While we’ve discussed how to get better at drawing and transferring an image to canvas, for those who want to just get in a little practice then today I’ll address the question ‘can you use acrylic paint on drawing paper?’. Yes, you can, If you go with heavy-stock, non-acidic, and non-oily papers as a medium then they will likely work quite well with your acrylic paint. For more acidic papers, you can even treat the paper surface with gesso in order to prepare it to properly handle your paints in advance.
Today We’ll discuss the paper types, some premium brands that are already suited for this, and the ‘gesso trick’ so that you can take advantage and start painting paper with your acrylics TODAY!
Let’s look at what you need to know when you use acrylic paint on drawing paper
What do I look for in paper that I want to paint with acrylic?
The first thing that you need to consider is going to be the paper itself. Certain types of paper are quite good for painting with acrylic, while others might be prone to yellow or even to absorb your paint in undesirable ways.
Below we’ll list some important traits that you’ll want in any paper that you are considering painting.
Heavyweight paper is going to be a good idea. In fact, I don’t recommend using anything rated less than 300 gsm, as you have to factor in the water involved in painting the paper in the first place. Paper that isn’t heavy enough just isn’t going to do very well and may well get torn.
Cotton or linen paper is best
Paper made from wood pulps tends to be acidic. Cotton of linen-based papers are not going to suffer for this and are the ideal choice for painting with acrylics.
Acid-free is a good idea
Not too oily or smooth
If you don’t have at least some texture to your paper, your acrylics are going to be difficult to expertly apply. A little smooth is good, but don’t go with overly oily or too smooth as your acrylics are not going to look their best.
You won’t have to prime it but some gesso is a good idea
Now that you’ve got a solid paper to work with, then we need to consider some additional steps to help make sure that the acrylics will be looking their best once they are applied and have dried. While you don’t have to prime the paper like you would with in our article ‘Can you use acrylic paint on wood’, a little gesso applied beforehand might be a good idea.
The reason for this is absorption. Even the best paper is going to absorb a little paint for the initial layers that you apply and this will be the case even if your paper totes that it has ‘water resistance’. To avoid this, simply give your paper 2 coats of gesso before you start painting.
If your paper isn’t acid-free then we will want to take this a step further, by applying gesso to BOTH sides of your paper and allowing it to dry before you start your work. This will help to reduce or even eliminate the chances of the paper absorbing your paint and making life very difficult for you during your project.
What papers are best for painting with acrylics?
If you are looking for a few commercial brands which are out there and quite good for painting with acrylics, then I’ve included a couple of recommendations below that can help to get you started. Let’s take a peek and see if you like any of these.
Strathmore 400 pads for acrylic paints are an excellent way to hedge your bets. At 400 gsm they are quite durable and I find the texture quite nice to work with. They tear out easily and do the job a treat, so be sure to give these cream-colored pads a try and see what you think!
As long as you make sure that you are going with 300 gsm at the minimum, then watercolor paper is a lot of fun to work with and Arches produces quite excellent papers for the job. You can even do a few tricks by thinning out the paint and using is like you would watercolor, allowing you to incorporate the natural texture of the paper into your work. It’ll show right through those thin applications and it really looks nice.
Some last-minutes tips for painting your drawing paper with acrylics
As you can see, you can use acrylic paint on drawing paper, you just need to observe a few rules. First, select your paper carefully. Next, apply gesso in at least 2 coats before painting and cover both sides if your paper is not acid-free. Finally, consider some specialized papers that are already ready-to-go.
For more information, be sure to check out our other articles and you can even find a nice third-party tutorial here that can help you to round-out your strategies before you get properly started!
Before you know it you’ll be whipping-up portable masterpieces on those pages that you thought were only fit for drawing on and loving every minute. Just choose your paper with care and coat as-needed and the acrylics should apply just fine.