How to Choose the Right Surface for Your Art

By Maria Rogerson

January 10, 2024Art

Whenever you decide to immerse yourself in creating some type of artwork, you need to consider some essential aspects that will immensely impact your art. Beyond having the right idea that you want to express, you need to choose an appropriate surface that will align perfectly with the type of art you plan to make. Choosing the right type of surface plays a crucial role in influencing the texture, tone and overall aesthetic of your art creation. 

To help you choose the ideal surface for your art, we’ve selected a few options that artists most commonly use. Let’s explore each of them separately, so you can get better acquainted with their features, which should help you select the right type of pad for the nature of your unique artistic vision.

Watercolour Pad

watercolour pad
Source: Pexels

Watercolour paper is a unique type of paper that artists use to engage in various art. Although its most common use is for creating watercolour paintings, this paper makes a suitable surface for other diverse techniques, that include the use of pencils, acrylics, gouache, graphite, and charcoal. If you are looking to get an absorbent and versatile watercolour pad you should first consider the type of art you want to create and select an appropriate watercolour paper design that suits your type of medium. 

There are diverse types of watercolour pad surfaces including hot-pressed, cold and rough. The hot-pressed paper features a smooth surface that is often preferred by artists who tend to express detailed and precise artworks. These may include diverse types of botanical illustrations, graphite and coloured pencilled drawings, calligraphy or portraying detailed watercolour paintings. 

In comparison to the hot pressed, the cold-pressed paper features a slightly bumpy, textured design that can handle a variety of art techniques such as layering, lifting or glazing. This type of paper is more absorbent and doesn’t let your paint splash over especially when you create a watercolour painting. 

The rough design, on the other hand, is the most textured of the three main types of watercolour papers which makes it a suitable option for those who prefer the loose watercolour painting style. This technique allows the paint to interact with the surface enabling the artist to express more depth and interest in their artwork. 

Many artists prefer to choose rough watercolour pads for creating landscape paintings, as this texture creates the perfect surface for portraying the roughness and irregularities found in nature. In addition to selecting the right texture, you should pay attention to the material. Watercolour pads are often made by combining two materials in their design, cotton and wood pulp. The best option is pure cotton, as this material can absorb more water than wood pulp, providing a better quality surface for expressing a variety of textures and effects in your art.


While watercolour paper is a widely chosen material by artists, other types of surfaces provide an equally important role for artistic expression. Among these, the canvas is often a preferred medium. However, finding the right canvas can be challenging as there are so many options to choose from. For instance, there are smooth, rough, stretched canvas, linen canvas, etc. To find the ideal design you should consider the size of the art you plan to create, the type of mediums you are going to use as well as your budget. 

Smooth canvas surfaces are often chosen by artists who want to portray detailed artwork, such as intricate paintings and portraits. In comparison, the rough design displays a textured finish which makes it suitable for artist who want to add depth to their artwork. Similarly, different canvas materials can distinctly impact your art. 

For instance, cotton canvas is the most popular type of canvas surface which makes it suitable for using a variety of painting supplies, including, acrylic, watercolour and oil. Linen canvasses, on the other hand, are better suited for utilizing heavier layers of thick paint to portray details in creating realistic art. Professional artists often choose them due to their superior quality which promises longevity and durability of your art creation. While this type of surface is mostly used for painting, it’s also suitable for drawing or sketching which many artists usually do before they start to paint

Wooden Panels

To unlock your creative potential you need to let your imagination run wild. For many artists is not uncommon to explore diverse surfaces before they find the right choice for them. In recent times, wooden panels have gained widespread popularity, among artists. They feature a sturdy surface which allows them to engage with techniques such as heavy palette knife scraping and sanding. 

In addition to choosing the right technique, you can choose the shape and design of the wooden panel you plan to create your art on. Although these surfaces are widely chosen for painting with oil and acrylics, many artists use them to create intricate collage work, engage in decoupage technique or modelling creative shapes from clay.  

Sketching Pad

watercolour pad
Source: Pexels

In addition to all of these art surfaces, we mentioned so far, the sketching pad stands out as a versatile medium. It serves as a canvas for exploring an array of art techniques such as drawing sketching, doodling, or combining various art mediums such as pencils, ink or watercolour to create unique art pieces. To choose the right type of sketching paper, you should consider the medium you will be using that accommodates the weight of the chosen paper. 

For instance, if you choose to use ink or pen, you should look for sketching paper with a smoother surface. Thin sketching paper is usually used for drawing, doodling or sketching while thicker ones are better suited for charcoal and dry pastels.

Mastering art is a process, and many artists spend hours sketching and drawing to perfect their unique style. Therefore sketching paper serves as a fundamental art tool in each artist’s life. It is great for brainstorming and exploring various artistic concepts as well as experimenting with different techniques before applying them to their artwork.