Surface Strength of Fine Art Papers

Drawing and painting papers need to have excellent surface strength. That is what distinguishes fine art papers from other papers. For drawing surfaces, the sheet needs to have enough strength so that the paper fibers do not break down during erasing, layering, blending, etc. Many artists also tape sheets to a board while working so they have a solid, rigid surface to work on. Others may tape around the edges of the sheet when painting to leave a white border for a particular aesthetic. It's important that when the tape is removed, the sheet stays intact and doesn't tear, potentially ruining the artwork. 

There is a simple test that you can use to compare the surface strength of papers. We call it a “tape pick test.” You will need standard household transparent tape such as Scotch Magic Transparent tape and a dark paper or surface.

  1. 1. Apply two 6-inch strips of tape on the front side of the paper surface, one in a vertical direction and one in a horizontal direction on the page. Fold over the last ½" of the tape, creating a tab for removing the tape.
  2. Rub the tape several times using a fair amount of pressure on the entire area.
  3. Outline the tape area with a pencil or pen (but avoid marking the tape since that will produce extra pressure in the “test area”).
  4. Allow the tape to sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Hold the paper flat against a table and remove the tape slowly by peeling the tab back parallel to the surface.
  6. Place the tape on a dark paper or surface. Examine it to see if fibers lifted onto the tape. Examine the area you outlined on the sheet looking for surface damage.

In the photo above, the tape pick test has been completed on a sheet of our 400 Series Drawing paper. The strips of tape have been lifted from the surface of the sheet (where the black rectangle outlines remain), and the strips of tape have been laid on the black pieces of paper. No visible fiber is showing on the tape, meaning the sheet is strong and will hold up to erasing, blending, layering, and taping. 

Try comparing a tape pick test on a sheet of fine art paper versus a sheet of copy paper. You'll most likely tear the copy paper or pull up large chunks of fiber. For highest quality of surfaces and the best possible outcome for your artwork, the tape should lift no fibers and the paper surfaces should not be disrupted by the tape.

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