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Working with different media on the same paper can present problems. To get fine detail and depth of shading with ink and graphite, you need a relatively smooth surface. But to work well with wet media like paint, your sheet should have sufficient tooth, or texture, to hold the pigment. That’s where a great mixed-media paper comes to save the day. The recommendations that follow have the right thickness, tooth, and brightness to stand up to whatever you lay down, and they come in handy pads for easy use, transport, and storage.
1. Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media Pad
These heavy-duty, 184-pound sheets are extremely high quality. The vellum surface, with a medium tooth, grabs dry media but also does well with watercolor and gouache. It won’t buckle even under layers of paint. The design of this pad is well thought out, too: The sheets stay firmly in the glue-bound pad but tear out cleanly and easily, and the cover flips all the way over and stays out of the way while the pad is in use. These top-of-the-line sheets are a great choice for presentation-ready artwork.
2. Canson XL Mixed Media Paper
For an excellent economical option, we love Canson’s mixed-media paper, which is acid free and has a weight of 98 pounds. It can be used with both dry and wet media, though it’s best suited for projects that are mostly dry with a light addition of paint. (In fact, with charcoal it works better than some top-shelf papers.)
3. Pacon UCreate Mixed Media Journal
This spiral-bound sketch pad will likely meet or exceed the needs of every budding artist. The inexpensive pad contains 50 sheets of 72-pound paper. Each acid-free page is bright white and holds both wet and dry media, with a surface smooth enough to be pleasant for sketching. The pad’s heavy chipboard back allows users to draw on the go, then finish with paint or whatever else they choose later. Keep in mind that the pages are not perforated; this is meant to be a practice pad.
4. Bellofy Artist Pro Series Mixed Media Pad
This hefty pad provides page after page of artistic potential. At 98 pounds, the 100 sheets are heavier than those in the Pacon pad but lighter than Fabriano’s, still a good weight for heavier media. Though the paper is spiral-bound, the pages are micro-perforated, ready to be removed for finished artwork. The porous paper absorbs paint and ink readily, which means smudging is kept to a minimum. The downside of this perk is that the paper has a greater tendency to start to pull apart than some of the competition.
5. Fabriano Fat Mixed Media Pad
Like Italian cars and Italian coffee, Fabriano’s made-in-Italy paper feels luxurious. The heavyweight (108-pound) sheets are bright white and smooth (the back feels marginally smoother), allowing sharp details with a drafting pencil and delightful depth of shading with charcoal. With some heavy washes or layers of paint, the paper will warp, but it then flattens out. As an extra, the paper is eco-friendly, made not just with sustainably sourced wood pulp but also with hydropower.