Carrie L. Lewis, Artist

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper for Your Next Drawing

One of the first decisions every colored pencil artist has to make when starting a new project is also one of the most basic: What is the right color of paper for my next subject? Do I know how to choose the right color of paper for every subject?

If you always draw on white paper, the decision is an easy one. Just reach for the next sheet of paper.

But what if you don’t always draw on white or you want to try a different color? The color of paper you choose can either help your drawing or hinder it.

So how do you choose the best color?

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper for Your Next Drawing

Why You Should Consider Drawing on Colored Paper

There are many reasons to choose colored paper; too many to list here. One of the best reasons–at least to my way of thinking–is time. Drawing on colored paper is a great way to reduce drawing time.

Another reason to use colored paper instead of white is that the color of the paper can act as the background for vignette style art or as the foundation color for other types of drawings.

Other drawings might require a color that adds zing to the composition or helps establish a mood. Colored paper is perfect.

If you decide to draw your next subject on something other than white paper, how do you choose the right color of paper?

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper for Colored Pencil

I’ve already mentioned a couple of factors that will help you decide.

  • Providing background color
  • Providing foundation color
  • Adding atmosphere

Lets take a look at each one of these specifically.

Choose the Right Color of Paper for Background or Foundation

The first two are pretty straight forward. You need a background for every drawing and you need to establish a foundation for your drawing. There are only two ways to accomplish those two things: Draw your own or let the paper do it.

Take this drawing of a black Tennessee Walking Horse, for example.

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper Black Tennessee Walking Horse

I choose a light gray Canson Mi Tientes paper first and foremost because the horse was black. The gray paper provided an ideal background for this vignette-style portrait.

But it also provided a foundation for the drawing itself. All I had to draw were the values that were darker than the paper, and those that were lighter. Most of the highlights are bare paper. See the red arrows below.

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper Black Tennessee Walking Horse

The gray paper also provided a foundation color for the horse’s bridle. Again, all I had to do was draw the lights and darks.

Not everything was a shade of gray, though. The blue accent pieces on the bridle and the browns of the eye were made a little bit more lively by the gray paper.

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper Black Tennessee Walking Horse Detail

Could I have drawn the same horse on white paper? Absolutely, but I would have had to shade the background first if I wanted a gray tone or would have had to go with a white background. The resulting drawing would have had a different look, too.

What other colors would have worked for this drawing?

Black comes immediately to mind, and would probably have produced a stunning image, especially with the bright blues and browns already mentioned.

A light or medium shade of blue might also have been a good choice.

In the long run, though, I believe using any color but gray would have increased the time it took to draw the drawing.

TIP: Any time you draw a subject that’s predominantly a single color, look for a color of paper that supports the main colors.

Choose the Right Color of Paper for Atmosphere

Atmosphere is harder to pin down because it’s a more subjective method. It depends largely on two factors: What you as the artist see in your subject and what you want to depict.

Confused yet?

Here’s a photo of an evening sky that I’ve wanted to paint or draw since I first saw the sky in real life. It’s pretty dramatic and begging to be drawn.

How to Choose the Right Color Paper, Sky Scape

When I first took this photo, my gut reaction was to draw the sky on black paper. That seemed like the logical choice for two reasons:

  1. The silhouetted foreground is tailor-made for black paper.
  2. The blues in the sky are dark, almost purple blues, especially in the upper corners. Layering blue colored pencil over black paper is one way to capture this look

The brightness of the sun shining through the clouds could also be emphasized by putting the drawing on black paper.

How does atmosphere fit into those considerations? The day is winding down. The sun has almost set and in a very short time, it will be dark.

I want to depict the brightness of the image, but also suggest the coming darkness. Black paper is a logical choice for enhancing the sense of the darkness of night loitering behind the brightness of the sunset.

Were I to put this drawing on a light, bright yellow, it would look and feel totally different. In fact, I’d guess that it would look more like a sunrise than a sunset.

What other colors might be good choices for drawing this sunset?

I love earth tones, so I’d consider a dark brown paper if one was available. For a softer look, dark blue or a very dark gray would also be possibilities.

Of course, I could also use white paper and perhaps still get the “look” I wanted, but it would take more time and effort because I’d have to draw the darks.


These are only three factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right color of paper for your next drawing. In the end, what will matter most is what you want to do, and how adventurous you might be feeling. After all, who knows what you’d end up with if choose a totally off the wall color?

Want to Read More About Paper?

Check out these articles on paper.

