What is the cheapest paper for sketching, but is also really good for erasing?

I sketch in my free time and it's getting harder and harder for me to find a good type of paper to use. I currently am using canson XL but I'm looking for other mediums to use as well.

  • What tool do you usually use for sketching? I know you mention erasing, so it is most likely a pencil, but are you using standard yellow pencils, artist graphite pencils or colored pencils? I can't answer your question regardless of what type of pencil you use--but I would imagine those people who can answer this question would need to know that information.
    – magerber
    Jun 14, 2017 at 17:19
  • No. 2 pencil or mechanical pencil. I also color these with crayola pencils and Copic Ciao markers. Jun 14, 2017 at 17:25
  • What size sketches are you doing?
    – user24
    Jun 16, 2017 at 2:02
  • generally whole page drawings Jun 16, 2017 at 15:02

4 Answers 4


For sketching newsprint is the art school standard because it's cheap and it has a bit of tooth. Printer paper is very smooth, which makes it less suitable for drawing with graphite or charcoal. The tooth is what holds the graphite and charcoal in place.

A number 2 pencil is very hard, so you have to press firmly to make a darker mark. You should treat yourself to a range of graphite pencils; they are not very expensive. I use a 3B, a 5B, and an 8B most of the time.

I'm guessing that the eraser you're using is not a grey gum eraser. Get one. They are cheap, and they are worth it. You should knead it a bit before use to soften it. These can be shaped, so they are great for erasing weird tiny bits.

Because this is very common, I'm going to venture that, if not you, at least a few people who read this are artists who try to save time by turning a sketch into a finished drawing. No doubt a sketch can be very beautiful, but it's better to use your sketches as visual references for a finished drawing. If you buy semi-expensive paper, you may become worried about wasting it, and that can prevent you from sketching regularly. On the other hand, sketch pad paper doesn't look very good and is not archival.

Many people, myself included, don't even bother erasing everything in a sketch. I only erase something if it's visually confusing enough to keep me from finishing the sketch.

I often hear people bring up Caravaggio at this point. They will point out that he did not do drawings first, and preferred to work everything out on the canvas. For those reading who had this thought, I ask that you consider the difference in the mediums -- it is easy to paint over a mistake in oils, but graphite drawings are more delicate.

The best drawing paper for using an eraser would be something high quality, archival, and fairly thick. As I mentioned above, a graphite drawing is a fragile work of art. You don't want to be going nuts with your eraser directly on the expensive paper because too much will start to show up. But little bits here and there you can erase with a soft gum eraser, then gently sand with fine grit sandpaper.

Part of the beauty of a gallery-ready graphite drawing on paper is the illusion of there only being perfect marks on otherwise pristine paper. (Depending on your style, of course. Since you use #2 and mechanical pencils, and you want to use an eraser, it seems like a fair bet you're going for work with a clean and precise look.) And there you have the reason why artists will work it out on newsprint before hand -- unless you're some kind of a savant it's impossible to get this look in the first drawing.

Depending on the type of drawing you're doing, you might even want to experiment with cartooning a sketch onto archival paper. (Tape tracing paper to the drawing, trace it. Flip the tracing paper over to the other side, place it on a light-colored surface, and trace it again in a soft charcoal. Gently place the tracing paper in place on the archival paper, charcoal side down, and trace it again. The pressure will transfer the charcoal drawing onto the new surface.)

I hope this helped! Have fun drawing. :)

  • I would add that you can get newsprint in bulk if you're not concerned about buying it in a pad. Moving/packing stores and the packing supplies areas of large hardware stores often sell rolls of newsprint sheets. At my nearby stores it's about $6 for 100 sheets or $10 for 200.
    – user24
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:27
  • 1
    Thank you @CreationEdge! Yes, buying by the roll is awesome.
    – wiljago
    Jun 20, 2017 at 14:33

When I intend to binge sketch, I use news print and charcoal pencils. The former is inexpensive and I divide a large pad in two by using a table saw. The latter save money over standard charcoal because of the life. Charcoal pencils also create less dust and can be sharpened for detail as easily as graphite and won't tear the newsprint as readily as the #2.

That said, printer paper sketches and ideas often litter my floor and fill my wastebasket. I cannot recall ever selling or trying to sell one, but the medium is always handy and will take that #2 without gouging and work can be completed with a pen to provide a finished look. And since the paper is specific to computer printers, I usually create ideas for clients on printer paper and scan the work into a presentation.

  • Good point on scanning. Printer paper is excellent for having that contrast if you intend to take a traditional sketch and finish it digitally.
    – user24
    Jun 27, 2017 at 0:53

At university my drawing tutor used to encourage us to use the cheapest sketching materials we could find as he said it would encourage us to be more bold and less 'precious' with our work; the idea is that there should be less anxiety over mistakes because you haven't 'ruined' an expensive canvas.

Newsprint was great for me, mainly using charcoal (either pencils or sticks) in combination with white chalk. Additionally I used brown parcel wrapping paper as you can buy it in rolls and it has an interesting texture. These days I also save the scrunched up paper that sometimes gets used as packing materials when ordering products online (Amazon is great for this in the UK).

The weirdest thing I ever used for drawing material was the inside of a cereal box. Once you're done with the cereal, carefully peel the glued edges of the box apart, without tearing it. Turn the box inside out and you have a really nice cardboard surface on which to draw.


When it comes to cheap paper for me to do my small- and medium-sized sketches, I've always turned to just buying reams of printer paper.

It's generally bright white, so I see my marks well, and I like how the smoothness interacts with graphite and especially mechanical pencils.

However, it lacks qualities you'll find in most sketchbook paper. No tooth, not bound, very bright (so it doesn't naturally give you midtones and using white marks for highlights isn't possible on the straight paper).

  • which is why I'm looking for sketchbooks Jun 16, 2017 at 15:03
  • @AspenRand Not sure what you're trying to to say. Regardless, I've used thousands of sheets of printer paper for drawing and erasing just fine.
    – user24
    Jun 16, 2017 at 17:33
  • I'm trying to say that I sketch a lot. But I want to have a broader idea of what kind of paper is good to use but is also cheap. Not printer paper, I can't work with it. It's too smooth. Jun 16, 2017 at 19:10
  • @AspenRand To each their own. Toothy paper annoys me, as fine details get roughed up!
    – user24
    Jun 17, 2017 at 20:20

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