Chamois really grabs the color in my experience. If you want to lay down some heavier color go with that surface, otherwise stick to the matte/semi-matte surfaces. I've not seen any great difference in paper brands, just surfaces. I like the use the tubes of Marshall's oil, although I have been working a bit more with their pencils recently and kind of like them more now than when I first started. If you are just starting out, I would suggest trying a small pack of each so that you can see what the results are for yourself - it's the best way to answer this sort of question.

- Randy