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

Drawing on Colored Papers to Reduce Drawing Time

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My Favorite Podcasts and Video Channels for Colored Pencil Artists

This week’s topic for EmptyEasel is my favorite podcasts and video channels for colored pencil artists. I chose that topic for two reasons:

1: It’s the beginning of the year, so the first week was taken up with things like studio inventory, assembling tax documentation (or at least getting started), and working on goals and ideas for 2017.

Those are all good things to do, but they don’t leave much time for creativity.

Like writing article for EmptyEasel.

2. I kicked off my EmptyEasel year for 2015 by sharing 5 blogs that I recommended for every serious artist. Why not do the same thing this year? That 2015 list left literally hundreds of art and art-related blogs unmentioned, so it would be easy to do another list of recommended blogs without repeating anything.

But I decided to give this year’s list a bit of a twist.

My Favorite Podcasts and Video Channels for Colored Pencil Artists

The result is a list of my favorite podcasts and video channels for colored pencil artists at all levels. Some of them specialize in colored pencil; most of them feature colored pencil as one of multiple mediums. Some even do a little mixed media with colored pencil.

So if you’re looking for a podcast or video channel to help you do better colored pencil work, check out my favorites this week on EmptyEasel.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing: A Question

advantages and disadvantages of drawing

disadvantages of contour shading

advantages and disadvantages of drawing process

what is disadvantage of alphabet line in drawing

drawing disadvantages of books

Something interesting is happening here, at your humble art blog. I don’t understand it, and I’m not afraid to ask for help.

The list above is from the list of search engine terms that brought people to this blog. They all have two things in common.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing A Question For My Readers

The first thing is the use of the word “disadvantage” or “disadvantages”. In other words, the people who are using these phrases to look for information on drawing appear to be looking for reasons not to draw (or use contour shading or whatever).

I don’t know about you, but that seems a little bit odd. Usually, when I’m looking for information on something, I want to know why I should use a particular method or particular tool. I can come up with plenty of reasons not to do something on my own!

But maybe that’s just me.

The second thing each of these terms have in common is that they’re rather vague. I can think of several different ways to answer a question about the disadvantages of drawing. For example, if the person searched for “advantages and disadvantages of drawing”, do they want to know why they should draw instead of trace?

Or do they want to know why they should do a line drawing of their subject first, or start without a line drawing?

Or are they even talking about fine art? When I searched some of these same terms, everything I came up with had something to either with computer art or engineering. My husband is an engineer, but that’s as close as I get to engineering.

I’d love to write an article about a search term that’s coming up so often, but what exactly should I write about?

You see my dilemma.

So I thought I’d ask you. If you used any of the search terms listed above, what exactly did you want to know? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer it.

And if your question is related to engineering in some way, maybe I can talk my husband into providing the answer!

My Favorite Drawing Papers

What are your favorite drawing papers?

An excellent question! I’ve talked a lot about the pencils I use and how I use them, but haven’t spent much time talking about my favorite drawing papers. I’ve been remiss, so thank you for asking!

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My two favorite papers are Stonehenge and Strathmore Artagain.

With Stonehenge, I usually use white. It does come in light colors (tan, light blue, etc.) and I do sometimes use those for special projects. This portrait was one of the first I drew on Stonehenge paper.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Portrait on White Stonehenge Paper

I’ve also occasionally used black, and although black papers aren’t usually my first choices, there is definitely a place for black Stonehenge. See the selection of Stonehenge papers at Dick Blick.

Artagain papers do not come in white, but I still use the lightest colors available. Flannel White (which is the lightest color, but not true white) and Beachsand Ivory. This drawing is on Beachsand Ivory.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Drawing on Beachsand Ivory Artagain

This paper is available in more colors than Stonehenge, so if I’m looking for something Stonehenge doesn’t offer, I can always get Artagain. It’s also more widely available than Stonehenge. See the selection of Strathmore Artagain at Dick Blick.

Papers I Want to Try

I’m going to be trying Canson Mi Tientes. Mi Tientes is a pastel paper, so the front of it is quite rough. It can be used for colored pencil.

I tried Cansion Mi-Tientes many years ago, but didn’t know about the two sides, and apparently used the pastel side. Result? I didn’t like it. I also used a lightweight version of the paper back then, so it didn’t stand up well under my method of drawing.

Recently, I saw an excellent demonstration on using turpentine with colored pencil and the art was using Canson Mi-Tientes. Her work turned out so well, I just had to try it. So I pulled out a scrap of that old paper and what do you know? I liked it! Here’s the drawing.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Drawing on Gray Canson Mi-Tientes

I’ve since purchased four sheets of heavier weight Mi-Tientes in four colors and look forward to giving it a try.

