It is important to experiment with different types of papers and see how your child can transform even ordinary ones (like printer paper, craft paper, paper towels, etc.) into something original. For example, we’ve had wonderful results with papers bought at supermarkets in Europe and my unused USSR sketchpads from childhood. However, when introducing paper to your kids, it is better to start with ones that will help them succeed.
So, why should you care about good quality paper?
- Using good quality materials is encouraging both to kids and adults. When the results are impressive, your child will want to create more. If art materials are of low quality, the effects just won’t be quite the same. I recently met a child who became an internet sensation selling his abstract art, but no one knows his age and all the art collectors think he’s an adult. The trick – his parents only give him the best art paper and paints and the results are quite stunning. Were he using cheap art materials, there is no way he could get those beautiful results. Of course he has talent, determination, a sense for colour and composition – but the materials really do help.
- If your child is learning how to play a guitar, they would need a real one (not a toy) to actually learn how to play. Same with paper. If you want your child to learn and enjoy making art, then they need real art supplies and real art paper.
- Good quality paper is more resistant, less prone to tearing and reacts to wet media better.
- The more heavier weight paper you choose, the less it will buckle when your child uses a lot of water.
- If your child creates something that you want to frame and keep for a long time, then paper longevity is important. Also, good quality papers will not discolour with age.
What to look for when buying art paper?
- Heavy weight (300gr or more) for wet medial like acrylics and watercolours so that it can resist scratching, scrubbing or anything else your child does with paint.
- Smooth surface for dry media like markers and pencils
- Textures surface for pastels and charcoal
- Hardcover sketchbooks for easy portability (makes it easy to draw on one’s knees and papers inside get less damaged).
- Papers that can tear out easily – great if you want to frame artwork
- Quantity of sheets
- Spiral binding for sketchbooks so that they can lay flat
- Paper should resist tearing from erasure
- Paper should resist heavy paint application
- Size – most of the work on paper in our household is on letter size/A4 or A3. Larger works are more rare as it takes longer and more time/focus/concentration. These sizes, however, are versatile for all ages.
What to avoid when looking for art paper:
- Most paper marketed as “children’s paper” is usually very thin and of low quality.
- Children’s easel paper and children’s sketch pads are inciting because they offer more pieces of paper, but they are light weight and mostly suitable for dry media.
- Kraft paper is for crafts and while artists have made amazing works with it (Egon Schiele, for example), I would not suggest it for beginners. Also, it is not acid-free, so is not archival.
- Often companies advertise the number of pages instead of sheets to make you look at the larger number. Be aware of this so that you don’t get tricked.
Papers to try:
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Here is a list of sketchbooks and pads for artists of all ages. I researched the current lowest prices for you as well as the number of sheets. They all range in sizes up to A3. For larger ones Fabriano watercolour pads usually offer a good value for the price.
- Masterclass Premium Sketchbook $16.99 – Spiral bound hard cover, resists erasing and bleeding, acid-free, great for dry media, 9” x 12″, 100 sheets
- Canson XL Mix Media Pad $12.97 – Spiral bound, sheets tear off, acid-free, good for water-colour and acrylics, 11″ x 14″, 60 sheets
- Giant Sketchbook $23.22 – Great value for price, good for dry media, 12.5″ x 10.75″, 300 sheets! This is one of the largest sketchbook you can find and is ideal for little ones who tend to use more paper.
- Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook $29.63 – The most widely used sketchbooks in the world, used by professional artists, hardcover with an accordion pocket inside, acid free, not great for watercolors but can be used with acrylics, 16.5″ x 12″, 48 sheets. For watercolors, you can use Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album instead ($36.15). It has 30 sheets and can be used with any media. I have been using Moleskine sketchbooks and journals for over a decade now and they never disappoint in quality. They are not cheap, but you can always find them on sale.
- Canson Universal Sketch Pad $12.68 – Spiral binding, acid free, 11″ x 14″, 75 sheets
- Strathmore Visual Watercolor Journal $11.59 – Spiral bound, Great for wet media, 9″ x 12″, 22 sheets
- Pentalic Sketch Book $12.38 – Hardbound cover, suitable for dry media, acid free, 8.5″ x 11″, 110 sheets
- Watson-Guptill Sketchbook $10.79 – One of the least expensive sketchbooks, can handle ink and light watercolor washes without bleeding, 8.5″ x 11″, 88 sheets
- Strathmore Mixed Media Pad $14.78 – Strathmoore makes various spiral bound pads, but this one is designed for mixed media like collage, acrylic, pastels, markers. 11″ x 14″, 40 sheets
Worried about “wasting” expensive art paper?
Here are some solutions:
- Have a dedicated sketchbook for practice work. This way your child can track progress. It’s easy to store away and you won’t have loose pages lying around. Try the Giant Sketchbook mentioned above.
- Teach your child to reserve more expensive papers for specific types of artwork – for example painting or pastel art.
- Show your child how to set up an art activity.
- Help your child stay focused. Talk about what a “finished” work means. Ask them what they think it means.
- Give the right size paper to your child. Observe and see what their interests in art making are. It changes frequently. Sometimes they will only be able to work on smaller pieces, sometimes only larger ones. Follow their curiosity.
- With dry media or while working in a sketchbook, both sides of paper can be used.
- Model the fact that making mistakes is OK and show them ways they can fix them. This way they will be less likely to toss papers if they are not satisfied with a mark. Also, make sure they have an eraser to “draw” with. 😉
What is your child’s favourite paper for art making?