What is the ideal paper size for drawing?

What is the ideal paper size for drawing?

Question from Muruli

Can you let me know what would be the ideal paper size for making both long drawings and practicing fast sketches? Also, what is the best drawing paper size for still-life drawings and portraits? I am asking because most of the time my drawings end up either too small or congested.

Also, can you suggest what would be the ideal size of a sketchbook?


Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Dear Muruli,

Many thanks for your question.

Your challenge with drawings that come out too small or too big is not because of the paper size. It is because you are missing a basic fundamental skill of starting a piece of artwork in the proper way.

A proficient artist can do a well-balanced and proportioned drawing on any paper size. Drawing begins with a decision on the format (landscape or portrait), the scale of a drawing, and the margins from objects to paper edges. Once the utmost top and bottom and left and right margins are set, a skillful artist does not need to change the artwork’s scale, so a finished drawing comes out in the size as intended originally.

There are several things you need to know and apply to scale drawings correctly. You need to know the rules of composition, how to measure proportions, understand the golden ratio, and know the rules of placing figures and portraits in your drawing.

Your second question about a sketchbook also tells that you have to learn many things to become proficient in drawing. There is no such thing as an “ideal size of a sketchbook.” If there would be one, then only that size would be sold in art shops, as no one would be interested in other sizes.

A type of a sketchbook depends on the purpose you want that book for.

  • Are you planning to travel and keep a small, portable sketchbook at hand?
  • Are you looking for a sketchbook to practice drawing life portraits and figures?
  • Do you need a landscape or even panoramic book for drawing landscapes and cityscapes or a portrait book for figurative works?
  • Do you want to draw in graphite pencil, sanguine, watercolor or other media in your sketchbook?
  • What is more important for you: to have a sketchbook that can fully open on a spiral binding or one that would not smudge drawings by semi-loose papers rubbing each other?
  • What paper weight do you want to have?
  • Smooth or rough tooth?
  • Soft cover or hard cover?
  • Paper made of cotton or wooden cellulose pulp?

I bet you haven’t thought about all the things mentioned above.

What is the ideal paper size for drawing

If you have to start somewhere, you may check 180-250gsm drawing paper in A2 size. A sheet can be cut in half to get two A3 formats for smaller artwork or halved again for four A4 sizes.

Unless you have to travel, a sketchbook is secondary. Learn how to draw using big paper formats. Learn how to hold a pencil the right way. When basic skills are covered, you can move to gesture drawings from life and composition sketches from imagination. This is when a sketchbook will become handy.

A4 size, hard cover would do to begin with. Fill a sketchbook as fast as possible and buy another one. After 20 or so sketchbooks, you will have a good idea of what you want from your next book.

I guess, you didn’t have a good art teacher before who could explain and show by their own example how to draw the right way.

Enroll in the Drawing Academy course to learn how to draw skillfully whatever you see, think or imagine.

Best regards,
Vladimir London

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. tometeacher says:

    I spent 4 years in an accredited university with art as a major. Ha! did they ever approach any of this? Never. Wasted 4 years and money. Dynamic information there in which I wish I had been taught. However, you are never too old to learn.

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