There’s a wider range of colors with this paper, including quite a few light colors. You can see Canson Mi Tientes at Dick Blick.

I described my work on the drawing above and you can read all about that here.

A Recommendation

All three types of paper are available in flat sheets and in pads. If you’re thinking about trying any of them (or any other paper, for that matter), I recommend buying drawing pads first. Pads of assorted colors are available, so you get a variety of colors at a good value.

Additional Reading

3 Basics of Drawing Paper

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

Using Colored Pencil Paper to Reduce Drawing Time

On EmptyEasel: Interview with Colored Pencil Artist John Ursillo

“John Ursillo’s colored pencil pieces are absolutely brilliant. Every colored pencil piece I’ve observed is strengthened by John’s ability to capture light and texture. [He] explores what many describe as a difficult medium with apparent ease: A true master.” Brian Sherwin, Art Critic

I can add nothing to Brian Sherwin’s comments about John Ursillo’s colored pencil artwork. Whether his subjects are architectural, floral, landscape, or human, he is able to infuse his drawings with light and mystery.

Following is our “conversation by email” about his work, why he chose colored pencil, and a little bit about his process. Read the interview on EmptyEasel.

14 Things for Which I’m Thankful in 2016

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19, 20

It’s pretty routine to pause at the end of the year and think back. To give thanks for the good things we’ve been given and all the difficulties from which or through which we’ve been delivered.

But how often do we stop and follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to give thanks? In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it so very easy to forget. I know I’ve been guilty of that more years than I can count.

Giving Thanks For Everything

It would take more time and space than I have on this blog to list everything for which I’m thankful and it would be too indifferent to simply say I’m thankful for everything.

So I’m going to list fourteen specific things for which I’m giving thanks today.

Things for Which I'm Thankful

14 Things for Which I’m Thankful

1. Creative stillness

I know what you’re thinking. What an odd thing for which to be thankful, especially as an artist.

2016 wasn’t my most productive year (nor was 2015, for that matter.) I spent most of both years separated from two activities that used to be my very life: creating art and writing novels. 2015 was completely still in both arenas; 2016 was improved slightly.

Things for Which I'm Thankful - Creative Stillness

For most creative people, that’s the worst thing that could ever happen.

For me, it’s been a blessing.

God put me in this quiet place to show me that I’m not “all that” (a belief of which I’ve been guilty for quite some time.) It gave me time to take a good, hard look at the way I live and the things I do. I’m grateful for being slowed down and given time to recharge in so many ways.

2. Freelance writing

Being freed from making art and writing fiction gave me all kinds of time for writing nonfiction. Blog posts, freelance articles, potential books. Journaling. I wrote almost one million words each year. A remarkable amount.

3. Art students!

I have never considered myself to be a teacher. What did I have to teach?

But one online art course led to another.

One online art student led to another. Then another and another. Enough students to show me it could be done. Not so many that I was overwhelmed. The perfect balance!

Things for Which I"m Thankful - Art Students!

Assisting students with their projects kept me doing art when there was little else to draw throughout 2015 and 2016.

4. The encouragement of art students

Some of my students have been so warmly appreciative of the online art courses, they’ve made me blush. But I routinely minimize my abilities and my work, so this kind of unsolicited encouragement was a Godsend for which I’m very thankful.

5. A New Portrait

After nearly eighteen months without a portrait order, I received a commission. A portrait for Christmas. It was a struggle to get back into the routine of painting for someone else—it was a challenge to get back into the routine of painting—but it was done. The portrait has been finished and delivered. Praise God for His mercies, by the time I finished it, I was beginning to think my horse painting days weren’t over, yet.

6. Coloring Pages

I’ve long been aware of the adult coloring book fad, but have never paid much attention to it. It just wasn’t something I was interested in.

Then came a desire to work on something that wasn’t what I considered fine art and with I could experiment quickly and easily.

Things for Which I'm Thankful - Coloring Pages

That led to the creation of numerous geometric designs and that led to printing and coloring some of them.

Much to my surprise, it was fun! And informative. I found a whole new way to practice pencil strokes, blending, and a number of other things that may soon find their way into a new lesson series.

7. Lesson Downloads

That leads me to item number seven on my list: Lesson downloads.

Sometime during 2016, I realized that the books I’d written could be better used as lesson downloads. I took the bold step of unpublishing them and converting them into lessons.

Of course, once I’d done that, I realized there were other lessons to write, too. The Basic Drawing Series is one of the results of those labors. I’m hoping to launch others in 2017. Stay tuned!

8. Printed Lessons

Many of us prefer working from printed material. Requests from potential students asking for printed lessons led to finding a printer, working through all the details of formatting a book for printing, and finding a way to make them available. A lot of things that don’t sound all that creative, but that really are. Just in a different form.

