Surfaces - also called supports - for graphite pencil range from cheap pulp paper for sketching through to a top class heavyweight rag drawing board. The surface you choose will have great bearing upon the final result. Ultimately paper selection comes down to personal preference, as different papers will suit different ways of working. Here are some good choices. Single sheets can be affordable, so try a variety. Especially consider giving boards a try - you might get a pleasant surprise!
1. Stonehenge by Rising Paper Mill (Fox River)Stonehenge is one of the most popular artist's papers, recommended by many professionals for graphite and colored pencil drawing. 100 percent cotton, buffered, acid free, machine-made. Stonehenge is a versatile paper, available in white, off-white, cream, grey and natural. Stonehenge has an excellent even, rather soft surface with a slight tooth not suited to blending. An affordable paper with excellent archival qualities. Available in 90lb/220gsm, white in 120lb/280gsm (approx) and in pads.
2. Strathmore 500 Bristol BoardThe 500 series is Strathmore's professional range. 100 percent Cotton, acid free, buffered. Strathmore 500 bristol board is available in a medium surface with some tooth for graphite or colored pencil drawing, or plate finish for very fine pencil or pen work. This bristol board has a firm surface able to take a reasonable degree of reworking.
3. Strathmore 400 Series Drawing PaperStrathmore's 400 series papers are affordable and versatile. There's a straight Drawing paper available in a medium (for pencil, colored pencil etc) and smooth (fineline pen, technical drawing) surface. A heavier 100lb paper is available for dry media. Strathmore's website doesn't specify the fiber content - presumably it is wood paper pulp. Sold in sheet form, sketchpads and large rolls.
4. Hahnemuhle Ingres AntiqueMouldmade in Germany from alphacellulose, watermarked, laid pattern. The laid pattern of this versatile paper mimics that used by the old masters. Alpha-cellulose fibre is made from wood pulp which has had the lignin removed, and is considered as archivally stable as cotton paper. A lighter paper at 27lb/100gsm, its surface makes this paper best suited to more expressive linework and shading rather than highly detailed realist graphite drawing.
5. Rising Artist Bristol BoardFrom the makers of Stonehenge paper. Rising Artist Bristol board comes in two finishes, Vellum (medium) - describing its slightly toothy surface, not to be confused with calfskin vellum - and plate, for very fine work. Rising Artist Bristol Board is a multi-ply sulphite paper, acid-free, in 22 x 30 inch sheets.
6. BFK Rives Printmaking PaperMy allt-time favorite paper for printmaking and drawing. Mouldmade in France, 100 percent cotton, acid free, buffered, lightly sized, watermarked. Sold as a printmaking paper, it is a stable paper with a smooth firm surface, robust enough to take some working. Available in a 'neutral' white, grey or tan, 250-300 gsm (77-120 lb) 22x30 inch sheet, also in rolls for seriously large drawings!