Alcohol markers are excellent for all kinds of art. They are particularly prized by illustrators, architectural designers, and calligraphy artists because they blend exceptionally well and can produce a wonderful flat edge.
Most alcohol markers will be dual-tipped. You’ll have a large chisel tip on one end and a finer detail nib onto the other side. This allows you to do large swathes of color as well as finer more detailed rolls.
Alcohol markers have a lot of wonderful qualities. They are vibrant, strong, and in most cases permanent. However, the strength of the markers also brings some issues.
The major problem you’ll run into is bleeding. It’s not as lethal as it sounds but it is a pain in the neck that can ruin your sketchpad.
Bleeding occurs when the paper is not thick enough or absorbent enough to manage the ink that comes out of the pen. When ink bleeds through the paper it ruins the page below and also causes the paper to pile.
Piling is when the paper is so wet it begins to crumble and pieces pull away from the page. It’s a bit like scratching your skin. The top layer flakes off and you end up with bits all over your drawing surface.
Inevitably, poor quality paper will end up tearing if you use alcohol markers. It just can’t cope with the amount of ink and liquidity.
Another reason to splash out on some decent paper is to make sure your colors are displaying correctly. Poor quality paper is often off-white which means that your colors will look different from what you’re expecting.
To save you from these problems, we’ve gathered together 5 of the best sketch pads and papers on the market. We’ve also created a buyer’s guide to help you understand what you should look for when purchasing paper for your alcohol markers.
Dye-ing to get started? Here’s our top pick:
- Portable sketchpad.
- Cardboard covers to give you a firm surface to draw on.
- Bleed proof.
- Page protector supplied.
- Perforated pages.
- Smooth grain.
OUR TOP PICK
Ohuhu is a company that began as a way of bringing high-quality supplies to artists at a fairly low cost.
Their 8.9” x 8.3” portable sketchpad seems to fit their brief.
At 200gsm this paper is thick. It is right on the cusp of cardstock.
The paper is billed as “100% bleed proof” which is a bold claim to make. Most customers seem to agree, however.
There are one or two reports of the image ghosting through to the next page but no reports of the next sheet being ruined.
Just to make doubly sure, Ohuhu supplies a plastic page protector that can be slipped between sheets to prevent bleeding.
The size of this sketchbook is great. It’s small enough to fit in a bag but not so small you’re pinched for space.
One issue we have is the left-hand spiral binding. As a left-hander, I always hate spiral-bound sketchbooks.
It’s annoying because you either have to flip it or work around the binding.
We also love the fact that the edges are perforated. This means you can remove your drawing and frame it when you’re finished.
- 60 sheets of paper.
- Bleed proof.
- Small, portable size.
- Fine, smooth grain.
- Spiral-bound on left. This could be difficult for lefties.
- Small drawing surface.
Now, if you want loose cardstock this is a great choice! You get a whole ream for under $20. That’s excellent value!
Of course, the downside is that you’ll need a folder or display book to keep all your artwork together.
If you’re selling your art, this could be a great way to keep your overhead costs down.
You get 250 sheets of great quality paper and you don’t need to ruin a sketchpad by pulling pages out!
The paper is super smooth and does not encourage feathering.
It’s actually designed for use in printers so that should give you an idea of the smoothness.
To be clear though, it is not printer paper. It is 271gsm making it a fairly thick cardstock.
We love this stuff and wish it came in sketchbook format.
One of the best things about this paper is the fact that it is environmentally friendly.
It meets Amazon’s Climate Pledge criteria meaning it is sourced responsibly and has a reduced carbon footprint.
- 250 sheets.
- Super smooth finish.
- Bright, vibrant colors.
- Incredible value for money.
- Environmentally friendly.
- Loose paper.
The reviews of this paper are very positive.
Customers are incredibly satisfied with the smooth grain, the bleed-proof capabilities, and the blending potential of this paper.
Many of them have supplied pictures of the artwork created on this paper and it is amazing!
Of course, the paper only supports the artist, but this paper is really supportive!
At only 180gsm, you’d expect a fair amount of bleed through.
