The Best Paper for Ballpoint Pen Drawing

With years of ballpoint pen drawing under my belt I have a lot of thoughts on different papers you can use and I will share some of the best ones here. BUT! Right at the top, I want to mention one thing

The best tools are always the tools that are available to you right now


Don't ever let the excuse of not having the perfect paper or pens prevent you from actually getting started drawing. The biggest benefit of working with ballpoint pens is that its cheap and easy to find. Use whatever tools you have an upgrade and experiment over time. Your personal taste will develop the more hours you spend drawing, so that is always priority number one.

Cheap Sketchbook Paper

If you want to go the sketchbook route I recommend getting something that has a coil-bound spine. Coil bound sketchbooks are easier to hold and leave more room on the table. This is especially beneficial when you want to scan your work. Here are some Pros and Cons of using Cheap Sketchbook Paper.

Pros: 

  • Good amount of texture without being overwhelming

    • These sketchbooks are usually sold for all-purpose sketching so you will find that they have enough texture to get the ink down without being in the way of creating beautiful work. 

  • Easy to find

    • These sketchbooks are easily accessible and can be easily found at any store that sells sketchbooks or journals. If you get used to working with these you will always have an easy time finding them during travels or whenever you complete one.

  • Can carry it anywhere without worrying about damage

    • One of the downsides of using more expensive materials is that you may be a little more worried about damaging them. A cheap sketchbook is especially great if you are doing a travel journal or like drawing during commutes or at school.

  • Everything in one space

    • Having all your work in one place makes it easy to stay organized and see all the work you have done over the past weeks or months. 

Cons:

  • Thin Paper

    • These sketchbooks usually come with fairly thin paper that can easily be ripped or damaged. There are some nicer sketchbooks you can find with thicker paper but they will be slightly more expensive and are usually made for watercolors.

  • Hard to Frame

    • As you develop as a ballpoint pen artist you will find that you may create work that you want to frame for yourself or to give as a gift. Working in a sketchbook will mean that you have to cut the paper out which is risky and can easily damage the work. You can get around this problem by finding a sketchbook that is made to tear pages out of (you will see tiny holes close to the fold of pages if it's designed for that). 

Moleskine Sketchbooks

Moleskines have made quite a name for themselves for their quality sketchbooks and durable paper. I have done quite a bit of drawing in these and I can understand why they are as popular as they are, but they also have their flaws.

Pros:

  • Quality Paper

    • The paper in these sketchbooks are fairly durable and can take a lot of drawing. Moleskine sketchbooks have a high price tag because they represent quality. 

  • Smooth Paper

    • If you enjoy a more smooth finish to your papers this will easily be one of the best choices for you. Smooth paper is great for elegant lines and very thin rendering.

  • Available in most places

    • Since they are a brand name they can be found anywhere that art supplies are sold.

Cons:

  • Expensive

    • These sketchbooks are on the more pricey side but if you are spending tons of hours in a sketchbook, the cost isnt that high. This totally depends on how long you spend on each drawing and how large you draw, but before you write off these sketchbooks for their price you should think about the cost per hour instead of just bulk cost. (lets say $30 sketchbook but you spend 60hours drawing in it, thats only $0.50 per hour)

  • No Coilbound Option

    • Coilbound sketchbooks are much easier to use, especially when you work at a decently large size (around 8x10 inches and up). This is obviously up to personal preference so try both and see which one you prefer.

Single Sheet Papers

These are the two best papers for more finished illustrations. Say if you want to make a gift or just want to create pieces that you can frame, these are the papers to go for

Watercolor Paper: Strathmore Readycut

This is one of my favorite papers to use for more finished drawings because they come at easy to frame sizes and are of high quality. I have used these papers for many of my finished pieces on this site.

Pros:

  • Very high quality

    • These papers are made out of 100% cotton and built to last. Create a drawing on one of these papers and you know it will last the test of time.

  • Convenient Sizing

    • The Ready Cut series are made to be easily framed, you won't have difficulty finding a frame for your finished drawings with these papers.

  • Nice Texture

    • You can get these papers in Hot Press (smooth) & Cold Press (more texture/rough) so you can get the right amount of texture for your needs. This paper doesn't come in super smooth formats because it is made for watercolor but I will cover a super smooth option next.

Cons:

  • Cost

    • This paper is slightly more expensive than using a sketchbook or printer paper. With better quality comes a higher price tag.

  • Pressure

    • You may feel more pressure to get things right when drawing with nicer paper. It's much easier to restart a drawing when the paper costs $0.10 than when its $1.50 per sheet.

  • Organization

    • Since these are loose sheets you may find it difficult to keep all your drawings organized. To solve this problem you can use a binder with plastic sleeves and keep it as a collection. You can also buy an album that fits the size of the paper once you have enough drawings to fill one!


Bristol Vellum

I recently made a switch to this paper and I am absolutely in love with it. This paper is very smooth and compliments the way I work, I would also recommend this paper for anyone who also enjoys working in graphite since its great for that as well. 

Pros 

  • Easy to Carry

    • This paper comes as a drawing pad with extra cardboard at the back to keep the paper stable. You can easily take this out with you for some outdoor sketching and remove sheets from the pad as you go. The plastic at the top comes off easily so you can safely remove pages from the pad with ease. 

  • High Quality

    • This paper is thick and durable which great for finished pieces. Holding a piece of paper that is of this quality really makes your drawings feel more valuable which can boost your confidence. I have found that I focus more when working on quality paper because I want to treat the drawing with respect.

  • Smooth Finish

    • This is the reason I switched from watercolor paper, I really like the experience of drawing on smooth paper. I used to work on an angle using a draftsman table and watercolor paper was perfect for that, but now that I work on a flat top table I prefer the smooth paper. You will find that your taste in paper might change depending on the situation, maybe you prefer a smooth paper for finished drawings while you prefer to sketch loosely on rougher paper.

Cons

  • Cost

    • Same as the last two papers, this is higher quality paper so it comes at a higher cost. If you are hoping to sell your work then you might want to consider it an investment. 

  • Organization

    • Like the watercolor sheets, these drawings will be hard to keep organized as your library of drawings start to increase. One advantage this Bristol Vellum has is that it comes in a drawing pad instead of a sleeve full of loose sheets like the watercolor paper.

So those are all the best papers for drawing with a ballpoint pen, do keep in mind that printer paper works just fine and you can learn all the necessary skills for drawing with a basic $0.50 pen and whatever printer paper you have. I have seen artists do tremendous work on coffee cops and newspapers because ultimately it's about the craft.