Choosing the right surface for oil painting can completely enhance your practice. There are several properties that make particular oil painting papers more durable and conducive to the oil paint medium.
You don’t need canvas to paint with oils, there are many benefits to using oil painting paper instead. Paper for oil painting is a much more budget friendly option, it’s more lightweight and it’s commonly used for sketches. However, you can frame and hang an oil painting made on paper too.
It’s not possible to paint on just any kind of paper with oil paints. It’s imperative to either prepare the surface first, or choose a paper specifically designed for oil painting. In this guide, find the best oil painting paper from our 9 picks.
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Rembrandt Oil Painting Paper Block
Attributes: 300gsm, block format, fine canvas texture, acid-free
The oil painting paper blocks come in two sizes of ten sheets, with ultra thick, 300gsm paper. Paint to achieve details and smooth blends, the texture resembles canvas with a subtle fine weave.
Rembrandt oil paper is glued on four sides, which prevents buckling and warping whilst painting onto. This paper is designed for professional work and is exceptional quality. It’s slightly more expensive that some of the budget options on this list, but it’s still affordable. Plus, the heavy paper weight makes it worthwhile. Artists can use this paper for compositional sketches, studies, or final saleable artworks.
This paper feels less absorbent than Arches paper, meaning that paint sits on top, appearing more vibrant.
Hahnemühle Oil Painting Paper
Attributes: suitable for mixed media, glossy linen texture, acid-free, block format
The linen texture finish makes it feel like you’re painting on canvas and prevents colours from being absorbed into the paper fibres completely. This makes colours appear more saturated and means that colours won’t bleed through the paper.
This paper is more expensive than some of the others on the list, but colours do appear incredibly luminous on the paper due to the glossy finish.
All four sides of the paper come glued down when bought in a pad format, this provides a stable surface to paint on. However, the sheets should be carefully removed from the block with a palette knife or butter knife. The oil painting paper works great with mixed media, like pastels, acrylic, casein, ink, gouache and oils.
Hahnemühle papers are considered some of the highest quality, are acid-free, age resistant and a joy to work with.
RayMar Oil Paper Panels
Attributes: 300gsm paper mounted on panel, durable and strong, archival and acid-free, non-warping
These RayMar oil paper panels are unique, so if you love trying different types of art supplies, this could be a new favourite. They are made from archival quality, heavyweight paper sheets that have been mounted on ⅛” MDF panel using PH neutral adhesive.
This is an incredibly convenient surface to work on, you get the look, feel and texture of paper, but it’s premouted. Choose a frame of your choice, like a panel frame, without the need for glass. If you want to avoid the hassle of mounting paper, this is a great option.
The paper absorbs solvent, binder and water evenly, whilst allowing the pigment and paint to remain on the surface, bringing vibrance to your work. These panels are less textured than linen panels, which is another advantage for artists wanting to create a smooth appearance in their work, for example in skin tone transitions.
Arches Oil Painting Paper
Attributes: 300gsm, acid-free, high quality, absorbent, uses animal products, cold pressed texture
This paper is a favourite paper for oil painting amongst professional artists. It comes in two different formats; buy the paper as individual sheets, or in a pad. Arches use gelatine to size the paper, as opposed to most other papers on this list which don’t use animal products. The paper has a cold pressed texture, similar to watercolour paper.
No surface preparation is required when using this paper, so you can get started with painting straight away.
The paper has an oil barrier, which makes colours appear vibrant on the surface. It absorbs solvent and binder evenly, allowing for thin applications of paint and equally withstands thicker oil painting techniques. This paper is a little more absorbent compared to some other oil papers, such as Rembrandt.
Arches oil painting paper sheets come in a range of different sizes that artists can cut to their preferred size. The oil painting pads come in a useful tear off pad format, with 12 sheets that are glued on one side.
Strathmore 400 Series Oil Painting Paper
Attributes: 350gsm, acid-free
Thicker than the Strathmore 300 series canvas paper, this oil painting paper will be able to take heavy brushwork techniques. The linen texture surface aids with the paint blending and colour adhesion. It’s smooth enough to create fine details and seamless blends.
Use this paper for oil painting or oil pastels. It will accept multiple layers and is compatible with various mediums, such as solvent, added oil, alkyd and even cold wax. The weight of the paper makes it feel sturdy, durable and warp resistant. It’s heavy enough to use for final pieces that can be mounted and framed, rather than just for sketches.
The Strathmore 400 series oil painting paper is a more economical option compared to buying canvas, however, it is more expensive than the Strathmore 300 series and Canson’s student grade XL paper.
One issue that some artists have reported having with this paper, is that masking tape removes some of the coating from the surface. If using masking, make sure to use a low tack, artist grade tape. One trick is to heat the tape with a hairdryer, then slowly peel it back. This will make the adhesive less tacky and easier to remove.
Canson Foundation Canva Paper
Attributes: 290gsm, acid-free, economical, linen texture
Canson paper has a texture that could be described as being similar to linen, with a subtle grain that makes for an enjoyable painting experience.
This paper comes in three different formats, rolled sheets that can be cut to size, pads and boards. The rigid backing of the oil paper boards makes the framing process easier. Oil paper in roll format offers artists the flexibility to work at any size they like, the largest size Canson Foundation Canva paper comes in is 48″ x 10 yd.
This paper is slightly cheaper compared to Arches and is suitable for use with mixed media. The barrier on the surface is designed to absorb both oil and water evenly. Making the paper the perfect surface for use with acrylic paint, oil pastel and even gouache.