However, according to the reviews, this paper does not bleed. This seems to be in part due to the smooth surface.
It makes it a less absorbent paper so the ink tends to sit at the surface for a while this is excellent for blending.
It is made by Beepaper who is a fine arts paper company based in the US.
Their products have a pedigree and honestly, this pad lives up to the company name.
The paper is marked as Aquabee which means that it can take light wet media.
This is not particularly useful for markers but it does mean you can diversify if you want to.
The final thing to love about this pad is the price. You can choose a 30 or 50 sheet sketchpad and still be under $20.
For the quality of the paper, this is astounding value.
- Smooth finish.
- Bleed proof.
- Excellent value for money.
- Great for blending.
- Some reports that the paper sucks up ink.
This is another spiral-bound sketchbook but the binding is along the top of the paper.
This is much better for left-handed artists.
It also means you can, theoretically use both pages because you won’t be knocked off by the binding.
The sheer amount of sheets in this pad is excellent. You get 100 sheets of 160gsm paper for under $20! That’s an incredible price!
While you do get 200 pages, the reality is that you can’t really take advantage of all the pages.
At 160gsm the paper is on the thinner side and does cause a bit of bleed-through.
You’ll probably want to put something between the sheets as you work.
This is an acid-free paper which means it will preserve your drawing for longer.
It’s also made from recycled materials which should put your conscience at ease.
The paper is smooth so you won’t get any feathering.
That’s great news because you’ll be able to get nice, neat lines. To be honest we think that for the price, this paper is excellent.
- 100 sheets.
- 160gsm paper.
- Smooth textured.
- Bound along the top edge.
- Perforated sheets.
- Some reports of bleeding.
- Does tear if not treated lightly.
At 300gsm, this is the thickest paper on our list. It’s also the most expensive per sheet.
This pad only has 25 sheets which is what really tanks the value for money.
That being said, this paper is incredible. It’s actually a synthetic paper made from polypropylene with an ultra-smooth surface.
There is absolutely no chance of feathering as the grain is almost non-existent.
This paper is somewhat similar to Yupo paper which is a popular synthetic paper.
The main benefit of this kind of paper is that you can erase inks with a damp cloth and not have to worry about it staining or tearing.
If you make a mistake, you can just wipe it away. Most customers seem to agree that the paper is very good in this way.
It doesn’t absorb the ink and you can return it to pretty much its original state.
You will need to buy a separate product to seal your artwork. If you don’t seal it will smudge and degrade which is not what you want.
- Synthetic manufacturing process creates a super smooth surface.
- Can be wiped clean if you make mistakes.
- Large drawing surface.
- Bleed proof.
- Requires final fixing.
- Limited number of sheets.
To help you understand what you’re looking for in a good quality paper, we’ve put together this guide. It’ll talk you through all the different considerations and decisions you’ll need to make when buying paper.
The first thing to get right is the thickness of the paper. In all honesty, paper isn’t really ideal for alcohol markers.
The best surface for alcohol markers is cardstock. It is thick, sturdy, and unlikely to rip or tear even after several coats of ink.
Before we take a look at what constitutes paper and cardstock, let’s first talk about gsm.
Standing for grams per square meter, gsm is a measure of the thickness of paper or card stock. What it actually measures is the weight of the paper per square meter.
400gsm paper is obviously much thicker than 50gsm. The extra thickness explains why it weighs so much more.
Cardstock usually starts at 200gsm and can go up to around 400gsm. Cardstock closer to 200gsm will still be bendable but not floppy, it’s the kind of stuff used for magazine covers and high-quality flyers.
Cardstock with a gsm closer to 400 is more like business cards or invitations. It’s not very bendy. In fact, it’s liable to crack if you try to bend or fold it.
Now, while cardstock is preferable, it’s quite difficult to come across in sketchbook form. Usually, it is sold as a pack of loose cardstock or as individual sheets.
Our recommendation is to buy as thick a sketchpad as possible for practice and keep the cardstock for final pieces. It’ll save you money and be easier to organize.
When you’re looking for a practice sketchpad, try to go for something over 120gsm. Ideally, choose a pad that has anti-bleed paper as well.
