Black paper adds a whole new dimension to colored pencil drawing. Your dark colors show up subtle, and the lighter ones pop off the page. Black drawing paper can behave quite differently from regular white drawing paper, so there are a few techniques you can follow to get the best out of black paper.

Regardless of which brand you choose, Black drawing paper is likely not going to be true jet black. I’d compare them more to the ‘90% Cool Grey’ Prismacolor pencil, although each brand may vary. I use Canson Black Drawing Paper, which is closest to 90% cool grey. This is a plus because it makes it possible to further darken specific areas with your black colored pencil. Keep in mind when following a reference image that 90% is your darkest color in comparison to the paper you are using, not Black.

How do you decide if black paper is the right choice for your drawing? Think about what you’re trying to achieve with the image. Black paper is much moodier, and makes light areas POP. If you’re drawing a night scene, black paper would be a great choice as it would save you a lot of time having to draw in a dark background. For example, in these images, I played off the black background by simply drawing in the brightest areas of the image, and leaving the rest to speak for itself.

Drawing on Black paper with colored pencil
Art By Safanah © 2019

Use white pencil to sketch outlines

You’d probably opt for a thin graphite pencil to sketch on white paper, but pencil doesn’t show up very well on black paper. Try using a stiff white pencil, like Prismacolor Verithins, to sketch out the image as it will make it easier to tell what you are drawing.

Black Paper contains pigment

And quite a but of it too. This makes you a little more limited than usual.
1. You can’t entirely erase colored pencil off of black paper, especially thick layers. It’s no problem if you plan on redrawing on top of the area you erased, but if you’re looking for it to be completely black again, that probably won’t happen especially if you had put down a light color. You can get away with lightly erasing a few lines, but if you’re looking to erase an entire section 1. it likely won’t really come off 2. you’ll probably end up removing some black pigment and you’ll have a grey area on your paper. So, keep in mind, if you intend on erasing something, like some white outlines, draw them in lightly.

2. Light colors don’t show up that brilliantly. For whatever reason, perhaps the silkiness of black paper, colored pencils can tend to skip a little. It’s especially noticeable when you’re laying down a light color and black paper is showing through. To make the lighter colors show up better, first lay down a light layer of white pencil in that area, then go in with the other colors on top. The white pencil will act as barrier between the paper and the other color.

Still, black paper is resilient and you may not be getting the white areas to show up properly. There are a couple of fixes to this.

  1. Use white acrylic paint. a layer or two of it will show up brighter than life.
  2. Use white gel pen. If you need something more controlled and detailed, a touch of white gel pen will make sure the highlights pop.
  3. A more sophisticated approach, Matte Fixative. How would this help? Once you’re completely finished with your drawing, go in a ventilated area and give your drawing a few sprays. Allow at least a half hour to dry, then go in with another layer of pencil. Because the fixative adds a matte layer on top, there is now enough friction to go in with an entirely new layer of pencil!

I hope these tips help on your next black drawing paper adventure, let me know how it went over on Instagram.

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