Fabriano Black Black Paper: My Thoughts

Fabriano Black Black Paper: My Thoughts

Sometime ago, a reader asked me about correcting mistakes on Fabriano Black Black paper. Basically, the problem was removing color without damaging the paper.

I’d never used this paper before, so I bought a pad, and used it just enough to find the answer for the reader’s question. In case you’re having similar problems, you can read that post here.

Since then, I took the time to do a compositional drawing for a landscape on this paper. Today, I’ll share my thoughts on using this paper.

Fabriano Black Black Paper

As I mentioned in that previous post, Fabriano Black Black paper is a beautiful, coal black paper. I’ve never seen such a deep, dark, black paper. It’s almost a work of art all it’s own.

It’s actually a range of papers that are described as “uncoated cardboards made of ECF cellulose pulp. This paper is characterized by a very deep black colour due to the high quality and lightfast pigments used for its production.” That comes directly from the Fabriano website.

The paper is available in four weights: 300, 370, 460 and 680 gsm. 300 gsm is the weight of the drawing paper, so it’s a heavy drawing paper. (300gsm is about 110lb.)

It’s also very smooth. It’s not quite as slick feeling as Bristol, but it is almost as smooth as Bristol. There is very little tooth, which would make you think it would be easy to draw on.

This is the sketch I did using Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I’m guessing I spent an hour or less working this up. It’s not a finished drawing by any means, but I was just trying out a composition.

How the Drawing Went

Clouds

Here’s a close-up of the clouds. I used only one color for the sky—White—but as you can see, I was able to get a decent range of values. I used a sharp pencil and medium-light or lighter pressure to apply scumbling strokes. The lighter areas are where I added more layers.

The coverage is pretty good, considering the short amount of time and effort I put into this sketch. I was able to suggest mass in the clouds simply with values and edges. At this point, I was quite pleased with the way the paper and pencils worked together.

Distance

The sky between the cloud base and horizon is less pleasing, but that’s my fault. I chose to use slanting directional strokes with the idea of suggesting rain. That did not work and I didn’t take the time to smooth it out afterward. This was, after all, a compositional sketch and an experiment.

For the trees on the horizon, I layered just enough color to the tree shapes so that they weren’t black. Very light pressure and more carefully applied strokes worked quite well.

In the landscape itself, I used the side of the pencil and broader, horizontal strokes in the darker green and the lighter area. That worked fairly well and left enough texture to suggest low-growing ground cover.

The trees on the right did not work out. I think part of the reason for that was that I was very careless in how I stroked, especially in the “fill-in” strokes in the shadows. You can easily see every stroke on those shadows.

The squiggly strokes worked all right, but aren’t very bright, especially compared to the sunny grassy area next to them. But I think that’s due more to a lack of layering than the paper itself. Brighter colors and more layers would punch up the highlights in the trees.

Adding Details

This is my favorite part of the drawing. I really like the way this foliage and grass turned out. Although the blackness of the paper really subdues the colors, the surface is ideal for adding details. The grass turned out especially well for a sketch.

Adding light colors over dark also works fairly well with this paper, though a light-colored under drawing would help brighten up the colors.

Fabriano Black Black Paper
Other Thoughts

My biggest concern with this paper comes from the website description, specifically: “uncoated cardboards made of ECF cellulose pulp.”

“Cardboard” and “archival” are not words I would use together in any way. When it comes to art, any paper with cellulose pulp is not generally thought of as archival.

Fabriano may take steps in the manufacturing process to make this paper more archival, but I would have to weigh those measures against the natural limitations of pulp-based paper before I used it for anything but sketching or experimentation. I would not sell an original drawn on Fabriano Black Black paper, though I would have no problems creating reproductions from such artwork. The reproductions would still be archival; the original artwork would not be archival.

Would I Recommend this Paper?

Yes, but with qualifications. If you enjoy working on smooth paper, then this is a paper you may want to try. It comes in 8″ x 8″ and 9″ x 12″ pads. I bought the 9″ x 12″ pad.

It’s also very reasonably priced.

Fabriano also makes the same paper in bright white, if you’re interested in trying that.

If you prefer a little more tooth in your paper, you probably will want to give this paper a pass. It is beautiful to look at, but for those of us who like textured papers, it’s a challenge!

Fabriano Black Black paper will not become a go-to paper for me, or even one of my top three or four papers. But I do have a nearly full pad of it, and I would like to do a more finished drawing on it, just to see how that turns out. At the moment I’m writing these words, the idea of doing a nightscape is quite appealing.

As I mentioned above, my only test so far as been with Polychromos pencils. Most oil-based colored pencils will probably perform in much the same way.

What about wax-based pencils like Prismacolor? My instinct is that they would work even better on it than the drier oil-based pencils. But at this point, that’s only a guess on my part. I’ll let you know if or when I find out.

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4 Comments

  1. Gail Jones

    Loved this article since working on black has always intrigued me. I use black Artagain paper for CP drawing and black Cold Pressed Stonehenge for watercolors. My thought would be ” I wonder what white gouache or watercolors would do under CP; especially in lighter areas to punch up color on top of them? Might have to try that out at some point on the watercolor paper.

    1. Gail,

      Thank you.

      I’ve used black Artagain paper, too, and I much prefer it to Fabriano Black Black.

      White gouache or watercolor might work, but you would have to be very careful in how you applied it because neither one of these papers are watercolor color papers. My instinct is that the Artagain would tolerate the moisture better, but I don’t know that for a fact.

  2. Gail Jones

    Hi Carrie, the Stonehenge Aqua CP paper is watercolor paper and I have worked on it before with watercolors and it does well, but I have never included colored pencil on top of that.

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