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The Inkblot, Issue #004 -- Paper
November 16, 2008

The Inkblot, Issue #4 -- Paper

The Inkblot is your cartooning information resource. From art supplies to drawing lessons to tips from the pros, you'll learn what it takes to be a cartoonist!

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  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. Typing Paper

  • 3. Bristol Board

  • 4. Illustration Board

  • 5. A Final Word


Hey fellow Cartoonists, welcome back to another issue of The Inkblot! In this issue, we’ll continue our journey through the Cartoonist’s art supply closet, and talk about…


The type of paper you use to draw your cartoons is probably more important than you may realize. Just like different types of pens produce different lines, different types of paper greatly affect the way your final drawing will look. Even in these enlightened days of computer technology, it’s still necessary to choose the right type of paper for your cartoons.

Now, the basic rule of thumb for paper is this: draw on whatever gives you the best line. If you’re using something already that works well, then don’t stop! There are a lot of different types of paper out there, and each one is a little bit different. There are papers that work really well with pens, but not with brushes, and visa versa. How do you know which ones? Experiment, by all means, but let me tell you what I know from my own experience!

Typing Paper

This is my favorite kind of paper, because it’s cheap, and you can get a lot of it for your money. It works well with all types of ink pens. The thicker paper will even take a brush.

Typing paper works best, I’ve found, when you’re inking with roller ball pens. If you’re goal is to draw one-panel cartoons, or gag cartoons for magazines, then this is a good way to go. In fact, nearly all the cartoons I drew for my website, including those on the Daily Giggle page, were drawn on typing paper.

Typing paper is also good for practicing lines with a pen or brush, especially if you’re trying to break in a new pen point or brush. I also use it for sketching out ideas. Even if you use a different type of paper, typing paper is still useful.

There are different kinds of typing paper, but the best for cartooning is the thicker, 100% bond paper. It’s a little more expensive than the thin copy paper, but not by very much. The thicker paper makes sure that your brush or markers don’t bleed as easily through the paper.

Bristol Board

This type of paper is much more expensive, and it’s generally the kind that comic strip cartoonists use for final inking. It’s a stiff paper that feels a lot like cardboard. It comes in different thicknesses—called a “ply”—and in different surfaces. If you’re drawing with a pen, whether it’s a dipping pen, a roller ball or a marker, you’ll want to use a smooth, high surface, hot pressed Bristol board. There are some exceptions to this; some kinds of markers and pen points make better lines on a medium surface board, but by and large, this is a good rule of thumb.

If you’re drawing with a brush, I’d recommend a medium surface, hot pressed Bristol. When using a brush, you need a paper with a bit of “tooth” or texture to it to hold the ink to the paper. If your paper’s surface is too smooth, the ink will run right off as you make your lines! (I learned this the hard way, however). Also, when drawing with a brush or dip pen, use at least 2-ply so that the ink doesn’t bleed through the paper. Some cartoonists go even stiffer, using a 3 or 4-ply board, but the thicker the Bristol, the more expensive it is.

Again, Bristol board is rather expensive, so it should only be used for final inking. You can get Bristol board any any art and most craft supply stores.

Illustration Board

Illustration board is a lot like Bristol board, except for one main factor: Illustration has only one finished surface suitable for drawing and inking, whereas Bristol board has two. Illustration board tends to be thicker than Bristol board, and more expensive. Because of this, it is not generally used for cartoonists, but is widely used by other types of artists.

Illustration board also comes in different surfaces: hot or cold pressed. A similar rule is used as well: anything that needs a textured surface, such as brush, pastels or charcoal, should use cold pressed board, and those using anything needing a smooth surface, such as pens or markers, should use hot pressed.

Illustration board can be located at most art supply stores. You can find out more information online about these and other supplies at many internet sites; one of my favorites is

A Final Word on Paper

As I said earlier, draw on whatever surface works best, and is easiest to get. Especially if you’re a beginner, there’s no point to go out and buy expensive Bristol or illustration board; practice your drawings on cheap typing paper. When you begin to perfect your own style, then you can invest in more expensive paper to experiment and find what you like best.

Until next time,

Happy Drawing!

Michael Richards
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