Hot press board is smoother, and is generally slightly more expensive for a given size and weight. Artists who work with airbrush, markers, or pen-and-ink often favor a hot press surface. Hot press boards produce sharper and finer lines. Graphic design applications also tend to favor a hot-press surface, especially when adhesive wax, adhesive film, rubber cement, or transfer lettering is used. Hot press board scans better. Sharper detail can be reproduced from its smooth surface.

Cold press paper (often referred to as NOT meaning "NOT Hot Pressed") is slightly textured, and is usually favoured when a brush is used, as for watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and tempera and is often considered easier to use.

Artists who work in a drawing media that requires some "tooth" to the surface, such as charcoal, crayon, or pastel, also tend to prefer cold press. Calligraphers and graphite and colored pencil artists choose either surface, depending on personal preference.