Substrates – Choosing the Right Surface [PAPER EDITION] Part 2

This is Part 2 in our Paper Substrate Series – This edition is all about Drafting papers
Scroll through to learn about various types of papers!

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Behind (or rather, below) all great works of Art lies the Substrate. No matter what medium you may choose to fuel your creativity, there must be a surface on which to apply the paints, inks, and/or drawing materials. With such a wide variety of creative media/materials, there is an equally vast breadth of substrates to support your masterpiece.

So, what is a substrate anyways?

The primary or underlying foundation on which art materials/mediums (i.e. ink, paint, charcoal, pastel, etc.) are added is known as the Substrate. Canvas, wood panel and paper comprise the most popular and readily available surfaces; however certain artistic processes may require fabrics such as silk or synthetics, glass and even metal to act as a substrate. In the world of Digital Art, printing your creations include a variety of substrates all their own, with surfaces specially treated to accept the digital pigments and dyes.

Prior to application of art materials, a substrate must be prepared,  “primed” or “sized” to properly accept and fuse with the medium. The following is a breakdown of various types of substrates and their preparations:

TYPES OF PAPER (for art)

Drafting & Architectural Substrates

Vellum: Medium weight [50 – 60lbs] paper traditionally made from animal hides (specifically calf skin). Paper Vellum is now made from vegetable based resources and contains no animal products. Translucent (i.e. semi-transparent), vellum is used for high quality tracings; great for graphite, pens, markers, and inks. Used in technical renderings, architectural design and other drafting projects.

Brands: Canson, Strathmore, Clearprint, Grafix, Koh-I-Noor, BEE
Available in: Pads, Rolls, and Sheets

Tracing/”Bum wad”: Lightweight [15 – 20lbs] yet highly transparent paper, used for creating patterns (fashion design), base sketches, renderings, etc. Also known as “Bum Wad” for its close resemblance to toilet paper (in texture and weight), tracing paper is an affordable way to make tracings of any image, text or source by hand-drawn means. Some tracing papers are sized to accept printer inks.

Brands: Canson, Strathmore, Bienfang, BEE
Available in: Pads, Rolls, and Sheets

Acetate: Various Weight [measured in millimeters; .003 – 1.0] Acetate comes in transparent (clear) and frosted/matte (translucent). Also called by a proprietary name, Mylar, acetates are used for many various design, drafting, and architectural purposes. Plastic/polyester/resin/PVA based paper which readily accepts dyes, inks, and technical markers. Used in scholastic settings as transparency or overhead projector sheets; can be used in similar fashion as tracing papers, as well as gels for lighting, stencils for photo emulsion process (in printmaking) and 3D glasses lenses.

Brands: Mylar, Clearprint, Grafix
Available in: Pads, Sheets and Rolls

Chipboard: Various Ply [measured in millimeters; 0.30, 0.60, 0.130]
Chip Board is an inexpensive wood-based product, ideal for mounting architectural models. Industrial Chip Board can be found at hardware/lumber stores and is made of compressed wood chips and fibers, bound with synthetic resins; known as particle board. Denser versions of particle boards are known as MDF, Hardboard, or Masonite (typically used in economical furniture fabrication, etc – also makes for great painting panels) Chip Board for the artist’s use has a smooth surface, and moderate rigidity. It is non-archival, and made from recycled paper products.

Brands: Art Alternatives, Grafix
Available in: Sheets (large)

Isometric/Graph/Grid: Lightweight [20 – 30lbs) paper, similar to tracing/bond/layout papers, yet printed with a fine network of grids (either as squares or triangles). Used in technical drawings, such as typography, architecture and other forms of graphic design, Grid/Graph papers provide a system by which schematics, plots or diagrams can be easily scaled larger for final drafts/projects. Semi-transparency makes Graph/Grid papers useful in tracing and transferring. Ideal for sketching, and any dry media; also suitable for inking. Grids typically printed in a “non-photo” or non-reproducible blue ink.

Brands: Alvin, Bienfang, Canson, Rhodia, Clearprint, Grafix
Available in: Pads

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Stay tuned for our 2nd installment – ALL ABOUT PAPERS

The Art Supply Store
Written By: Laura Spencer