GreatArt UK

Jo York – Comparing the No 1-2-3-4-5 Papers

Putting the No 1-2-3-4-5 Papers to the Test!

Our popular range of papers covers techniques from drawing and sketching, to watercolour and markers. Jo York put the papers to the test for the latest GreatArt Materials Blog post and you can read some of her findings here.

Each paper is sold in 3 pad sizes and packs of individual sheets with details as follows:
No 12345© Jo York

  • No 1: Sketching Paper- 90gsm, acid free/ PH neutral and doesn’t contain optical whiteners
    ( bleaching agents which whiten the paper). No 1 is creamy in colour.
  • No 2: Drawing Paper- 125 gsm and also acid free. No 2 is whiter than No 1 in appearance and has
    a slightly grainy texture.
  • No 3: Watercolour Paper- an off-white paper, 200 gsm and is also acid and optical whitener
    free. It is a really nice weighty watercolour paper, with a textured surface which you
    can feel when you run the paper through your fingers.
  • No 4: Kraft Paper- This paper is made from long natural unbleached fibres which give it its characteristic ‘brownish’ colour. It also has a ridged texture, which can be exploited to create interesting effects in dry media. No 4 is acid free and 90gsm. Historically this kind of paper has been used for packaging because of its strength, but it has many art based applications too.
  • No 5: No 5 is an innovative paper; made from 100% recycled material. It is acid free, and has a white appearance without the need for treatment with chlorine or other optical brighteners-very eco-friendly in fact without any compromise on quality! It is 160 gsm in weight.

A quick guide to paper weights:( figures given are approximate)
Tracing paper – 40gsm
Newsprint – 35- 40gsm
Sketching or Practise Paper – 80 – 90gsm
Drawing Paper – 100 – 140gsm
Heavy Weight Papers – 200gsm and above, typically used for wet media, and mixed media work, and also for finished artwork for mounting and framing.
No 12345© Jo York
« In order to test the papers thoroughly, I decided to use a wide range of wet and dry media and technqiues, which I repeated on each paper in turn… »
No 12345© Jo York
« Here the charcoal worked really well on the No 2 in loose expressive marks, and even in multi-layered cross-hatching. The extra weight and tooth really help to hold onto the tiny particles of charcoal, and the whiter colour adds depth to the rich blacks of the charcoal. »
Sanguine - No 12345© Jo York
 » When using No 3 the sanguine pencil created a really pleasing result and a subtle finish on the pale cream paper. Areas with wash were no problem of course for this specialist watercolour paper, but there is a slight loss of crispness due to the lightly textured surface. »
Soft Pastel
« In all the pastel tests I applied the material quite thickly and in multiple layers to test how much each paper could cope with. »
Soft Pastel - No 12345© Jo York
« The No 1 paper is surprisingly durable for its weight, so it’s a great option for fast sketches and samples. The pastel worked pretty well on this surface overall, but thorough fixing would be important to hold the fine particles in place. I would avoid using No 1 for finished pastel studies a heavy load of colour as the paper does quickly become saturated. »
« No 3 is excellent for pastel work; layering and blending are straightforward with no issues. »
Pen (nib) and Ink
« I began by playing with some very simple mark making on the 5 different papers so that I could see how the nib performed with the texture of the paper. »
Ink - No 12345© Jo York
« There were very crisp and clean results on the No2 paper. It offers a good balance between a durable surface and enough absorbency to prevent the ink pooling too much on the paper. »
« No 5 was a very positive surface for pen and ink work, this paper offers a really stable ground, with sufficient weight and strength to avoid surface damage or buckling- great for clarity and precision, and delicate details in finished pieces. »
Brush and Ink, Acrylic Markers and Pen and Ink
« These experiments are made on strips of the 5 papers, glued down in order, I used broad acrylic markers, and brush and ink for background makrks, and then added layers of pen and ink and fine marker on top. »
Mixed Media - No 12345© Jo York
« No 5 is a really excellent surface for a multi/mixed media approach. It is clean and crisp in finish; and it shows off both delicate detail and rich tones beautifully. The highly durable surface really does make it a great choice for mixed media and expressive techniques and finished work. »
Marker Pens
« I used a combination of One4all for the top row and Amsterdam/Liquitex for the bottom row. »
Marker - No 12345© Jo York
« I especially liked the way the markers handled on the No3 paper- they do tend to be quite ‘wet’ as they work, so the strength and absorbency of watercolour paper works really well. »
« I quite liked the different feel of the markers on the brown-toned No 4 paper, handle with care though as the surface is a little more vulnerable, especially if it gets very wet with layering. Some colours, especially white look really striking on this surface. Idea for experimenting and collage too as shown below. »
Watercolour - No 12345© Jo York
« No 3 was excellent for all watercolour techniques, not suprisingly as this is a watercolour specialist paper. Masking tape and masking fluid both performed really well, without any damage to the paper when they were removed. »
« Watercolours depend on a white or cream support for the brilliance and clarity of their colour, so No 4 is not at all a usual choice for watercolour, BUT I found I quite liked the more muted colour! »
« For these tests I used a simple, small lino block with Gerstaecker water based lino inks and pressed with a clean roller »
Print - No 12345© Jo York
« No 2 gave good, clear, sharp and well defined results, without the need for a press. The whiteness of the paper worked well with the just off-black ink. A great value choice for print, especially small scale. »
« No 4 was again, not a traditional choice in this case for print, but suprisingly effective on the whole. I liked the subtle appearance on the brownish support. Clarity is reasonably good and overall No 4 worked well. »
Gouache - No 12345© Jo York
« No 1 worked really well using gouache as an opaque medium, rather than with translucent washes. The result was fresh and lively, and masking tape edges caused no issues at all. »
« No 5 is an excellent surface for gouache. Colour is clean and fresh, detail and precision are maximized and there is no buckling except in the case of very heavy washes. Ideal again for finished work »
Jo’s Top Tip:
« Try experimenting as I did with a range of media and techniques across a variety of papers, recording your findings as you go. It really does make a fantastic resource when you are selecting papers! »
No 12345 Papers
No 12345© Jo York
You can read the full blog post, see more images and a full list of the materials used by Jo at
You’ll also find past posts about different materials available from GreatArt including Jaxell pastels, Vernissage Oil and our range of stretched canvas.
All images used here are © Jo York,

Louise from GreatArt

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