the paper. Strathmore 455 series works best with dry media. So, it is perfect to go with charcoal. Never try it with watercolor or heavy inks though. This paper soaks them rendering the sheet useless.
Canson Artist Series Sketch Book Paper For Charcoal Drawing
(Best for Retaining Paintings)
This is the best sketchpad with landscape orientation. It is wire bound. It is smudge resistant. It is not for professional purposes but its quality is way above those of regular student sketchbooks.
As the paper is cold-pressed, it efficiently absorbs the watercolor. This allows you to experiment with colors without fearing about smudging or overlapping colors. Even though the paper is not acid-free, it lacks pulp acid. so, the paper will not degrade fast.
- Smudge resistant
- Easily erasable
- Best for dry media
- 140lb ream weight of paper
- Pulp acid free paper
- Easily erasable
- Smudge resistant
- For dry media only
|Paper Surface||Fine textured|
If you are looking for a professional type drawing paper on a tight budget, this drawing sheet will serve your purpose.
Brite Crown Sketch Book Paper For Charcoal Drawing
(Best for Teenagers)
These drawing sheets are designed for both new as well as experienced artists. The sketch pad comes with 100 sheets. All the sheets are perforated and held together with a durable double coil.
You can easily pull out a sheet without compromising with the pad’s structure. You can experiment with various dry media without being disappointed with the paper quality.
Experimenting with dry media is every artist’s dream. But the fact is, the professional charcoal papers are very expensive. So, if you wish to first practice, then the Brite Crown sketch pad is a good match.
- Smooth textured sheets
- Suited for dry media
- Spiral bound sheets for easy detachment
- Handles eraser pressure well
- Easy to detach sheets
- Fine tooth surface brings out the charcoal effect
- Light-textured drawing sheets
- It is a smooth-textured paper which is not the best option for charcoal drawings
|Paper Surface||Light textured|
Jack Richeson 12×18 Inch Charcoal Drawing Paper Pad
(Best for Art Classes)
What does a learning artist search for in drawing sheets? Quality, portability and affordability. All these come with Jack Richeson’s drawing pad. It is cheaper than its counterparts and each pad comes with 150 sheets which is more than the others.
The paper weight is heavy enough to hold all types of dry media. You can experiment with charcoal, graphite, color pencils etc. This drawing pad is suitable to carry around.
Jack Richeson’s drawing pad comes as a good choice for new learners and for those who are looking for a good drawing sheet for practice.
- Toothed white surface fit for charcoal and other dry media
- Acid-free sheets
- Strong plastic spiral holds the sheets together
- 150 sheets in each pad
- White-colored sheets
- Sturdy chipboard back
- The sheet does not yellow with time
- Very economical
- Plastic Binding makes it lighter
- Spiral binding in plastic is not durable
|Paper Surface||Fine Tooth|
Best Paper for Charcoal Drawing Buying Guide
You need to pay attention to these factors while buying the best paper for charcoal drawing:
1. Paper Tooth: This is the most important aspect of charcoal drawing. Charcoal is a coarse drawing medium. So, the paper needs more teeth, which means the paper needs to be rough-textured.
With the ruggedness of paper, the charcoal gives excellent contrast effect as well as smudging effect. So, always go for the paper that offers medium to dense paper teeth density.
2. Acidity: Acidity has a completely different meaning in the painting world. When I talk about acidity, it refers to the pH level of the drawing sheet. An acid-free paper, also marketed as pH neutral paper, is processed to make them acid-free.
When you are going for a charcoal painting, always opt for a pH neutral paper. It has the best texture for handling the effects of charcoal.
3. Paper Size: Whenever you plan to start a painting, keep its size in mind while buying the drawing sheet. Take a size larger than the painting. It will leave enough room for leaving borders and margins.
Also, the extra room will make it easier to get framed.
4. Paperweight: The paper quality directly influences its weight. For charcoal drawings, the ideal paper weight should be 60-90 lbs. Many new artists wonder why paperweight plays such an important aspect of charcoal painting.
5. Affordability: Exorbitant cost does not mean the best paper. Always pay attention to the cost: number of sheets ratio. For the sake of saving a few bucks, never settle for a substandard product.
The reason is the intense erasing and marking with charcoal. Getting papers of this weight is a bit expensive but then you got to ask yourself if you are putting so much effort into your painting, can you afford to get it done on a low-grade paper?
Charcoal Drawings and Paper Thickness Explained
Paper thickness is an important aspect while choosing the best paper for charcoal drawings because of the following:
1. Painting Technique: Charcoal drawing is all about creating contrasts, undertones, and shading. Since brush or paints are not involved, this effect is achieved by various media like finger rubbing, use of tissue paper, or blending stump.
These put considerable weight on the paper. If the paper is not thick enough, how will it absorb the force? And that’s why paper thickness is so important.
2. Painting Media: Charcoal is the painting media here. It is brittle and leaves lots of dust on the drawing area. So, you need to constantly erase the paper. A thin paper will tear down after 2-3 blows.
So, the best option is to go for tougher papers like cotton or linen papers. These do not tear off or lose crispness. You can erase as much as you can.
3. Design Creation: Artists use numerous techniques to create unique designs. Some use tapes to create clearly defined borders. While some use sponges, others use salt or even vegetable cuttings for designs.
While most of these techniques are used for watercolor paintings, many artists love to experiment with charcoal drawings too. So what kind of paper do you think would handle the tearing of tapes all over its surface? A thick paper!
4. Preserving The Painting: If you wish to preserve a charcoal drawing, you need to spray a fixative over it. It forms a protective film over it and stops the charcoal dust from smudging off.
When I talk about a spray, I mean that a liquid media will be applied over a painting. Have you ever tried spraying deodorant over the newspaper? It crumbles. If you do not use a thick paper, this fixative will have the same effect over the painting.
That brings you back to the use of cotton or linen papers. These fabric-based papers absorb the spray without affecting the paper quality.
I have answered the most common queries regarding the best paper for charcoal drawings. Have a look:
My Top Pick
So, I weighed all the top 15 products and compared them. My top pick is the Canson XL Series Watercolor Charcoal Drawing Paper. It fits the requirements of both new artists as well as experienced artists.
The Canson XL Series is pH neutral and does not bleed through. It can handle charcoal, pastels, watercolor, and all other coloring media. Moreover, it comes in varying dimensions. It means you can select the paper size depending on your planned project.
I hope my article will help you to choose the best paper for your charcoal drawing. Let me know which one worked for you in the comment. Happy drawing!