This is the second part of my three-article series on acrylic paints art supply, this one focusing on getting the best acrylic painting paper. As you probably already know, getting the right paper for acrylic painting, or for any artwork, is super important. It can determine how good your work looks, how smooth and enjoyable the process is, how long the finished piece lasts and more.
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Table of Contents
So I am happy to share my own experience – I have, after all, tried about a gazillion different papers – to help you find the best paper for acrylic painting. In this article we will try to answer some basic questions that come up all the time, like:
- What is the best paper for use with acrylic paint?
- What is the best acrylic paper overall?
- Is paper as good as canvas for painting with acrylics?
- Can I use acrylic paint on watercolor paper?
- Can I use normal art paper with acrylic paint?
- Is mixed media paper good for painting with acrylics?
- Does Canson make good acrylic paper?
- What is the best brand of paper available today?
And please make sure to check out the other two articles in this series on the best art supplies for acrylic painting in 2021:
What is the Best Acrylic Painting Paper
Sometimes before I write these articles I like to check out other blogs, art sites and art supplies guides, to maybe get some new ideas or fresh perspectives, and just to see what others think. And usually, this is a good idea…
But this time, after reading approximately 892 art supply websites on which is the best acrylic paper, all I can say is wow! “This paper is brilliant for acrylics; no, it’s terrible for acrylics. This other kind of paper is highly recommended; no, it’s totally the wrong type. Don’t use paper at all; no, paper is better than canvas.” Jennifer Aniston from Friends is in a really peaceful place in her life right now 🙂 oops, got sidetracked there for a moment! “Hot press, cold press, toothed, smooth, on and on”.
It all ends up being so confusing that I can see a young, enthusiastic artist, just starting out, suddenly considering a career in accounting.
But then I thought “hey, Iva, what in the world are you doing? You have tons of your own experience, you’ve tried all kinds of paper.”
What is the Best Paper for Acrylics — Take II
So, ahem, based on my own experience, I would like to talk very briefly about the four basic kinds of paper you might consider for painting with acrylics. But – spoiler alert – I will say right up front that overall I most strongly recommend a paper that is specifically designed for acrylic paint (unless you are going for a very specific effect, or perhaps mixing media), and that I am not really considering normal light bond paper in this mix at all, since it won’t give good results unless you spend the time and money to specially coat and prep it, and then it, well, won’t give good results…
I strongly recommend making things simple and just using paper designed to be used specifically with acrylic paint (or, often, for acrylic and/or oil paint). This paper will take acrylic paint better, allow for more control and a wider variety of techniques and effects, provide sharper, more intense colors and images, and stay more straight and undamaged, without warping or pilling.
Like paper for acrylics, this can save you a lot of extra work and provide more consistent results, pleasing and predictable flow, sharper images, and the best color rendition. Often expensive, canvas paper will give you the closest look and feel to actual stretched canvas that you can get, and is suitable for even fine art, display pieces and paintings you might want to sell.
If you use watercolor paper, make sure it is heavy and won’t absorb too much moisture. This will not only assure more controllable flow, more vivid colors and more consistent results, but will also keep the paper from buckling or warping. This type of paper will still give a nice, light watercolor kind of result, with bleeding, flow between sections, softer images and borders, more translucent colors, and such.
Mixed Media Paper
A decent compromise between the flowy nature of watercolor paper and the more sharp and controllable results you will get with paper for acrylic paint, mixed media pads are a good bet if you are on a limited budget and will be using them with different types of paint, inks, pencils and whatever else you may want to spread over paper to make art. As with watercolor paper, with mixed media paper you want a stock that is heavier, to provide better results and less paper warping or possible damage.
So, I guess I am saying that my strong preference is for acrylics paper, or canvas paper, which I feel give the best and most consistent results. But I also sometimes use and recommend heavy watercolor paper, which can give a totally different look to a painting and mixed media paper for practice, versatility, or real cost-savings.
How Can You Find the Best Acrylic Painting Paper?
There are other considerations too when selecting the best paper for acrylics, like PH level, acid free stock, tooth and finish, size and price, but rest assured that I will take all of that into account in my recommendations below, and only list papers I know work wonderfully, and papers that will make your work look the best it can – not only now but for years to come.
