Common Options for Drawing Canvases and Surfaces

When it comes to creating art, whether it be traditional or digital, the surface or canvas plays a crucial role in the final outcome. The type of surface used can greatly impact the techniques and materials an artist can use, as well as the overall look and feel of the artwork. With the advancement of technology, there are now a plethora of options available for artists to choose from when it comes to drawing canvases and surfaces. In this article, we will explore some of the most common options and their unique features.

Traditional Drawing Surfaces

Traditional drawing surfaces have been used by artists for centuries and are still widely used today. These surfaces are typically made from natural materials such as paper, canvas, or wood. They offer a wide range of textures and finishes, making them suitable for various drawing techniques and mediums.


Paper is one of the most commonly used surfaces for drawing. It is lightweight, affordable, and comes in a variety of textures and finishes. The most popular types of paper used for drawing are:

  • Drawing paper: This type of paper is specifically designed for drawing and comes in various weights and textures. It is ideal for dry mediums such as graphite, charcoal, and colored pencils.
  • Watercolor paper: As the name suggests, this paper is designed for watercolor painting, but it can also be used for drawing with wet mediums such as ink and watercolor pencils.
  • Pastel paper: This paper has a rough texture that is perfect for pastel drawings. It allows the pastels to grip onto the surface, creating vibrant and textured artwork.

One of the main advantages of using paper as a drawing surface is its versatility. Artists can easily switch between different types of paper depending on the medium and technique they want to use. However, paper is not as durable as other surfaces and may not hold up well to heavy layers of paint or wet mediums.


Canvas is another popular surface for drawing, especially for larger and more detailed pieces. It is made from woven fabric, typically cotton or linen, and is stretched over a wooden frame. Canvas is known for its durability and ability to withstand heavy layers of paint and other mediums.

There are two main types of canvas used for drawing:

  • Primed canvas: This type of canvas has been treated with a layer of gesso, a white paint mixture that creates a smooth and absorbent surface for drawing. It is suitable for a wide range of mediums, including acrylics, oils, and mixed media.
  • Unprimed canvas: Also known as raw canvas, this type of canvas has not been treated with gesso and has a rougher texture. It is ideal for artists who prefer a more textured surface for their drawings.

Canvas is a popular choice for artists who want to create large-scale drawings or paintings. It is also a great option for those who want to experiment with different mediums and techniques, as it can handle a variety of materials.


Wood has been used as a drawing surface for centuries, and it is still a popular choice among artists today. It offers a smooth and sturdy surface that is perfect for detailed drawings and intricate designs. The most commonly used types of wood for drawing are:

  • Birch plywood: This type of wood is smooth and has a consistent grain, making it ideal for detailed drawings. It is also lightweight and easy to work with.
  • Maple: Maple is a hardwood that is known for its durability and strength. It is a popular choice for artists who want a sturdy surface that can withstand heavy layers of paint and other mediums.
  • Basswood: Basswood is a softwood that is easy to carve and work with. It is a popular choice for woodblock printing and woodburning, but it can also be used as a drawing surface.

Wood is a great option for artists who want to create unique and long-lasting pieces. It can be sanded, stained, or painted to create a customized surface for drawing.

Digital Drawing Surfaces

In recent years, digital drawing has become increasingly popular among artists. With the advancement of technology, there are now a variety of digital drawing surfaces available, each with its own unique features and capabilities.

Graphic Tablets

Graphic tablets, also known as drawing tablets, are one of the most common options for digital drawing. They consist of a flat surface and a stylus, which is used to draw directly onto the surface. The tablet is connected to a computer, and the artist can see their drawing on the screen as they work.

One of the main advantages of using a graphic tablet is its pressure sensitivity. The tablet can detect how hard the artist is pressing on the surface, allowing for more control and precision in their drawings. It also offers a wide range of brush options and customizable settings, making it a versatile tool for digital artists.

Pen Displays

Pen displays are similar to graphic tablets, but they have a built-in screen that allows artists to draw directly on the surface. This gives a more natural drawing experience, as the artist can see their hand and the drawing at the same time. Pen displays are often used by professional digital artists who require a high level of precision and control in their work.

Tablet Computers

Tablet computers, such as the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface, have become popular options for digital drawing in recent years. These devices offer a touch screen and a stylus, allowing artists to draw directly on the screen. They are lightweight and portable, making them a great option for artists who want to create on-the-go.

One of the main advantages of using a tablet computer for drawing is the variety of drawing apps available. These apps offer a wide range of tools and features, making it possible to create professional-level artwork on a portable device.

Choosing the Right Drawing Surface

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming for artists to choose the right drawing surface for their needs. Here are some factors to consider when making a decision:

  • Medium: The type of medium an artist wants to use will greatly impact their choice of surface. For example, paper is ideal for dry mediums, while canvas is better suited for wet mediums.
  • Technique: Different surfaces have different textures and finishes, which can greatly impact the techniques an artist can use. For example, a rough surface is ideal for pastel drawings, while a smooth surface is better for detailed graphite drawings.
  • Budget: Traditional drawing surfaces are generally more affordable than digital drawing surfaces. However, digital drawing surfaces offer a wide range of features and capabilities that may justify the higher cost for some artists.
  • Experience level: Some surfaces, such as wood and digital drawing surfaces, may require a certain level of skill and experience to use effectively. It is important for artists to choose a surface that they feel comfortable and confident working with.


In conclusion, the type of drawing surface an artist chooses can greatly impact their artwork. Traditional surfaces such as paper, canvas, and wood offer a wide range of textures and finishes, making them suitable for various mediums and techniques. On the other hand, digital drawing surfaces such as graphic tablets, pen displays, and tablet computers offer a more versatile and customizable drawing experience. When choosing a drawing surface, it is important for artists to consider their medium, technique, budget, and experience level to find the best option for their needs. With the right surface, artists can create stunning and unique pieces of art that showcase their skills and creativity.