One of the most frequent complaints about using colored pencil for fine art is the amount of time needed to finish a piece. If the drawing is very large or if you work in a representational style, you can easily spend weeks on a single project. Maybe even months.

Blending with rubbing alcohol or turpentine are two ways to create layers of vibrant, saturated color quickly, but there’s an even more basic method you might want to consider.

Have You Considered Drawing on Colored Papers

Using a colored support is a great way to jump start your next colored pencil project. If you choose a color that provides a base color or a base complementary color to most of the drawing, you won’t need to draw that base as you would if you were to do the same drawing on white paper.

Art papers and museum quality mat boards are available in an array of colors from pastel tints to bright primaries. An artist with an adventurous streak could spend a year doing the same drawing over and over on different colors and never use the same color twice.

Because the topic of this post is saving time, let’s take a look at how the color of paper you choose can help you save drawing time.

Finding the Ideal Color For Every Drawing

Let’s say you want to depict a landscape on a rainy day. The light is flat. The colors are deeply saturated, but the value range is narrow. Light gray paper or light gray-green paper would be ideal. The gray paper would provide an excellent base for a gray sky or misty air with very little work. A gray-green paper would provide a good base for the greens in the landscape but might be more problematic for the sky if the sky is light.

This drawing of the Michigan Standardbred, Blizzard Babe, was drawn on a light gray mat board. The gray color provided an ideal foundation for this light gray filly and her black gear. It also worked very well with the blue accents throughout the drawing and was even a good foil for the flesh tones in the mouth and tongue.

Take a look at the blanket. Most of the work necessary for that was adding highlights and reflected light. The majority of the color is the mat board itself.

I added a little shading in the corners to “frame” the horse.

Colored Pencil Portrait of Blizzard Babe

For Buckles & Belts in Colored Pencil, I chose mat board in a light brown with a neutral tint. The color provided a natural highlight color for the bay horse. It was also a great base color for all of the other colors in the horse’s coat.

I had to draw the facial marking and accent the eye and buckles, but did very little with the background. A light glaze of light blue to create the cool tint of a distant sky.

Colored Pencil Drawing, Buckles & Belts in Colored Pencil

Finally, here’s a drawing of a black cat on black paper. Max’s owner was getting married and this portrait had been ordered as a wedding gift. It needed to be completed in time for the client to frame and package it for the wedding. Using black paper allowed me to focus on middle tones and highlights.

Colored Pencil portrait of Max

 Supporting Colors

In each case, I chose colors that supported the basic color scheme of the subject and composition. By doing so, the amount of drawing work was reduced.

In general, it’s best and most efficient to choose a paper color that works with you. That’s why I usually use white or off white or very light colors.

For more information and a detailed step-by-step demonstration, check out, Colored Pencils: The Direct Method Step-by-Step.