Finding the Best Paper for Airbrush Art | What To Look For

A person using an airbrush to paint a lovely mountain scene.

Airbrushing is a versatile technique that can be used to create a wide variety of art, from fine art and model design to makeup looks and cake decorations.

It’s versatility is thanks in large part to the many different kinds of paint that can be used with the airbrush.

The key to picking the right type of paper for airbrushing is to make sure that it is compatible with the type of paint that you are using.

What is good paper for airbrush art? Good paper for airbrush art is low-absorbency, heavyweight, smooth, sized paper. These parameters ensure that colors won’t bleed through and enable you to create finer lines and greater detail. Paper made specifically for airbrushing is available, but mixed-media paper can be used as well.

When airbrushing, it’s important to pick the right paper for the job. In order to make the right choice you need to know what qualities to look for.

In the following, we’ll cover tips on how to choose a good airbrush paper as well as provide thorough reviews for six high-performing airbrush papers. 

Airbrush Art Paper: What To Look For 

When picking out an airbrush art paper, the key elements to look for are absorption, texture, size, and weight. 

Absorption

The absorption rate of airbrush paper determines how porous the paper is. The less absorbent the paper, the more waterproof it is.

Picking a paper with a low-absorption rate allows you to easily blend or layer colors and helps you to avoid creating a soggy mess. 

Texture 

Picking a paper with a smooth texture helps you to add finesse to your airbrush artworks.

Look for low-absorption paper with a smooth texture (similar to cardstock) in order to avoid waterlogging and warping your airbrush artwork. 

Size 

In the paper world, sizing refers to the ability of a piece of paper to soak up a liquid. Sized paper is more durable than unsized paper, making it a better choice for airbrushing. 

Paper can be internally sized, meaning that size was applied to the pulp during the papermaking process; externally sized, meaning that the size was applied after the paper had been pressed and dried; or both internally and externally sized.

Different papers are often sized for specific mediums. 

GSM/Weight 

Heavier weight paper is better able to tolerate excess water or multiple layers of color than lighter weight paper.

For this reason, it’s best to look for a heavier weight paper for use with airbrushing. 

GSM stands for grams per square meter and is how paper is weighed. When airbrushing, it’s a good idea to look for a paper that is at least 120 GSM.

The weight of the paper in pounds is determined by how much 500 sheets of the paper weigh together, so don’t be confused when your 120-pound paper feels a little light.

Don’t miss out on helpful advice, techniques, product reviews, and tips for airbrushing. Click here to see all of my airbrushing articles.

Best Paper for Airbrush Art 

The best paper for airbrush art will depend to some extent on what kind of paint you are using.

While acrylics are most often used when airbrushing, they are certainly not the only option. I explain all of your paint choices for airbrushing in this article.

Best Overall: Strathmore 400 Series Acrylic Pad

Sale
Strathmore 400 Series Acrylic Pad, Linen Finish,...
  • Strathmore 400 Acrylic paper - durable, heavyweight paper (246lb, 400 g/M2) is perfect for Acrylic...
  • Textured linen surface assures the maximum adherence and layering of paint

The Strathmore 400 Series Acrylic Pad is a durable, heavyweight paper that was designed for use with acrylic paints, making it a perfect choice for airbrushing. 

Pros:

  • Heavyweight paper, meaning that it can tolerate water and multiple layers of paint
  • Textured surface, further enabling layering as well as paint adherence
  • Glue-bound, making it easy to remove single sheets of paper from the pad

Cons:

  • May be too absorbent for airbrushing very thick layers of paint
  • Behaves more like paper and less like a canvas board

Best Value: Bachmore Mixed Media Pad

Sale
Bachmore Drawing Pad 9X12''(98lb/160g) 100 Sheets...
  • WONDERFUL DESIGN FEATURES - Premium Quality Artist Pro drawing paper. Top spiral make our sketchpad...
  • SUPER PRACTICAL CHARACTERISTICS - These papers are made of acid-free paper with thick, strong,...

The Bachmore Mixed Media Pad comes with 100 sheets of paper designed to withstand a range of media.