I will list my top recommendations for the best acrylics paper art supplies, in order of preference, and for each type of paper I will make a top recommendation and a budget recommendation. But if you like the shorthand version, here’s my spoiler list:
Overview: Best Acrylic Paper for Artists in 2021
- Arteza Canvas Pad
- Arches 300 Lb Watercolor Block Cold Pressed 12x16
- Yupo Heavy White Synthetic Paper
- Canson Artist Series Montval Acrylic Pad
- Canson Figueras Oil & Acrylic Canvas-Like Paper Block
9 x 12 Inches, 10 Sheets, 100% Cotton, 12.3-oz Gesso Primed, Glue-Bound Canvas Paper for Oil and Acrylic Painting, Art Supplies for Mixed Media Techniques, Pack of 2
Cold Pressed Paper for Watercolors and Acrylics
300 lb / 640GSM, 12" x 16", 10 Sheets
Heavy White Synthetic Paper Pads 11" x 14"; 10 Sheets per Pad; 390 GSM 144 LB; Acid Free; 100% Polypropylene; Suitable for Watercolor, Alcohol Inks and Acrylics
Sized Heavyweight No-Buckle Paper, Fold Over, 185 Pound, 12 x 16 Inch, 10 Sheets
290gsm Paper Block Including 10 Sheets, Size:50x65cm~20x26 inches, Canvas-Like Texture
And at the end, in the Bonus section, I will briefly discuss three more options – stretched canvas, canvas paper pads and treated boards – more expensive, usually, but also better quality and perhaps more suitable for fine art and display pieces.
Best Acrylic Paper
A big, sturdy pad of premium art paper, the Canson Montval acrylics paper is designed for, and ideally suited to, acrylic paint, with just the right amount and type of texture, the ideal level of absorptivity so that it will take the paint but not pill, bleed, buckle or warp, and an acid free composition to provide essentially archival quality.
And while lots of papers, both more and less expensive, claim all of these things, I think I’ve probably tried each and every one of them – well, not really, since there are probably hundreds and hundreds, but a lot of them – and Canson paper for acrylics is simply nicer to work with, allowing more control and precision and making the paint, and the image, really pop.
Not at all expensive, Canson Artist Series Montval acrylic art paper pads are an amazing value, too, and my easy choice for the best acrylic paint paper on the market today.
Best Budget Acrylic Paper
Yeah, the Canson is already a really good value, but the Arteza paper pad for acrylics is very, very close in terms of quality, durability, performance with acrylic paint and pleasing usability, and is even more affordable.
In fact, the two things that I love most about Canson paper – how it feels when I’m using it and how it makes my art look – are pretty much the same with the Arteza pad. It may not be quite the same quality overall, but it is less expensive and is still far better than other paper I’ve used for acrylics, at this price level or even higher.
A wonderful bargain, this two pack is inexpensive enough that you won’t hold back in practicing, experimenting or just painting to paint, and good enough that your results will be as beautiful – and encouraging – as possible. An easy choice, then, for the best budget paper for acrylic paint in 2021.
Best Canvas Paper for Acrylics
290gsm Paper Block Including 10 Sheets, Size:50x65cm~20x26 inches, Canvas-Like Texture
I should say upfront that this canvas paper is actually, in many ways, preferable over my top recommendation – the Canson Montval acrylics paper listed above – and gives as close to true canvas painting experience you can get. However, I rate the Montval acrylic paper higher because it is quite a bit less expensive, more practical and convenient, and still yields splendid results.
But Canson Figueras canvas-like paper is truly amazing to work with, and definitely worth the extra money and effort. The way it holds paint and repels moisture, the way brush strokes stand up on the surface, the control, precision and detail it allows, the way the colors appear – accurate and correct, and with stunning saturation and energy – is just awesome.
For fine art, serious work, display pieces or sales items, Canson Figueras Oil & Acrylic Canvas-Like Paper Block is the best choice short of actual stretched canvases, and my choice for best canvas paper for acrylic paint and painting on the market today.
