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Canson XL Bristol paper is made by Canson, a company based in France which was founded in 1557.
This paper is available in several variations. There’s 180gsm vs 260gsm, smooth and vellum surface, in pad or wirebound. The paper I’m reviewing is the 180gsm version with smooth surface. The vellum texture is said to have more texture which should be good for dry media such as graphite, colored pencil, charcoal, pastel, and crayon.
The smooth surface of the paper works really well with ink. The lines are solid and do not feature. Since the paper is quite thick at 180gsm, ink bleed through is not really a problem.
The paper is bright white and provides good contrast against black ink.
The smooth paper does have slight texture. It’s definitely not as textured compared to fine grain drawing paper.
Coloured pencils layer well and can blend well. Since the paper is smooth, you can cover the white of the paper easily with coloured pencil. The white of the paper makes colours look vibrant.
Watercolour does look vibrant on this paper but I don’t recommend using wet media. The paper is barely thick enough to handle wet media, and will considerably when water is applied.
This paper is not sized to handle wet media. When used with watercolour, the paint will sink in and not move. Creating soft colour blends with wet on wet techniques is impossible on this paper. Shown above are three horizontal strokes painted on an already wet surface. With good quality 100% cotton watercolour paper, the horizontal strokes should disappear to produce soft colour blends.
You can’t use gouache as well since the paper will buckle. Watersoluble coloured pencils are not suitable too.
Even if you use the thicker 260gsm paper, you won’t be able to wet on wet techniques either.
To conclude, this paper works best with ink and dry media. It’s terrific to use with ink, eg. comic illustration, or anything where you need to create fine details. The paper is also acid free and therefore archival.
Canson XL Bristol is available in either 25 or 50-sheet pads. The pricing is reasonable, not expensive, and hence suitable for use as practice paper too.