For much of its history, art on paper has been used primarily as a preparatory step in the artistic process. Draftsmanship was essential for many trades; painters, sculptors, architects, and the like made detailed sketches in preparation of executing their fully realized works. Drawing as an independent media for artistic expression began to take off during the Renaissance, coinciding with the more widespread availability of paper, and its study and practice became integral to the education of young artists. Drawing, watercolor, pastel, and other media used on paper would continue to progress as art forms, closely following artistic movements throughout the centuries, from the strict linearity of Neoclassicism, to the colorful dotting of pointillism, to the abstracted forms in Modernism, and beyond.
Art on paper can be of various media that are often combined together to create a finished piece. The media can be either a dry or wet technique. Dry materials include graphite, pastel, charcoal, crayon, and metalpoint, while wet encompasses watercolor, ink, pen, and gouache, among others.