Best Budget Canvas Paper for Acrylics
Not of the same superb quality as the Canson canvas paper above, the Arteza Canvas Pad is nonetheless a wonderful choice for a nearly canvas like work surface, with essentially all the benefits, and at a much lower price, than either the Canson or an actual stretched canvas.
With a perfect texture for either acrylic or oil painting, ideal absorptivity, good heavy weight and paper quality that will resist tears, warping and pilling, the Arteza canvas pad makes acrylics look stunning, and offers extremely high levels of precision and control, and at the same time a wonderful flow.
A great choice for a student or new artist on a budget, the relentless experimenter or practicer, or anybody who wants their practice pieces to look as good as possible, the Arteza canvas pad is also a fine choice for finished paintings, and is an obvious choice for the best budget canvas paper for acrylics in 2021.
Best Watercolor Paper for Acrylics
The topic of using watercolor paper for acrylics is where you really begin to see a lot of conflicting opinions, arguments, opposite recommendations and general confusion. Questions like:
- What is the best finish for acrylics – hot press or cold press?
- What GSM (weight in grams per square meter) paper is best for acrylics?
- Is watercolor paper even a good idea for acrylics?
- How is painting with acrylics on watercolor paper different?
…never seem to get answered satisfactorily, or definitely, and really all I can do is share my own experience and preferences.
While cold press paper is a little more absorptive than hot press, which can cause issues with warping and pilling, as well as sometimes too much bleeding and blending and too little sharpness or precision, if you opt for a really heavy stock you should avoid any problems, and the surface of cold press paper is really wonderful for painting.
This is especially true of Arches 300 pound cold press watercolor paper, which is of such high quality and great weight that you never have to worry about warping, surface degradation or even rips and tears, and at the same time has a fabulous surface texture for applying paint with real precision and holding it in place.
And while I may not make a watercolor paper my first choice for acrylic paints, if you are using fluid acrylics or strongly thinned heavy body paint it does work wonderfully, giving a beautifully washy and translucent watercolor kind of experience, if that is what you are going for. And I have to say that the Arches watercolor paper in particular is just a joy to use.
Extremely high quality and very versatile, Arches cold press paper is a real favorite among commercial and fine artists, and is my choice for best watercolor paper for acrylics today.
- Arches Watercolor Block 12×16, 300lb Cold Press 10 Sheets
- Arches Watercolor Block 10×14, 300lb Cold Press 10 Sheets
- Arches Watercolor Block 9×12, 300lb Cold Press 10 Sheets
Best Budget Watercolor Paper for Acrylics
Acrylic paper or canvas paper is, I feel, better overall for acrylic painting than watercolor paper, but I have to say that a good inexpensive cold press, heavy weight watercolor paper can make a lot of sense for a budget minded artist or art student. It not only makes for a perfectly adequate acrylic painting experience but also allows for experimentation with different consistencies of acrylic paints, lots of techniques and styles, and also can be used for watercolors and many other media.
Fluid 100 paper is the best example of this I have found. For its low price it offers performance quite similar to the Arches above, and a wonderful painting experience overall, staying flat and undamaged, holding paint perfectly, allowing all kinds of basic and advanced techniques and really responding well to acrylic paints of any consistency.
One of the least expensive high quality heavy stock watercolor papers on the market today, the Fluid 100 300 pound watercolor pad is a wonderful product which people invariably love using, and is my clear choice for the best budget watercolor paper for acrylic paints in 2021.
Best Mixed Media Paper for Acrylics
I know, I said earlier that I recommend mixed media paper for anybody on a tight budget, and Yupo isn’t exactly a cheap paper. For that you’ll have to look to the Canson XL, just below.
That said, Yupo Heavy White is simply the finest mixed media paper I’ve ever used. Heavy and durable, non-absorptive, with a wonderful slight texture that works perfectly for acrylic, oil, pen and ink, markers, pencils, computer printing and more, and for combining media in a single artwork.
Whatever type of work you are doing, or media you are using, you will notice a precision and control with Yupo paper that you might never before have experienced. And it is liftable, meaning that you can lay one, or even several, layers down and then rub it all off and start over. Once you’re done and satisfied with a painting, though, you can spray a sealant over your beautiful work and have an archival quality piece.
