Using the wrong paper size could cost you [sizing guide]
You’re ready to start making some new drawings, so you go to the nearest art-supply store to pick up some paper.
There are a lot of things you’re considering when buying paper: things like how well it plays with the medium you plan to use, how dense the paper is, how many sheets you get, and how much it costs.
And you’re probably thinking about size a little bit. You want to choose a size of paper that looks about the size of the art you want to create.
But there are some more things you need to consider about the size of the paper you buy. If you don’t, it might cost you a lot more than you think.
Why do you need to be careful drawing paper size?
Here’s the thing that no art store label or art teacher never taught me (and probably hasn’t taught you). Lots of common art paper sizes just don’t correspond to common frame sizes. And the difference in price between a common frame size and a rare frame size can easily be $50 or more—even for the most cheap frame you can find.
Commonly-sized frames are cheap. And not-so-commonly-sized frames, even for the same level of quality, are staggeringly expensive.
So if you ever want to hang your art, and you don’t have money coming out your ears, neglecting to choose your drawing paper size wisely can come back to bite you. Hard.
What drawing paper size should I choose?
Hanging art can be insanely expensive if you don’t plan the size of your art beforehand. That’s why I’ve made a little cheat sheet for the drawing paper sizes that I buy. You can find drawing paper in most US art-supply stores in these sizes, and you can find really inexpensive frames of good quality that fit those papers at just about any art or craft store.
I use these sizes in my art—whenever I make a drawing, I make sure that the paper is one of the nine sizes below.
For tiny drawings:
If you want to make really small drawings, and be able to hang them without paying an arm and a leg (or worse, cropping your drawing to fit a frame), these are the sizes I recommend.
Either cut your paper down to these sizes before you start your drawing, or buy paper pre-sized this way.
For medium-sized drawings:
These are the medium-sized drawing paper sizes I recommend.
9″ x 12″ drawing paper gets an honorable mention. I really like drawing on this size of paper, but finding frames for them can be a little less predictable than the other sizes above.
For large drawings:
These are the sizes I use for larger drawings—especially the latter.
Typically, the larger the frame, the more expensive—but sometimes you get lucky and can find really inexpensive large frames. For example, 18″x24″ is also a common poster size in the US, and you might find that even though they can be a little flimsy, a poster frame can save you money and effectively get your art up on a wall where people can see it.
Hang your work without breaking the bank.
If you follow this little rubric, you’ll be able to do a quick frame run when the time comes to show your work. You’ll be able to find the frames easily, and you’ll be able to actually afford them.
Get some drawing ideas
Ready to take that strategically-sized drawing paper you’ve got and make some art already? Here’s where you can get some starter ideas for what to draw.