Today I’d like to talk about black paper; specifically, the best black paper for colored pencil art.
The post comes in response to a reader question. Here’s the question.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to ask for information. As a very senior citizen, one of my joys is and has been doing colored pencil work. I would like to try doing colored pencil work on a black surface. I love doing wildlife and so I thought the process would be dramatic.
Can you please suggest the proper black surface on which to do colored pencil work and what type of colored pencil [oil or wax? brand?] that would be most effective.
First of all, thank you to the reader for the question. I’m always happy to make recommendations and suggestions based on personal experience and observation.
The Best Black Paper for Colored Pencil Art
The reader is right. Black paper can make for very dramatic drawings. I’ve used it several times with wonderful results.
And I’ve used a few different types of paper, so can offer suggestions for that, as well.
But there are other questions, too, so let’s tackle each one of them.
Pencils to Use on Black Paper
Both wax- and oil-based pencils work well with black paper. I’ve used Prismacolor Premier and Faber-Castell pencils on colored paper. Both are suitable either by themselves or in combination.
Caran d’Ache Luminance are reported to be more opaque than most other colored pencils. If that is true (I haven’t used them so can’t say one way or another,) then they would be a good pencil for use on darker and black paper.
In short, the best thing to do is test the pencils you have on small pieces of paper first. If you’re dissatisfied with those, try other pencils. Buy two or three pencils at a time to see which work best for you. Then buy as many colors as you need (or a full set) of that brand.
My Favorite Black Paper
As for the best paper, the papers that suit my drawing style (I do lots of layering) best are Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Tientes. Both come in black.
Stonehenge is a 90-pound paper with a smooth, velvety texture. It stands up well under layering and can take a lot of color. If you mount it to a rigid support, it also performs well with moderate solvent blending and dries flat.
Canson Mi-Teintes is pastel paper, so it’s quite rough on the front. The back is ideal for colored pencil, but it is still rougher than Stonehenge. It’s a little bit heavier than Stonehenge—98-pounds—so is my personal preference. It’s good with moderate amounts of solvent and holds up well under layering.
Other Black Papers I’ve Used
Strathmore Artagain art paper is another black paper I’ve used and liked. Artagain is a 60-pound paper made from 30% post consumer paper. It feels almost like Bristol, but with a bit more tooth.
You might also try mat board. Mat board comes in a variety of types and textures. For the best results, use a museum quality mat board such as Crescent so your artwork lasts for years.
Mat board is a rigid support. Don’t blend with solvent or use wet media. Do layer color to your heart’s content!
I always liked mat board because I could get large sheets for bigger projects. And matting a piece with the same mat board it’s drawn on gives it a bit more sparkle (in my opinion.)
The Most Important Thing to Remember About Using Black Paper of Any Kind
The most important thing to remember about using black paper is that the colors you put on it look different than they look on white paper. Sometimes, the black paper seems to “absorb” the color, so you have to put more layers of the light colors on the paper to make them look bright.
A white under drawing is also a good way to start a drawing on black paper. Peggy Osborne recently drew a rooster on black paper and you can read her tutorial here.
Whatever paper you draw on and whatever pencils you use, have fun and experiment a little before doing a serious piece. That’s the absolute best way to find best black paper for colored pencil for your art.
Thank you for the article. I looked thru my stash of paper types and realized I have black Stonehenge 90lb paper in a couple of sheets. That will be fun to work with.
It is, Gail. I’ve looked through my stashes, too, and will have to get more black paper. I’m out!
Liked this article for the extra tips. Have watched several videos of using colored pencils on black or navy card stock and find the results dramatic. Your extra tips will help me to achieve an even better result.
Thank you for those kind words, Patricia! I’m always happy when someone benefits from something I’ve written.
Re read this article and then was wondering if one could do an underpainting on black watercolor paper, with white watercolor… like gouache which I think is more opaque. Then one could put colored pencil on top of that to get more brightness with the colors. One could even just use the white watercolor gouache only in the brighter areas. I am thinking of trying this at some point. Then Titanium white could be used at the end for the brightest highlights. What do you think of this? Would it work?