Anyway, to be fair, it isn’t really that expensive, and since it is essentially reusable it actually can be considered a real value (of course I think that quality is always the best value), and a good choice for budget-conscious artists, art students and crafters.
A bit of a secret among more serious artists, Yupo Heavy White synthetic pads are absolutely superb, not just the best mixed media paper for acrylics, but quite probably the best mixed media paper on the market today. Highly recommended!
- Yupo L21 Heavy White Synthetic Paper 11×14
- Yupo L21 Heavy White Synthetic Paper 11×14 – 4 Pack
- Yupo L21 Heavy White Synthetic Paper 9×12
Best Budget Mixed Media Paper for Acrylics
Not just the most popular paper on Amazon, Canson Mix Media is also almost certainly the best affordable choice, and is definitely my favorite budget mixed media paper, for acrylics and anything else.
The big, heavy Canson paper has a good amount of sizing (surface treatment to reduce absorptivity) to work well with both watercolor and acrylics, not to mention pretty much any other media you might consider, like ink, oil paint, graphite, markers, computer printing and more. It is acid free and holds up well with wet materials, layering, erasing and mixed media.
A perfect choice – cheap enough to make you feel free to experiment, practice and create to your heart’s content, and yet high quality enough that you can make beautiful finished pieces that are suitable for display or commercial clients – Canson Mix Media XL pads are my choice for best budget mixed media paper for acrylics.
Bonus: Is Paper Really a Reasonable Alternative to Actual Canvas?
To start out I should say that this is just a small closing section, and not in any way a buyer’s guide to the best stretched art canvases – that would take a lot more room and a much more thorough treatment.
Still, though, with all of this talk about the best paper for acrylic paints, I think I should say a couple of words about the “real deal” – that is, painting on canvas.
Painting on a stretched and properly prepared canvas is in many ways a wholly different experience. The paint is more controllable, flows better, shows better – with more accurate and consistent color and better color saturation, more clear and precise details, more obvious and effective techniques and more – and the overall result is often in kind of a different league.
Plus, the perceived value of an acrylic painting on canvas, especially framed canvas, will always be higher than on paper.
All of these things also apply, if to a somewhat lesser extent, to painting on acrylics with a canvas board, and it should be noted that a good value pack of high quality canvas boards may not be more expensive than the best acrylic paper.
Is painting with acrylics on canvas better than on paper? Well, in some ways yes, in some ways no. Acrylic on paper has a different look and feel, and has the advantage of being much more affordable and convenient, and if it is good paper the painting can really last. Many artists actually prefer using paper, and quite a few even like the looks of the finished art better on paper.
At the end of the day, I would really want my students – and would encourage all of you out there – to try both. And if you are not practicing or experimenting, but really setting your heart and mind to creating a masterpiece, a display piece, a gallery piece, a sales piece, a piece for an annoyingly picky client, I would almost certainly at least consider using a good quality canvas.
At any rate, here are a couple of suggestions for some of the best pre-prepped and pre-stretched canvases you can get – one for a single premium art canvas, in three different sizes, and one for a great value variety pack of excellent canvases – as well as a third recommendation for a high quality artist pack of canvas boards at a really great price.
- Milo Gallery Profile Stretched Canvas 36x48
- Milo Gallery Profile Stretched Canvas 30x40
36x48 inches | 2 Pack | 1.5” inch Thick Gallery Profile | 11 oz Primed Large Canvases for Painting, Ready to Paint Art Supplies for Acrylic, Oil, Mixed Media
30x40 inches | 4 Pack | 1.5” inch Thick Gallery Profile | 11 oz Primed Large Canvases for Painting, Ready to Paint Art Supplies for Acrylic, Oil, Mixed Media
Thanks so much for reading this latest article on art supply – The Best Art Paper for Acrylic Paint: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide. Check out the other two articles in this series: The Best Acrylic Paint for Artists: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide and The Best Paint Brushes for Acrylic Paint: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide, and please make sure to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more!