• My Figure Drawing Setup: The Paper

by David Latham McSween May 14, 2019

Figure drawing can be a daunting task for anyone, but especially for a beginner. When you add the overwhelming variety of materials available to use it is no wonder some artists avoid drawing the figure altogether. In the interest of helping other artists who are just starting or those who feel like they're floundering, I'm putting together a series of posts that will list the supplies that I take with me to every drawing session. I value a streamlined approach to drawing materials, but I include enough variety to allow me to explore or adapt to different models, lighting, and poses. So, let's start by exploring the papers that I use.




In every art practice, you'll find a material that is so common that the need for it seems to go without saying. When it comes to figure drawing, Newsprint will qualify in this category. I have a love/hate relationship with Newsprint. I enjoy the surface quality and texture because it has enough tooth (paper texture) to hold the charcoal, but it is smooth enough to erase easily. The most significant disadvantage is that Newsprint yellows when exposed to light, or damp, or if you breathe on it, or if the paper feels like it. So Newsprint is excellent for students or beginners who don't care about keeping or selling the work they are making, but for a professional who wants to sell work, it isn't a viable option because the paper is not archival and does not hold up well over time. Buy it now on Amazon using this affiliate link: Newsprint Paper

Drawing Paper - White
A standard white paper is my go-to surface for figure drawing; it is my workhorse. I find that this kind of paper is the most versatile and provides me the most considerable flexibility to create beautiful figure drawings. The brightness of the standard white paper allows me to control the contrast of value between my darkest dark and lightest light. With gray or cream papers it can be challenging to get the kind of strong values shapes that make the form of the model stand out and feel dimensional. A standard white paper can receive charcoal and pencil well, whereas other types of paper are better suited for only one type of drawing material. For example, Graphite pencil does not work well on gray paper. I enjoy how drawing on standard white paper allows me to switch from charcoal to graphite quickly between poses if I feel like changing up my approach or the pose demands a different style of mark making. The white paper is generally a durable paper as well, so it can be worked on over long poses that require erasing and correcting many times. Finally, an excellent standard white paper will hold up over time so that artworks produced on this surface can sell without concern for its archival quality. Buy it now on Amazon using this affiliate link: White Drawing Paper

Drawing Paper - Cream
Cream colored drawing paper has its place in my setup because of the way it can add the warmth and vibrancy to an artwork that other papers can't. The times I use cream paper is dependent on the model and the pose, and is used when the model is in natural or soft light, and the flesh tones glow with a bright pinkish hue. I've found it is valuable to be able to capture and express that kind of mood while it exists. Usually, artists draw on cream colored paper with a drawing material called "conté crayon", but I've had success pairing it with graphite pencil. I find that the subtleties of cool gray tones of the pencil are complemented by the warm tone of the paper to mimic the warm highlights and cool shadows on the model's skin.
Buy it now on Amazon using this affiliate link: Cream Colored Drawing Paper

Until next time, let's keep drawing, and please feel free to leave questions or feedback in the comments section below. I'll try my best to get back to you within a day.

Best Regards,

David McSween

Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer: For the convenience of artists who read my posts I link directly to products for purchase on Amazon. To help support my art practice I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn small fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

David Latham McSween
David Latham McSween


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