If you’re checking your calendars in confusion, don’t worry; today is indeed Thursday. Yesterday, I made a journey out to see my summer art venue, which meant no time to visit the Blogosphere. But yesterday was the third Wednesday of the month and, according to my new schedule, it’s time for an art supply review!
A Look at Strathmore’s Colored Pencil Paper
Since, as you know, I work primarily in colored pencils, when I first heard Strathmore was releasing a paper specifically for colored pencil work, I thought, “Oooh, this is going to be a huge dollop of awesome sauce!” I’ve used Strathmore’s papers (drawing, watercolor, acrylic) for years and thought this would be another great product. So, I ordered a pad and eagerly awaited it’s arrival.
Now, keep in mind this review is only my opinion. Everyone has a different style of working. From the reviews on the website I ordered from, most people LOVE this paper and really do think it is a huge dollop of awesome sauce.
But not me.
My first impression of the paper was that it had a rough surface, whereas the retailer’s described the paper as smooth for detailed pencil work and colored pencil techniques. Maybe I have a different definition of smooth. I mean this isn’t as rough as homemade paper, but to describe it as “smooth” is a complete fiction. (I have noticed, however, that the manufacturer’s website describes it as toothy, so I blame the retailer for the incorrect wording.)
What does this surface texture mean? Working on this paper requires plenty of effort and plenty of pencil. In the one piece I completed on the paper, it took over fifteen layers of pencil just to fill in the dark areas. This isn’t unusual. Getting a deep, rich dark with colored pencils usually requires at least ten layers (for me anyway), but normally the layers can be placed lightly to gradually build up and cover the paper’s surface.
With this paper, after seeing my light layers weren’t still leaving little white patches, I gave up on my light touch and used heavy pressure to fully cover the surface. The good point of this paper is that it does take lots and lots of layers, but I just never felt the layers looked very vibrant until I exerted more pressure, which wears away pencils like crazy (and tires out your shoulder).
As far as detail work, I didn’t feel I could do much of that either. The paper has a “soft” feel to it which makes it difficult to create a crisp, smooth line. This softness also meant I couldn’t erase much. Even using light pressure, my effort to remove a misplaced leaf wore away the paper. (The manufacturer describes this paper as able to “stand up to repeated erasures and reworking.” Um, no.)
I could see this paper being good for work that has an overall light tone to it or for work that you don’t mind looking a bit rough, but because it doesn’t allow me to achieve rich, bright colors or to do detail work, I’m pretty much just setting this pad aside for playtime.
So What Do I Prefer?
As I said, many people LOVE the Strathmore Colored Pencil Paper. However, I prefer smooth surfaces to work on, which is probably why I ended up hating the CP paper.
Most of my work is done on Smooth Bristol (I’ll also whip out the Vellum Bristol on occasion) from either Strathmore or Blick (both seem equally good). If you’ve never worked on bristol, it’s a little like poster or illustration board but with a drawing-paper like surface. The stuff I use is 100# (270 gsm) weight and I love it.
Some colored pencil folks find bristol too smooth, but since it’s what I first started out on, I don’t have any trouble with it and it’s usually my first choice when selecting a surface for a new work.
Despite being smooth, bristol can take loads of layers (at least a dozen), allows for crisp lines, doesn’t gobble up pencils, and can withstand a bit of erasing. The smooth surface also provides a nice sheen to the finished work, but if you prefer a matte look, try the vellum surface instead.
My other favorites include Matte Dura-Lar Grafix Film (which I’ve written about before), Claybord by Ampersand, and regular old drawing paper (better for light work unless you purchase high-quality drawing paper like Arches that can withstand a bit of abuse).
I haven’t tried it yet (it’s on my to-do list), but hot-pressed watercolor paper is another option for smooth-surface lovers like me (plus, you can save time and pencils by painting a watercolor under layer before jumping in with your pencil work).
So, whether you use colored pencil or love to doodle with a plain old pencil, what do you prefer to work on? Do you like smooth surfaces or rough ones? Any unique surfaces you’ve tried out and fallen in love with?