Once I did one printed version, it was easy to see the possibilities for others. It may not be what I’d consider artistic, but writing and designing lessons and getting them printed is a creative endeavor nonetheless. I am thankful for it.

9. Snow

I grew up in Michigan and love snow. It’s one of my favorite weather things. I wished I was back in Michigan when a letter arrived early in November and contained mention of the first snow in my hometown. Two inches of wet, heavy snow. My favorite kind!

Things for Which I'm Thankful - Snow

I often joke with people here in Kansas that I’m still waiting for my first real winter since moving to Kansas. We’ve had decent snow—meaning two inches or more all at once—a couple of times, but there have also been years when we’ve had little or no snow!

I hoped for snow for Christmas this year, as I do every year.

I prayed for snow for Christmas this year.

It reached 60 on Christmas day, so there was no snow. There was, however, an almost thunderstorm (another favorite weather thing.)

But we did have snow early in December and another taste of snow at mid-month. It didn’t linger very long either time, but sight of snow falling always lifts my spirits.

An early Christmas gift from the Giver of all good things.

10. The gift of art

I’ve been painting and drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon in a chubby hand and draw on a wall. Being separated from that activity for so long has made it all the more treasured.

Things for Which I'm Thankful - The Gift of Art

11. The Gift of Words

Very little gives me more pleasure than stringing words together on a page. There’s power in the written word that few other mediums possess and I’m grateful to God for entrusting me with this marvelous gift.

12. The Gift of Readers and Subscribers

That’s right. You! Without you, this blog would be like the sound of one hand clapping. You make it work! Thank you for your interest in what I do and what I teach.

13. My Husband

When I turned 40, I was still single—as in, never married—and was still living with my parents. I thought the best part of life was over and it was all a downhill slide into old age.

Then along came my husband through a process that’s unique and astounding and still takes my breath away when I stop to consider it. Definitely, another God Thing, and proof that new things can happen at any time.

LORD willing, we’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary in 2017. I still sometimes stop and wonder what I did to deserve such a blessing.

14. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I mean real liberty and real happiness. Joyous happiness. The kind of joy that transcends circumstances. Something that comes only from God above. Without His blessing and sustenance, none of the rest would be possible.

God created me to live in this time and in this place. That means there’s a purpose behind it all. I may not always like the circumstances, but there are no accidents in God’s economy and for that, I am more thankful than words can express.

So there’s my list for 2016. It’s by no means complete, but taking the time to write it has made me more aware of the blessings—large and small—that have been showered upon us in the year just past.

Praise God from Whom all blessings really do flow!

What about you? What are you giving thanks for from 2016?

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

Colored pencils are an ideal medium for creating a detailed miniature drawing. Their very nature is perfect for small works of art. If you’re looking for something new, I encourage you to give it a try.

Miniature artwork is 24 square inches (4×6) or smaller. My demo piece measures 3-1/2″ by 2-1/2″ (commonly known as an art trading card). Miniatures can be much smaller, too.

For more information on miniature art, visit the Miniature Art Society of Florida for national and international definitions. While there, take a look at some absolutely marvelous miniature work in a variety of mediums.

But how do you draw a miniature drawing? What special methods do you need to know?

My short answer is that whatever method you use for other drawings will work if you want to draw a miniature drawing. The biggest adjustment you’ll have to make is the length pencil strokes; they will need to be shorter!

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil

My subject for this demonstration is a mare and foal, but the method I’m about to describe works for any subject and any size.

The drawing method is a simplified version of the classical method in which I do an under drawing first, then layer color over the under painting.

The Drawing

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - The Line Drawing

A detailed drawing is especially important with the Classical method, since details are developed from the very beginning. When working with colored pencils, it’s even more important. Corrections can be made quite easily with oils. While you can correct errors or vague areas in the drawing with colored pencils, it is a much more time consuming task. For me at least, it’s better to get everything as accurate as possible from the start.

The Under Drawing

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - Starting the Umber Under Layer

The next step is the under drawing. I used Light Umber and Dark Umber to create a detailed under drawing. Most of the work is done in Light Umber, but the Dark Umber is very handy for adding darks and contrast, especially with these two bays.

I also worked on the background using Yellow Ochre and Dark Umber, both very lightly applied. I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils, which hold a point much longer and have a thinner lead. This allows for more even color application. It is also very helpful in working with such small images and in areas where there is a high level of detail.

