Bristol board

Bristol board (also referred to as Bristol paper or Super white paper) is an uncoated, machine-finished paperboard. It is named after the city of Bristol in the southwest of England as that is where it was first produced.

Bristol is characterized by high resistance to abrasion (pencil, ink, ink – using an eraser or a knife). The surface texture is either plate or vellum. Plate finish is as smooth as glass, and is very good for pen and ink.

Common sizes include 22.5″ × 28.5″ (572 × 724 mm) and its bulk thickness is 0.006 inches (0.15 mm) or higher and A4, A3, A2 and A1 Bristol board may be rated by the number of plies it contains or, in Europe, by its grammage of 220 to 250. It is normally white, but is also made in different colours.

Bristol paper is used for printing documents, brochures, promotional materials and envelopes. It is often used for water color painting. It is also used for paperback book or catalog covers, file folders, tags, and tickets. Another use is for scale models; some students use this kind of paper for the walls in their scale models. One-ply Bristol is thin enough to be translucent, and two and three ply bristol are the most popular thicknesses.

Bristol board is commonly used for technical drawing, illustration projects, comic book art, and other two-dimensional art forms. It provides two working surfaces, front and back. This quality separates it from illustration board, which has only a front working surface.

Vellum (or kid) finish is a medium texture more appropriate to friction-based media, such as crayon, chalks, or charcoal. A third finish, engravers or wedding, may be used for formal engraved wedding invitations.

Bristol Boards and Illustration Boards

The terms Bristol and Bristol boards generally mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Bristol and Bristol boards provide a stiff, strong surface to work on without the need for mounting. Strathmore’s Bristol & Illustration Boards are similar to each other but come in variations of weights and finishes.

Bristol generally describes drawing paper that is pasted together to form multi-ply sheets. It derives its name from the early days of European papermaking when mills would send their finest paper to Bristol, England for pasting. The more plies, the sturdier and thicker the Bristol.

Illustration Boards differ in that they are sheets of drawing paper mounted to both sides of a heavyweight board to provide the stiffest surface yet.

In addition to understanding the difference between the weights and plies of Bristol papers and boards, it is equally important to understand the difference in their surfaces. Bristols are available in vellum, semi-smooth, smooth, and plate surfaces.

Smooth: Also known as hot press, has a very satiny, hard finish. This surface is especially good for pen and ink, marker, mechanical layout and airbrush.

Vellum: Also called regular, medium or kid finish, this surface has a tooth or roughness, making it excellent for use with dry media including pencil, colored pencil, charcoal, pastel and oil pastel.

Semi-Smooth: The perfect in-between surface that isn’t as smooth as smooth, and not as rough as vellum. The Slightly textured surface is suited for pen and ink tools, pencil, specialty pens and markers.

Plate: A unique, uniformly smooth finish is created on the surface of the sheet through a special process. Sheets of paper are interleaved with highly polished metal plates to make a stack or “book”. The “book” is then pressed repeatedly between steel rollers under great pressure, imparting the smoothness of the metal plates to the paper’s surface. This surface is ideal for pen and ink, marker, mechanical layouts and air-brushing.