The Best Vellum for Drafting, Tracing, and More

Traditionally, vellum refers to a specific parchment made from animal skin—typically of a calf, goat, or sheep—that has been carefully cleaned, scratched, and cured. As the papermaking industry evolved, so did the term, which has today also come to refer to paper surfaces that are translucent, not unlike tracing paper. Thin and smooth, modern vellum is typically designed to withstand redrawing and erasing and can be used for drafting, tracing, and overlays. As our picks below show, it’s important to pick the right type to suit your needs.

Canson Vidalon Vellum
Designed to take a variety of mediums, Canson’s vellum presents a stunning writing and drawing surface. Each 55-pound sheet—noticeably sturdier than typical tracing paper—has a uniform translucency and feels super smooth. You can draw on this archival vellum with pencil, pens, and ink—and even use gouaches without the surface buckling—and it captures subtle details, such as shading and texture, very well. It even stays crisp after repetitive erasures. We also like the versatility of format: Choose from single sheets in two sizes or pads in four sizes.

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Borden & Riley #90 Vellum Sheer Trace
With a 55-pound weight, these papers are similar in sturdiness to our top pick but are a touch less expensive. They are satisfyingly transparent—you can see through them even without a lightbox, making them ideal for overlays and transfers. This vellum is also flexible enough to feed into inkjet or laser printers. It also presents a smooth surface that holds both pen and marker inks beautifully without warping or rippling, but we do find Canson’s to be slightly more durable. Choose from four sizes.

Strathmore Laser Vellum Inkjet Paper
If you mainly need to print designs with a laser printer, this is the best vellum to feed into your machine. Once inked, the letter-size sheets dry quickly, and while they have smooth surfaces, these aren’t prone to smudging as they move through the printer. The vellum also has a good amount of translucency to show any inked message on its surface while still allowing details of anything placed beneath it to come through. Results might vary slightly depending on your printer, but these sheets are generally resistant to curling as they get inked. Each pack comes with 50 sheets of vellum.

Buy: Strathmore Laser Vellum Inkjet Paper $13.99

Clearprint Design Vellum Pad
Architects swear by this vellum, which presents a clean and satisfying translucent surface to draw on. Made of 100 percent cotton, the 16-pound paper stands up to erasing and holds ink with no ghosting, feathering, or warping, so your lines always look sharp and crisp. Acid free and archival, it offers a flawless and uniform surface every time. Available in sheets and rolls in a range of sizes.

Canson Vidalon Vellum Roll
Our top choice in roll format, this vellum is a must for artists seeking expansive surfaces for drafting or panoramic work. Each roll measures 36 inches wide and 10 yards long and presents superior visibility for frustration-free tracings. The 50-pound paper can be used with technical pens, inks, and fiber tips as well as for microfilming, offset, and letterpress. Even if you’re working with large sheets, it holds up well, resisting crumpling and tearing. And, just like Canson’s sheets, it can handle a lot of vigorous erasing.


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