The Best Papers For Colored Pencils In 2023

Last updated: Today

Erin Carpenter

Top 5 Best Paper For Colored Pencils 2023:

  1. Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad
  2. Legion Stonehenge Pad 9×12 Inches
  3. Canson XL Mixed Media Spiral Sketch Pad
  4. Bellofy 50 Sheet Watercolor Paper Pad
  5. MOLESKINE Art Sketchbook Hard Cover

You can’t create any art if you don’t have paper. And regardless of the type of colored pencils that you’re using currently, having the right kind can make a world of difference. 

Now, artists can pick virtually any type of paper for their projects, from very tough to super-smooth. One thing’s certain – you’ll never find a shortage of options on the market. But that also means that you’ll probably have to spend quite a bit of time trying to make the right pick. 

So, what’s the best paper for colored pencils

Answering that question is pretty much the point of this entire guide. We’ll recommend some of our favorites and share a few vital factors to take into account when making your purchase. 

Let’s get to it!

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5 Best Paper For Colored Pencils In 2023: Detailed Reviews 

1. Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad – Editor’s Pick 

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We’ll start this round-up of the best paper for colored pencils with the “real deal” and a perfect choice for experimentation with dry art media – the Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad. 

The micro-perforated, true-to-size sheets are acid-free, which is a plus longevity-wise, and come with double-spiral binding and heavy chipboard backing for added sturdiness. It weighs 89 GSM, which is somewhat of a standard for sketching paper and makes it an excellent all-around solution. 

Also, the off-white, creamy-colored tint of the paper looks lovely! 

The thing that draws so many artists to this particular sketch pad is the finish of the paper, though. The fine-tooth texture is rough enough to absorb the color from your pencils and allow for blending, but still smooth enough for some fine-line drawing and detailing. 

Plus, it holds up surprisingly well to reworking and repeated erasures. That’s why it’s highly recommended for classroom experimentation, quick studies, and practice of different techniques. 

We don’t recommend it for any sort of wet art media work, such as watercolors or heavy inking. It’s not meant to handle wet work, and there’s a real possibility of soaking the pages with the color bleeding through them. 


  • The fine-tooth finish is a perfect balance between rough and smooth
  • Standard 89-GSM weight for sketching paper
  • Withstands erasing and rework rather well 
  • Works great with colored pencils, graphite, charcoal, and soft pastels


  • Only suitable for work with dry art media 

2. Legion Stonehenge Pad 9×12 Inches – Runner-Up

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Any paper that has some “tooth” to it – a texture that isn’t overly smooth – can help the colored pencils grip evenly. That’s what makes the Legion Stonehenge Pad an excellent choice for a myriad of drawing techniques, including colored pencils, pastels, ink, charcoal, and graphite pencils, among other things. 

The paper is made out of 100-percent cotton, with a nice texture to it. And considering that it weights 250 GSM, you can rest assured that it will take plenty of color without showing any “side effects.” 

More importantly, it’s acid- and chlorine-free, and has exceptional archival qualities, as well!

It won’t bleed ink and will withstand multiple layers of color, giving you excellent control over the colors and flexibility to create pretty much anything that comes to mind. 

Per sheet, it’s one of the more expensive options, but you can’t expect to get this level of quality at a pocket-friendly price. We still consider it a worthwhile investment, especially for professional artists, because, in the right hands, it can produce some stunning results.

Beginners, however, probably shouldn’t spend this much on a pad if they’re mostly going to use it for practice. 


  • It’s made of 100-percent cotton, chlorine- and acid-free 
  • Excellent archival qualities  
  • The weight of paper is 250 GSM 
  • Handles multiple layers of color very well 
  • Suitable for different drawing techniques 
  • Highly recommended for professional artists 


  • Not a budget-friendly option

3. Canson XL Mixed Media Spiral Sketch Pad – Budget Pick

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When it comes to value and performance, there are very few options on the market than come close to what the Canson XL Mixed Media Sketch Pad has to offer. After all, this manufacturer’s been in the business for nearly five centuries, so you know that they’ve perfected their paper-making process! 

And for beginners, it doesn’t get much better than this: 

The quality of the paper, the texture, and the price all make it an option worth considering if you’re on a somewhat tight budget, but don’t want to settle for inferior art supplies. 

