Left: 6 x 6 inch page, sketch is about 5.5 x 4.5 inches, Stonehenge grey toned paper (don't know which grey for sure as you'll learn below in today's post) and gouache. A little bit of rubberstamp ink was used to complete the frame on the left side. (Orange watersoluble colored pencil sketch with Schmincke Horadam gouache.)
First, let's agree, never ever use the swatch samples on Blick to choose anything. They reflect a vague nod to reality. Find a paper site where they actually spend time on their digital imagery. Legion Paper has excellent digital swatches.
OK, why am I starting a rank on paper swatches?
The other day a student on Sketchbook Skool asked me about the paper I was using for a current project. (The project is one that the MCBA Visual Journal Collective is doing, and I'll have more to say about it when the project is over.)
I had decided to work in this small wirebound book of grey Stonehenge, because I like the versatility of Stonehenge for drawing with different media, and because I wanted to paint with gouache this month, and I love painting with gouache on toned Stonehenge.
When the student asked me which grey this was (as Stonehenge makes a couple) and told me that he was looking at the Blick site as a color reference I suggested that he and all the students interested in binding their own books invest in some swatch samples for papers they are interested in. And I wrote the following, which I thought would be of interest to blog readers. (And I've rewritten a little of it to make sense.)
Please note that not all colors of Stonehenge are great for folding. The four most recently released colors crack severely even when folded with the grain (which is essential for binding a sewn-signature book). I write about the cracking issue here. Since writing that post I did try folding the new grey and white papers and experienced more cracking than usual when compared to the other colors in the Stonehenge line. If in doubt, use the samples to narrow down the colors you're interested in and then purchase only a few sheets of each of those colors to test.
If you are binding your own books and you don't live near a store where you can go in and SEE the paper (if color is important to you) it's important you order sample sheets and books. Lots of companies offer these.
There are so many colors in the Stonehenge line that I think it's important, if you are considering a large purchase, that you have a sampler book on hand. Legion Paper sells one of these. Go to their sample department and scroll down to the bottom of the page where "swatchbooks" are listed. It's only $1.25 and all your confusion will be eliminated.
While you are on that page pay attention also to the other samples offered as well.
In the sheet section that starts the page, there are entire "collections" you can get that are worthwhile. These are boxes filled with 8-1/2 x 11 inch samples (and other sizes) with which you can actually do a decent folding test and also do some drawing or painting testing on.
I recommend that if you're a binder you purchase these swatches and paper samplers to have on hand and to go through for testing with the different media you like to use.
For instance if you like grey paper, on that same sample page linked above, scroll down the page to "Shades of Grey Sampler" and click on the arrow to the left of that heading. It will open up a display of a bunch of sheets that they are including in that sampler.
In that sampler there are 16 sheets of 8 x 9 inch paper for $7.00. That's a good deal for a sampler. And 8 x 9 inch is a good size again, for testing folding and painting/drawing characteristics, if you're systematic.
Additionally, by clicking on any one of those images of grey paper that have appeared when you clicked on the arrow, you'll be taken to a full page where there is a discussion of the characteristics of that paper. Where appropriate, when you click on one of these images, there will be additional colors of that sheet shown.
Legion is also great about giving you a sample enlargement on a particular paper page so that you can move your mouse over it and see the texture, which is important to all of us because of our media and working method needs.
I've actually written a post about buying and using samples and some places to get them. (NOTE: Since the writing of that post in 2010, Daniel Smith has stopped selling paper so you can forget about them as a source for samplers.)
Your local paper store might also put together sample packets of papers they carry. I know that Wet Paint in St. Paul, MN, has paper sample packets for watercolor and printmaking (maybe drawing too).
In fact most paper companies will sell you a swatch book.
So if you go to any mill's website there should be a link somewhere there directing you to where you can buy samples.
Those samples will usually be swatch books and not larger loose sheets, but you can at least verify colors. (Remember there can be slight variations between batches—and always keep your sample books out of the light unless you want to see how the paper color fades when exposed to light.) (I store my samples in a black archival box and in my flat file.)
Don't give up on commercial printing papers either. We used a Fox River paper when binding the Minnesota Journal Project 2000 journals. (We bound 50 books containing it.) That paper held up well to the writing and mixed media that the 46 or so artists who completed the project threw at it—and believe me they threw everything at that paper. (I found it fine for working with watercolor and gouache.)
For commercial printing papers you'll have to go to a paper distributor like Anchor Paper (here in the Cities). There you can see the paper and buy it in large sheets, or regular cuts that go through copiers and such.
Typically you will also be able to pay to have a large sheet trimmed in a certain way. So for instance, if you need a final folded page size of 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages you can get them to trim the parent sheet (which will be probably in the neighborhood of 40 x 30 inches or more) to 17 x 11 inch sheets. But you have to make sure, even though that's a typical, usual size, that you specify which way you want the grain to run because paper mean to be used flat to run through the copier or mechanized printer is cut to facilitate that running and not to be folded and made into books. Most 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that I've seen is cut with the grain running with the 11 inch side. All you could get out of it is a tall narrow book if you fold it with the grain. Don't assume that the 17 x 11 will be cut the same way (grain running with the 11 inch side). NEVER ASSUME when ordering paper from these companies. Talk to the vendor and explain how you need the grain to run. You can find Anchor Paper Express in the TwinCities here.
If you are going to do anything in your project which involves first running the paper through the inkjet or toner printer BEFORE you do other journaling on it, as we did in the 2013 MCBA Visual Journal Collective Not-So-Blank-Page-Journal Project be sure you get a small amount of paper to test through the equipment you'll be using, and then test with your final medial before you invest heavily in having a lot of paper cut.(You can see my journal at that link.)
Widen your search for papers for visual journaling. I think you'll find a lot of papers out there that might work for your particular media needs. Swatch books and samples will help you test out your ideas.