Pros:

  • Premium quality
  • Ideal for both left- and right-handed artists
  • Can be used with acrylic paint as well as watercolor and ink
  • Includes handmade hard covers that assist in protecting your artwork

Cons:

  • Although it does work with some watercolors, it’s not the heaviest of papers and may not withstand many applications of water 
  • Can become warped with overuse of water or paint

Canson XL Series Oil and Acrylic Pad

Sale
Canson XL Series Oil and Acrylic Paper Pad, Bleed...
  • A bleed proof canvas like textured paper
  • Ready for oil or acrylic without priming or preparation

The Canson Oil and Acrylic Pad is a 136-pound paper designed for use with oil and acrylic paints.

Pros:

  • This paper is similar to cardstock in that multiple layers of paint can easily be applied to the paper without warping it 
  • Rougher texture that assists with paint adherence
  • Designed for use with oil paints, meaning that it is durable and can handle higher levels of moisture for longer periods of time

Cons:

  • The rougher texture may not be suitable for certain styles of painting

Canson XL Series Mix Media Pad

Sale
Canson 100510926 XL Mix Media Paper Pad, 98 Pound,...
  • Use for: Sketching, drawing, light washes of ink and watercolor, collage, journaling, and more
  • Erases well and blends easily

The Canson Mix Media Pad is a 60 sheet sketch pad intended for use with a variety of media, including acrylics and light use of watercolor or ink washes.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive mixed-media paper option
  • Great for use with watercolor and ink as long as you don’t use a lot of water

Cons:

  • This paper will not tolerate heavier applications or layers of paint well

TerraSlate Airbrush Art Paper

TerraSlate Paper 8 Mil 8.5" x 11" Airbrush Art...
  • TerraSlate Paper premium airbrush paper has an incredibly smooth surface that makes creating...
  • The paper is non-porous and can be airbrushed equally on both sides. TerraSlate works well with all...

Terraslate Airbrush Art Paper is a smooth, nonporous, synthetic paper that is specifically designed for use with an airbrush. 

Pros:

  • Advertised as “the most durable paper on the planet,” this paper can handle multiple layers of paint and water

Cons: 

  • More expensive than lower-quality papers

U.S. Art Supply Premium Acrylic Paper

U.S. Art Supply 9" x 12" Premium Extra...
  • Acid Free, Neutral pH, Spiral Bound Natural White Sheets for Easy Removal
  • Extremley Heavyweight and Versatile Paper made for the Acrylic Artist

U.S. Art Supply Acrylic Paper is a 246-pound extra-heavyweight paper, making it an excellent choice for airbrush art.

Pros:

  • An inexpensive choice for the quality you receive
  • Designed for use with acrylics, so it can withstand heavier applications of paint
  • Won’t bleed through

Cons:

  • Spiral bound, so you will need to tear out and trim paper if you wish to remove it from the pad

What To Use for Airbrush Practice Paper 

Practice makes perfect, but it’s important to use practice paper that is both inexpensive and has similar qualities to the paper on which you intend to create your artwork.

Look for low-absorbency, smooth-texture papers, such as cardstock. You can also practice on bond paper, but be aware that the paper will not do well with lots of paint or moisture.

Related Questions:

Can You Airbrush on Watercolor Paper? 

As long as you are using watercolors, you can definitely airbrush on watercolor paper with satisfying results.

Of course, using watercolors will work, but don’t rule out experimenting with other paints as long as they are thinned enough to avoid weighing down the paper.

Can You Airbrush on Canvas?

You can indeed airbrush on canvas. Canvases often have a more textured surface that some airbrush artists might not like.

To create a smoother surface, you can apply gesso or primer to the canvas, and allow it to dry before applying your airbrush paint.

Wrapping It Up

Choosing the right paper for your airbrush art project essentially comes down to what kind of paint you will be using and how many layers you intend to apply.

In general, you will want to pick a heavier weight paper with a smoother surface in order to create the best results.

Last update on 2022-05-18 at 14:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Cara

Cara

I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.