Drawing Techniques: a Guide
Supports: Parchment and Vellum  

Parchment, animal skin specially prepared to provide a smooth, bright surface, was the common support for permanent written documents and texts during the middle ages. One side was noticeably marked by the hair follicles and irregularities of the animal, although it was rubbed with pumice and coated with an abrasive white substance like ground bone or chalk. Its supply depended on the cycle of animal husbandry, and it was very expensive. A typical bound volume of parchment, or codex, cost the equivalent of a high quality computer, monitor, and printer today. Vellum was the best quality parchment and was made from calf bellies. It was smooth, supple, and showed fewer irregularities. Hence it was a suitable support for illuminations painted for wealthy patrons, or for drawings, which were preserved in artists' workshops in model books. When paper was introduced, it superseded parchment because of its ready supply and lesser expense. However, vellum remained in use for special cases, especially for luxurious presentation drawings and illuminations.