Strathmore 300 Series Canvas Paper Pads
Attributes: 187gsm, comes in black, canvas texture
The Strathmore 300 series oil paper pads come in books of 10 sheets, glued on one edge. This oil painting paper is 187gsm, so it’s more lightweight than other papers on the market. Sheets come in two colours, white and black, so you have the option of working on a dark surface without having to tone the paper first. With black paper, artists can create dramatic looking highlights, shadows and tones.
This is a reasonably priced paper for the size and weight and it is suitable for working with mixed media techniques, like acrylic, tempera, gouache casein and oil.
The canvas texture allows for excellent adhesion of colours, however the lighter paper weight may not be suitable for heavier washes of solvent.
Winsor & Newton Oil & Acrylic Pads
Attributes: canvas texture, 230gsm, budget friendly, acid-free
This smooth, canvas textured oil painting paper is also suitable for use with acrylic paints and has a warm white finish. No priming is required as the sheets have been sized to withstand use with oil binders, solvent and water.
The sheets are glued on the shortest side, for ease of removal. Compared to the pricier papers on this list, it’s slightly lighter in weight. However, it has been developed for use with heavier brushwork techniques and multiple oil layers.
Colours on this paper look bright and luminous, overall it is a great budget friendly option. It is less absorbent than other papers, for example Arches paper, meaning heavier applications of colours won’t soak through.
Canson XL Oil and Acrylic Pads
Attributes: 290gsm, student-grade, acid-free, budget friendly, canvas texture
Each pad contains 24 sheets, which makes this paper the most budget friendly on the list. The paper performs like professional grade paper, at a cheaper price. This paper would be suitable for artists who want to plan painting sketches, or colour compositions, or for beginners who want to practice and track their progress.
Canson XL paper has a canvas texture, is a natural white in colour and is acid-free. This means that paintings created on the paper will last, without degrading over time. With this paper, you can frame and hang the artwork, without worrying about paper fibres yellowing.
Best budget friendly oil painting paper
Rembrandt oil painting paper is inexpensive and in terms of quality, brings the best value of all the papers. If you want to find the cheapest oil paper that will withstand use with oil binders, solvents and pigments for use in the classroom or for practice studies, the Canson XL oil painting paper is a great choice.
How is oil painting paper different from other papers?
Paper for oil painting will have been sized with a coating to prevent oil from sinking in and ruining the paper fibres. If you were to paint on any other type of paper with oils, as the oil paint oxidises, the paper fibres would degrade and become brittle. The sizing on the paper ensures that colours sit on the surface and remain bright in appearance.
Paper designed for oil painting is much less brittle and stiff. For example, if you were to work on watercolour paper that you had applied a few coats of gesso to, it would feel more brittle compared to oil painting paper.
What attributes make for a great oil painting paper?
The thicker the paper the more durable and better able to withstand more gestural painting techniques. Cotton oil painting paper has stronger fibres compared to wood pulp, it’s less likely to tear and warp. On top of paper thickness and the materials used to make it, the sizing (coating) of the paper should be resistant to solvent, water and oil binders. Bear in mind that Arches Huile paper uses gelatine to size their papers.
Should you prepare paper with gesso before oil painting?
Paper made for oil painting doesn’t need any extra preparation. You can start working on it straight away. However, no paper is completely resistant to oil seeping through the paper fibres. To be extra safe, you could paint a layer of gesso over the top of your oil painting paper.
Other types of paper that don’t have the protective coating that papers made for oil painting do, should be sealed and then painted with a few coats of gesso to create a foundation layer.
What types of paper are suitable for oil painting?
Any heavyweight paper can be suitable for working with oil paints, as long as you prepare the surface with a sealant, like GAC-100 and paint a few coats of gesso. Other than that, all the papers in this list work perfectly with oil painting.
Can you use watercolour paper with oil paints?
You can use watercolour paper for oil painting, however you must use a thicker paper at around 300gsm. Seal watercolour paper with an acrylic sealant, then paint a few layers of gesso primer on the paper. Wait for it to dry overnight, then the paper will be ready for oil painting.
What are the benefits of painting on paper with oil paints?
Oil painting paper is much more portable compared to canvas or wooden panel. Simply take your oil pad out to paint plein air. You don’t even need to take an easel if you’re working directly on the pad. Because oil painting paper is much lighter in weight compared to canvas and panel, it’s also much easier to transport and ship if you sell your work. You will end up paying less for delivery costs.
Painting on a more economical surface is less inhibiting, giving artists free rein to express and make mistakes without worrying about ruining an expensive surface. Use the paper for practice sketches, to plan compositions, for smaller studies or for final pieces.
Many artists enjoy the feel of painting on paper. It feels smooth, less textured than canvas and colours look rich on the surface.
How to hang an artwork on oil painting paper
Handle oil paintings on paper with care. When dry, oil paint is a naturally brittle medium. A flexible surface like paper, if bent or warped could potentially cause paint films to crack. This is why it’s essential to mount paper on a backing board before framing, to provide extra surface stability.
Before varnishing, framing and hanging an artwork, make sure that the paint is completely dry. If you’re using a resin based varnish like damar resin, you will need to wait for the paint to completely cure, which can take a few months, depending on how thinly you have applied the paint. However, you can use Gamvar varnish as soon as the painting is dry to the touch.
Frame an oil painting on paper in much the same way as you would with a watercolour painting or drawing. You can frame mounted paper in a panel frame. Make sure to varnish the painting to protect it from UV and other environmental damage. Otherwise, mount the paper then frame it behind glass. Museum glass frames will provide the best protection.
Painting on paper at an easel
To paint on paper at an easel, you will need to either mount it to a board, or tape it to a board to secure it in place. Paper is too flimsy to work at an easel, so get a MDF panel, or hardboard and some artist grade, low tack masking tape and secure the paper in place whilst painting. The RayMar oil paper panels are sturdy and perfect for working at an easel.
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