What is Bristol Paper?

Bristol generally describes a drawing paper that is glued together under pressure to form multi-ply sheets. Bristol sheets provide a stiff, strong surface to work on without the need for mounting. The felt sides of the paper (typically the more desirable working side for the artist) are exposed so there are two workable surfaces in one sheet. 

We carry Bristol in 2-ply, 3-ply and 4-ply. The more plies, the thicker and sturdier the sheet. 

The term Bristol derives from the early days of European papermaking when mills would send their finest papers to Bristol, England to be pasted together. Bristol papers generally have two types of surfaces: smooth and vellum. 

Smooth surfaces are great for pen & ink, mechanical pencil, airbrush, and markers. There is little to no tooth, making these surfaces great for creating fine lines, detail drawings, or marker drawings. 

Vellum surfaces are great for graphite, colored pencil, charcoal, pastel, and crayon. The surface has peaks and valleys which grab dry media such as graphite. More even shading and deeper tones can be achieved on a vellum surface.

We have a few different lines of Bristol papers:

300 Series Bristol

Our 300 Series Bristol paper is a popular choice among many artists because of the quality paper at a very reasonable price. It comes in a number of pad sizes, loose sheets, and large rolls. It is a 'bristol weight' at 100lb. (270gsm), and is perfect for finished art. Look for it in smooth and vellum surfaces. 

Smooth is rated very good for mechanical drawing, marker, airbrush along with pen & ink.

Vellum is rated very good for graphite pencil, colored pencil, charcoal, sketching stick, mixed media, airbrush and oil pastel.


400 Series Bristol

Our 400 Series Bristol paper is a high quality sheet that comes in 2-ply, 3-ply and 4-ply weights. It is available in pads and loose sheets, and comes in 2 surfaces:

Smooth finish is excellent for fine line drawings using pen & ink or marker.

Vellum finish is excellent for pencil, charcoal, and pastel, as well as airbrush and light washes. Not recommended for traditional watercolor techniques.



500 Series Bristol

Our 500 Series Bristol is a 100% cotton paper that was created in 1893 and has become an industry standard. It is the ultimate high quality surface for professional artists and illustrators. It is available in three surfaces:

Plate: An ultra-smooth surface that is great for technical pen, pen & ink, marker, and airbrush

Vellum (Medium): Toothy finish that is great for graphite pencil, colored pencil, charcoal, sketching stick, pen & ink, marker, soft pastel, mixed media, oil pastel, light wash and collage

Semi-Smooth: Slightly textured surface for use with pen and ink, pencil, specialty pens and markers

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