The size of your paper really depends on the size of your project.
If you’re looking for a sketch pad or sketchbook, you’ll find that standard sizes like A4, A5, and A6 are most common. You can get A3 sketchbooks but they tend to be more expensive.
If you’re looking for packs of paper or cardstock, again, it’ll be a lot easier to find A4 or A5. A6 and A3 paper will be more difficult to find but not impossible.
Larger, oversized pieces of paper and cardstock can usually be bought from an art supplier or craft store. You may need to place an order with them if they don’t carry it in the store.
For smaller projects, like business card sized portraits, etc., you are better off cutting larger paper down to size.
As we’ve mentioned, you’ll have to decide whether you want a sketchbook or just a pack of paper. Either way, you’ll want to get the most for your money.
When you’re looking at books or packs of paper, divide the price between the number of sheets. This will give you the cost per sheet.
The cost per sheet is a much better indication of the price than the overall total.
You might be tempted by a $5 sketchbook over a $20 sketchbook, however, if the $5 book has 50 sheets, you’re actually paying 10c a page. The $20 sketchbook has 150 pages and works out at 7.5c a page.
Even though it’s more expensive, it’s actually better value to get the $20 book. It’ll last you longer too!
One thing to be wary of is the sheets vs page situation.
Sheets are counted as the physical bits of paper included in a book or pack.
A page is one side of a sheet. Therefore a sheet has 2 pages.
If a sketchbook or pack of paper is using the number of pages in the product description, you’ll want to half it. Especially if you’re working with alcohol markers.
Most of the time you can’t use both pages. Either because of bleeding or because you’ve made pressure marks with your pen or pencil.
Some paper will be marketed as anti-bleed or bleed proof paper. These papers tend to have more chalk in the pulp and are therefore more absorbent.
Now, sketch pads and packs of paper don’t tend to list their ‘ingredients’ so there’s no way to check if the bleed proof claims are legit or not without buying. We recommend you check the reviews to see how other people have gotten on with the paper.
The other thing to look out for is acid-free paper.
Acid-free paper is loved and revered by artists because it reduces the effects of aging.
Normal paper contains acids that increase over time and cause the ink and paper to degrade. This is less than ideal when you’ve spent hours, days, even weeks, creating your masterpiece.
Acid-free paper contains alkalines that neutralize the acids as they emerge, therefore protecting and prolonging the paper and ink.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are alcohol markers permanent?
Alcohol markers are permanent in that they don’t rub off surfaces. that’s one of the best things about them actually. They don’t smudge as much as other kinds of markers.
However, they are not truly permanent because they are photosensitive. This means that they react to and are damaged by light.
Alcohol markers use dyes to create colors. Dyes are synthetic, they’re manufactured and are very much photosensitive. If exposed to sunlight or fluorescent lighting, they will fade over time.
Pigments are natural substances suspended in water or other liquids to create colors. They are not photosensitive and will not fade.
Pigment alcohol markers are available but they are more difficult to find and generally cost more.
Does the paper grain matter?
Great question! Yes, it does.
Paper has a grain just like wood. The grain of the paper has more to do with the way the fibers are arranged during the manufacturing process.
Sometimes you can see the grain on paper. This happens when the grain is dense or thick. It gives the paper a texture.
Finer grains are less visible and give a much smoother finish. Often, with fine grain paper, you won’t be able to see or feel the grain without ripping the paper.
The grain matters because thicker grains can cause feathering. This is when the ink spreads through the grain.
A feathered edge won’t be straight. It will look a bit like a spill. It’s not necessarily terrible, but you will struggle to get neat straight lines.
We’d recommend fine-grain paper unless you are particularly looking for a feathered edge.
WonderStreet is not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned in this article. However, we sometimes receive a referral fee from online retailers when our readers buy on their website after clicking from our website to theirs. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases, which supports the operation of our blog and helps to keep all our content free for everyone. In any case, when we conduct our analysis, our intention and focus is to remain objective and unbiased at all times.
What’s your favourite Paper for Alcohol Markers? We’d love to hear from you... Please leave your comments below.
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