Besides the beginner-friendly nature of this sketch pad, another we liked was its overall quality. 

The sheets are acid-free, micro-perforated, and true-to-size, and they’re relatively heavyweight at 160 grams. The texture is smooth, but sturdy enough to handle multiple layers of colored pencils, erasing, and blending. We’d say that the surface is somewhat similar to that of medium watercolor paper. 

The paper features substantial sizing, too, which makes it suitable for both wet and dry media. It’s an excellent choice for exploring new techniques! 

However, specific markers do tend to bleed through to the next page. Other than that, though, feel free to experiment to your heart’s content! 


  • Micro-perforated, true-size, acid-free paper 
  • Has a smooth, but sturdy feel 
  • Sizing makes it a suitable choice for wet and dry media
  • An excellent choice for beginners on a budget 


  • Markers might bleed through the paper 

4. Bellofy 50 Sheet Watercolor Paper Pad

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Here’s a pad that’s dedicated to a specific medium – watercolors. So, you’re probably surprised to see it on a list of the best paper for colored pencils. But here’s the thing: 

While it’s dedicated to providing a fantastic watercolor experience with qualities that are ideally suited to that specific art style, this Bellofy pad offers way more versatility than meets the eye. 

It’s equally suitable for sketching, colored pencils, and ink-based artwork! 

We liked that it was made from a blend of cotton and recycled materials and that it’s acid-free. That makes it a bit more eco-friendly and gives it some archival qualities, too. 

The cold-pressed finish further confirms its versatility, while the weight of 190 GSM makes it a suitable enough option for sketching, experimenting, and light painting. 

Interestingly enough, this watercolor paper doesn’t fall into either the professional- or the student-grade category; instead, it works for both applications. That’s what makes it such a versatile choice: 

The weight, thickness, and affordable price make it popular among students, yet at the same time, it makes for good practice and art journaling pad for professional artists, too.

It is prone to peeling and curling up when too much water is applied, though.


  • Acid-free paper made from a cotton and recycled material mix 
  • The cold-pressed finish makes it suitable for more than watercolor work 
  • Holds paint well and won’t bleed through 
  • A reasonably priced option for students 


  • It’s relatively prone to peeling and fraying  

5. MOLESKINE Art Sketchbook Hard Cover

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Whether it’s taking notes, journaling, planning, or putting together shopping lists, MOLESKINE has worked its way into all organizational aspects of our lives with their products. 

It’s their notebooks – some of the best on the market – that made them famous, but their sketchbooks are every bit as good! 

The sketch-grade paper is acid-free, which is a huge plus, and has a weight of 165 GSM, so it can undoubtedly handle color pencil use. What we liked the most was the shade of the paper, though – the light ivory tint gives the pages a stunning look. 

It’s not exclusively made for colored pencils, but it’s worth considering due to two essential reasons: 

First, it’s available in a range of sizes, and second, it has a compact, yet highly functional design. 

When it comes to outdoor drawing, quick studies, and on-the-go sketching, there’s not a lot of options that match the convenience and portability of this sketchbook. 

The hardcover coupled with an elastic closure band, and the added inner pocket all add to its outdoor- and travel-friendly design. 

We should warn you that the tint doesn’t hold up to erasing very well – whenever you use an eraser, there’s a risk of weird white blotches forming.


  • Acid-free, sketch-grade paper with an ivory tint
  • The 165-GSM weight is suitable for colored pencils 
  • Compact, portable, travel-friendly design 
  • Elastic closure strap and a handy inner pocket 


  • Erasing leaves white blotches 
  • Markers can bleed through the pages 

What Is Paper For Colored Pencils? 

Every artist knows that a good piece of paper can make all the difference between “Oh no, I’ll have to redo this one” and “Oh wow, this looks amazing!” 

So, no, not every sheet of paper is of the same quality or an equally suitable surface for colored pencils. The brand and type of paper you work on can be nearly as crucial as the actual brand of colored pencils you’re using.

But what is paper for colored pencils, and how does it differ from the one you might already in your go-to sketchbook? 

Paper for colored pencils tends to have some tooth to it – neither too smooth nor too rough – is preferably archival and acid-free, and sturdy enough to withstand color layering, rework, and erasing.

