The Truth About Tooth


A Solid Bite
I created Haute Cuisine (pastel, 22×31) by building up many layers of color. This technique is only possible on a sheet of paper that has a substantial tooth or texture.

Tooth refers to the relative roughness or smoothness of a sheet of paper. In general, when someone says, ?This paper has a lot of tooth,? she means the paper has a very rough surface. On the other hand, paper with ?very little tooth? is relatively smooth.

The amount of tooth a paper has is important because it affects how pigment sticks to the surface. Dry pigments?charcoal, pastel or graphite?won?t stick to very slick surfaces. However, if you rub dry pigment across a ?toothy? surface like sandpaper, the surface will grab the pigment and hold it in place. If you draw lightly across this kind of surface, the toothy peaks scrape off some of the pigment. When you draw more heavily, bits of pigment are pushed into the crevices and trapped there.

Because of the different methods of making paper, the tooth or texture of a paper can occur in regular or random patterns. If you look at a sheet of Strathmore charcoal paper, for instance, you?ll notice that the surface has a very fine linear pattern. In contrast, a sheet of sandpaper has an irregular pattern. The pattern of the surface is important because it can show up in your finished drawing or painting. When this pattern is used deliberately, it can add greatly to the visual interest of the piece. But if the texture isn?t planned for, it can detract from the end result. By experimenting with the relative amounts of tooth offered by various surfaces, you?ll be able to match the surface with the look you want, and thus sharpen the focus of your artistic vision.

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