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GF Smith produces eco-friendly papers used by artists, printmakers, illustrators, and graphic designers. I recently visited the G F Smith paper factory, thanks to the Feral Art School’s re-wilding practice programme. During my visit, I was impressed by their commitment to sustainability and was inspired to try out some of their papers in my artwork.

My artwork focuses on habitats that have been affected by the climate crisis. Currently, I am studying a woodland area that was burned in a wildfire on the hottest day of 2022. I am documenting both the damage caused and the gradual regeneration of the site. I use mostly wet media such as ink, watercolour, or water-based paints in my 2D work, both on-site and in the studio.

GF Smith provided me with some sample sheets of their colourplan papers (made sustainably in the UK) and Neenah Environment paper (made from 30% post-consumer fibres). I tested both papers using a variety of techniques and mediums. Here are my findings:


  • Fibre structure – The Neenah paper produced amazing, non-linear fibrous torn edges that contrasted well with the colour plan, which produced a cleaner straight tear. Contrasting edge style is very useful in collage work.


  • Dry mediums – Pen, pencil, and chalk pencils all worked really well on both papers. The fibre qualities of the Neenah paper meant that there was more contrast in how the pencil/chalk pencils sat on the surface compared to the pen marks. Both papers gave clear detailed marks with dry media.


  • Watercolour/gouache – Both papers performed really well for wet-on-dry use of watercolour and gouache. The properties of the colour plan paper meant that the wet mediums were kept nearer the surface than the same marks on Neenah. Neither paper showed any degradation of the paper structure, allowing detailed mark-making to show really crisply.


  • Wet-in-wet – Both papers struggled with wet-in-wet techniques, giving a quite muddy effect. The Neenah paper buckled more than the colour plan paper. Impressively, though, neither paper disintegrated. Once dry, the papers could be worked into using dry media.


Overall, I was very impressed with how both these papers performed. In particular, they coped with wet-on-dry watercolour, gouache, and inks well, giving clear detailed brush marks. The colour plan paper performed slightly better than cartridge paper for similar styles, and the Neenah has many unique properties that merit further testing and exploration.

GF Smith papers are eco-friendly and sustainable. Before visiting GF Smith, I did not realise how many different paper surfaces are made from different materials. This is definitely something I wish to learn from for my art practice—for example, the interaction between visual, tactile, and sound qualities for each paper type was unique.


Many thanks to GF Smith for providing me with the paper samples to test!


Further Information:

Neenah Environment paper

Colour Plan paper

GF Smith