First Color Layer

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - The First Color Layer

The image above shows the first two color layers now in place. The first color was Verithin Goldenrod, which I layered over all of each horse but the blacks and white markings. I followed up with Verithin Orange Ochre over all areas but the darkest darks and the brightest highlights.

Second Color Layer

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - The Second Color Layer

Work at this point is a matter of building layers of color to achieve the most accurate possible coloring on each horse and the best color saturation. Usually, saturation of color is more difficult than getting accurate color, but they go hand in hand.

I worked mostly on the foal using Verithin Dark Brown and Terra Cotta to bring her color up to about the same level as the mare’s. I also worked on both horses with Ultramarine Blue and Black, building up the manes and the darker areas around the muzzles and eyes.

Finishing Layer

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - Finishing the Drawing

I started out with Prismacolor thick lead pencils, applying a layer of Burnt Ochre to the mare followed by Bruynzeel Sanguine and Prismacolor Vermillion Red. A little bit of Cerulean Blue and White in specific areas and she was mostly finished.

I also worked on the background, darkening it and smoothing out the texture enough to work with the two horses. Verithin pencils were my choice because they are good tools to blend and apply color at the same time. I used a combination of Light Peach, Parma Violet, and Ultramarine Blue Dark Brown.

Finally, back to the horses, with a light blending layer using Dark Brown and Terra Cotta on both mare and foal and the drawing was complete.

Learn more about drawing with colored pencils with my online colored pencil course.

EmptyEasel: All You Need to Get Started with Colored Pencil

Ever wonder what you need to get started with colored pencil? I mean, the absolute, bare bones minimum?

Get Started with Colored Pencil

It may seem unnecessary to write an entire article about the tools of the colored pencil artist. I mean, they’re so basic. Pencils, paper, sharpener, eraser. What else do you need?

The plain and simple truth is that you really don’t need anything else. That’s what makes colored pencils so appealing to a non-artist who wants to try his or her hand at making art. Getting started really is relatively easy—and inexpensive. Any colored pencil, any sharpener, and any kind of paper will suffice. You can find those almost anywhere.

But what if you’re serious about learning colored pencils? What do you need to buy? And what do you need to know?

Let’s tackle this matter in an orderly, two-part fashion. First, a quick primer on pencils and paper, followed by a look at some of the more unusual tools a serious beginner might want to consider (and might already have around the house.) Read the full article.

Sketching With Colored Pencils

When most people think of colored pencils, they may think first of sketching. Sketching with colored pencils is great for improving eye-hand coordination, exploring potential subjects, or just having fun.

But did you know you can make and sell colored pencils sketches?

Sketching with Colored Pencils

One of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in conjunction with horse shows are on-the-spot sketches. The drawing below is my favorite sketch.

Sketching With Colored Pencils - Dog

At shows, someone presents me with a photo of their horse, dog or other animal and I create an 8×10 drawing from the image. As with most of these samples, I use colored paper and two or three colored pencils. The colors are chosen based on the color of the animal and I spend no more than an hour on each drawing.

Sketching with colored pencils is also a good way to sketch from life or do some plein air drawing.

Sketching with Colored Pencils - Clydesdale

Have Fun and Make Money

Clients love the immediacy and it’s a great way to supplement the sales of larger paintings and generate interest in more polished portraits.

My favorite part about this kind of sketching is that I often get to draw something other than horses. Dogs, for example. I also drew a cat for someone.

Sketching as a Study for Larger Work

I sometimes do quick draws to find the best composition for a painting. It’s also a good way to practice a particular technique or subject, or brush up on a difficult or unusual subject.

Or it might be something outside the realm of my usual subjects that catches my artistic eye. Sunlight on a leaf, for instance. Or on a glass.

Sketching With Colored Pencils - Gray Arab

They also make great gifts. With Christmas just around the corner, sketches like these may be exactly the ticket for the animal lovers you know. Sketching with colored pencils may be a good place to begin.

The Tools of the Colored Pencil Artist on EmptyEasel

It may seem unnecessary to write an entire article about the tools of the colored pencil artist. I mean, they’re so basic. Pencils, paper, sharpener, eraser. What else do you need?

The plain and simple truth is that you really don’t need anything else. That’s what makes colored pencils so appealing to a non-artist who wants to try his or her hand at making art. It’s relatively easy—and inexpensive—to get started. Any colored pencil, any sharpener, and any kind of paper will suffice. You can find those almost anywhere.

But what if you’re serious about learning colored pencils? What do you need to buy? And what do you need to know?

Let’s tackle this matter in an orderly, two-part fashion. First, a quick primer on pencils and paper, followed by a look at some of the more unusual tools a serious beginner might want to consider (and might already have around the house.) Read the full article.

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