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Art on Paper - Everything You Need To Know

Art on Paper - Everything You Need To Know

Just let a thought about art into your mind and you will immediately picture a large canvas covered in a thick layer of oil paint. 

But there is a medium that has no less charm as canvas, but is somehow, to my point of view, quite underestimated.

I am talking about paintings and drawings on paper, or as people from the art world call them — works on paper.

This blog post is about everything you need and want to know about these charming artworks — starting from definition, techniques, value, display and care. So let’s dive in!

Works on paper: definition

Shortly speaking, works on paper and art on paper are synonyms and these terms cover all artworks that were created on paper as medium, whether the artwork was drawn with pencils or charcoal, painted with oil or dripped with acrylics, created with ink or pastels.

Works on paper also include prints, collages, photography and even artist’s books. Whatever the technique, it is the medium — paper — that classifies the artwork under the term “work on paper”.

A very clear definition of works on paper is provided by ArtNet.com:

“Works on Paper include artworks drawn, painted or otherwise created on paper using a variety of media.”

This leads us to the next very common question.

Black and white abstract art

Sign No. 28, Gina Vor, Ink on Paper

Is artwork on paper a drawing or a painting?

The simple answer would be — if it was drawn, it’s a drawing and if it was painted, it is a painting. 

Drawings would be created with dry media: chalk, charcoal, pencils, crayons, graphite and pastel. 

Paintings are created with various tools and paint — acrylic, oil, watercolour. 

Of course, contemporary paintings may be created with non traditional painting tools, like human hands and artists may use non traditional media, such as wine or coffee.

I personally find ink a very interesting and charming — depending on how it was applied, an artwork can be either an ink drawing or an ink painting.

What I would like to point out, is that paintings on paper may be created with same paint as artworks on canvas and that means they will be as rich in colour and texture!

Styles, materials and techniques

As a medium paper does not set any limitation to artistic styles. Artists have created and are creating on paper in variety of genres: from detail realistic drawings, to expressive abstract paintings.

I have already mentioned popular techniques and media’s used to create art on paper, but just for your convenience, I will list them all once more in alphabetical order:

  • acrylic;
  • chalk;
  • charcoal;
  • collage;
  • coloured pencil;
  • commercial and industrial paints;
  • crayon;
  • gouache;
  • graphite;
  • ink;
  • mixed media (several medias used creating a single work of art);
  • non traditional dry and wet media;
  • oil paint;
  • pastel;
  • chalk pastels;
  • oil pastels;
  • tempera;
  • watercolour
  • wax.

These are just the most common techniques for drawing and painting on paper, of course there are many more and new ones are constantly being offered by suppliers or invented by artists themselves.

Why collect art on paper?

Paintings and drawings on paper definitely deserver art collectors attention and those who are experienced in art collecting certainly do own artworks on paper. 

These are the top reasons, in my opinion, why artworks on this medium deserve to be in your art collection.

1. Art on paper offers a glimpse into creator’s mind

We should definitely start with answering a question why artists are creating art on paper first of all. 

Well, many of them use it as starting point to generate ideas and quite often artworks on paper are a their first step into something bigger — it may develop into a large painting on canvas or even into a completely new artistic genre.

That is why most often we associate art on paper with sketches.

Just as we are taking notes to document our ideas, artists are creating drawings and paintings in smaller formats to document their inspiration.

It is a very important first step in the creative process, so no wonder it offers you, as a collector, a very intimate connection with the artist, a glimpse into his/her creative mind, on opportunity to witness the stroke of inspiration, birth and the result of creativity.


2. Works on paper are perfect for those you are just starting an art collection

When you are starting an art collection, you are about to discover the concept, your favourite artists and art styles. That being said, you will need to acquire several artworks before you find out what is it you really like and want. 

Art on paper is perfect for those who are just starting an art collection, because it does not require too much space and is more affordable. That leads me to the next important statement.

3. Art on paper is affordable

Paintings and drawings on paper are more affordable than paintings on canvas. Of course, it depends who created it, but even if you take a look at the artworks, created by the same artist — be it a celebrity or a rising start — you will discover that works on paper are cheaper.

Why? Because they are created in smaller formats and so did not require so much time and paint like large works on canvas.

4. Drawings and paintings on paper are valuable artworks

The value of the artwork is defined various criteria, I will not dive too much into detail what makes the artwork valuable, but will provide some statistics instead.

You will probably agree that curators, who decide which artworks should be in a museum collection, are really knowledgable experts. 

So let’s take a look at some stats and where do works on paper stand at the most prestigious art collections.


  • Total number of artworks: 77,6 thous.
  • Works on paper, including prints: 68,3 thous.


  • Total number of artworks: 200 thous.
  • No of drawings: 11 thous.
  • No of prints, books and multiples: 60 thous.


  • Total number of artworks: 99 thous.
  • No of prints and drawings: 95 thous.

I guess numbers speak for themselves, the value of artworks created on paper is defined and there are no more comments needed :)

How to take care of your art on paper

I believe that at this point I have persuaded you to own an artwork on paper, so it is important to tell you how to take care for it.

Yes, artworks on paper are more fragile than paintings of canvas, but if they are handled and cared for properly — they will definitely last for generations to come!

Drawings and paintings on paper are sensitive to humid, temperature changes and light, but modern conservation technologies and few simple steps will remove all concerns and will allow you to enjoy art on this charming medium for many years.

1. Avoid paper-skin contact

Paper absorbs fat, so even if hour hands are clean, I would advice to wear gloves before touching artwork on paper.

2. Frame your painting or drawing

Professional framing will protect the artwork from dust, humidity, sunlight and mechanical damage. Make sure your framer is using archival materials, choose UV-protected glass if necessary.

3. Displaying your art on paper

Avoid strong direct sunlight, humid premises or very dry places (e.g. do not hang the artwork above the radiator).

Black and white art on paper

Small Sign No. 21, Gina Vor, Ink on Paper

Where to buy abstract art on paper?

I am a fan of abstract art and if you are too - I would like to invite you to my online gallery where you will discover contemporary, charming, original and affordable abstract paintings on paper and limited edition prints.

I hope you found this article useful, please SUBSCRIBE for monthly tips on buying art.

Any questions? Just drop me a line!