The most significant differences can be observed in factors such as finish, weight, and longevity – all of which we’ll discuss in a second. 

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Things To Look For When Buying The Best Paper For Colored Pencils 

What we’d like you to keep in mind is that, while some options are conventionally considered better suited for colored pencils, this is, by no means, a universal rule. Instead, it all depends on the artist and what they have in mind. 

If anything, we encourage you to give a few different options a try and see which one works for you. 

1. Finish Or Surface Texture 

The surface texture, known as the “finish,” is related to the roughness of the paper. It’s determined by how the paper is dried, and the three most common paper finishes are rough, cold-pressed, and hot-pressed. 

The color needs to grab onto something, which is why the finish matters so much. 

More texturized paper tends to be rougher to the touch, but it’s these crevices that allow the color to settle in properly. Extremely smooth paper, on the other hand, might have a hard time holding onto the color. 

You should aim for the middle ground that is cold press paper, as it’s typically the most versatile option – not completely smooth, but not overly rough, either. 

2. Paper Weight 

Weight is a measurement of the paper’s thickness – or “heaviness.” It’s traditionally measured by weighing a ream, or 500 sheets, at a standard size; the more the ream weighs, the thicker the individual layers. 

And yes, it’s a pretty big factor to consider when choosing paper for any application, including colored pencils. Paper that has more heft to it tends to withstand quite a bit more “abuse” before it starts showing signs of tearing or fraying. 

When it comes to the best paper for colored pencils, there are upper and lower weight limits to consider, too. Generally speaking, the recommended range is anywhere between 150 to 300 GSM.

3. Fiber 

There are several different fiber options to consider. Still, the cotton-based paper is generally regarded as the highest quality option you’ll come across – but not all cotton paper is the same. 

For example, 100-percent cotton paper can withstand constant erasing and drawing and last well over 100 years. Shorter fibers, however, tend to get “fuzzy” with use. So, even if you do opt for cotton paper, be sure to check the actual specifications to know what you’re getting. 

Another reliable option is cellulose – or wood pulp – paper, which is typically less expensive. However, because of the natural acid found in the wood pulp that breaks down the fibers, it’s also less archival, too. You can combat this by getting cellulose paper with added “buffers,” though.

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4. Sizing 

Sizing refers to the water-resistant properties of paper, and can be achieved in two ways: 

It’s either internal, where it’s added while the paper’s pulp is still liquid, or external, where it’s applied to the surface when the sheet is already formed and dry. Some options are even both surface- and internal-sized.

If you’re working with wet drawing media, sizing will prevent the paper from absorbing too much moisture and pigment, retaining the crispness of the lines, and the brightness of the colors. It doesn’t matter as much if you work with dry media, though. 

5. Archival Qualities Or Longevity 

If you’re doing a commissioned piece or want your drawings to last a lifetime, longevity is something to consider. The archival paper has a proven track record of exceptional stability over time, and won’t fade or yellow as the years go by. 

Paper that’s free of chlorine, acid, and optical brighteners has some archival qualities to it and will withstand the test of time. Avoid wood-pulp-based paper, because they tend to contain acid and are not archival – or the very least, get something that includes acid-neutralizing buffers.

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Conclusion – Our Top 3 Picks 

There’s no universal, one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the best paper for colored pencils

However, if you want to spare yourself the trouble of searching for the right fit for your medium of choice, here are our top three picks: 

Editor’s Pick: Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad

  • The lovely off-white tint, the fine-tooth texture, the acid-free nature, and archival quality, the ability to withstand continuous reworking and erasing, and excellent value for money make this our top choice!

Runner-Up: Legion Stonehenge Pad 9×12 Inches

  • The only reason why this one didn’t top our list is the price; in all other aspects, it’s virtually unmatched. 

Budget Pick: Canson XL Mixed Media Spiral Sketch Pad

  • Beginners on a budget, experimenting with mixed media – this is the best deal for you!

About Erin Carpenter

Erin Carpenter has over 15 years experience in the diamond industry working with Artic Canadian Diamonds, Anglo-American Diamonds. She is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as USA Today, Forbes, The New York Times and more.