Getting Vivid Color on Black Sanded Paper

Getting Vivid Color on Black Sanded Paper

After answering a reader question about getting vivid color on black paper, I decided to do a bit of experimenting on my own. I’ve been doing a lot of work on Pastelmat this year, so I know how well it takes lots of layers.

But could would it take enough layers to produce vivid color on black sanded paper?

Believe it or not, there are sanded art papers available in an assortment of colors, including black. Canson Mi-Teintes Touch is one such paper. Others include Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel Paper, Clairefontaine Pastelmat, and Uart Premium Sanded Pastel Paper. The deepness of the black differs from paper to paper, but they all have one thing in common. They are very dark!

But you can also make black sanded paper simply by layering black several times over your favorite sanded art paper. That’s what I did, adding several layers of Faber-Castell Polychromos Black onto a 4×6 inch piece of white Pastelmat.

Having said that, you could easily do the same experiment on any of the papers listed above. This is just the method I chose.

Here’s how it went.

Getting Vivid Color on Black Sanded Paper

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils for a couple of experiments. I like them because they hold a point longer than Prismacolor, and because I feel like I have better pressure control with them.

If you use a different pencil, test them first on small pieces of your preferred sanded paper to see how they perform.

Experiment #1

Step One

I made a swatch of white with several layers of Polychromos. I stroked at a different angle with each layer, so the strokes were cross hatched, and covered as much of the paper tooth as possible.

Is getting vivid color on black sanded paper any easier or more difficult than on traditional drawing papers? Carrie shares her test results.

Step Two

Next, I layered Polychromos Cadmium Yellow over the white. Once again, I added three or four layers in hatching and crosshatching strokes.

Step Three

The final layers were Alizarin Crimson, applied with more crosshatching.

I increased the pressure with each layer of color, beginning with medium pressure (normal handwriting pressure) and ending with medium heavy pressure.

The resulting color wasn’t quite satisfactory, so I tried something else.

Experiment #2

This time, I skipped the white under layers and started with Cadmium Yellow. I applied color the same way, using medium pressure and crosshatching strokes to apply three or four layers.

Is getting vivid color on black sanded paper any easier or more difficult than on traditional drawing papers? Carrie shares her test results.

I followed that with layers of Alizarin Crimson.

What do you think? The two colors are not the same, but neither one looks really vivid, does it?

The Unexpected

This is where I made the best discovery.

In looking at my two samples, I noticed something interesting. Around the edges, where each color was on black paper, they looked brighter.

So I added several layers of yellow across the top of the second color swatch. Then I did the same thing with Alizarin Crimson along the bottom. Guess what? They were the brightest of the three!

Is getting vivid color on black sanded paper any easier or more difficult than on traditional drawing papers? Carrie shares her test results.

What My Tests Show about Getting Vivid Color on Black Sanded Paper

The first thing I learned from this experiment was not to expect a method that works on one kind of paper to work on another! Obviously, I got the brightest color without doing an under drawing. That was a huge surprise.

The second thing I learned is that it’s difficult to get bright, vivid color on black sanded art paper with any method if you use only pencils.

You do have other options if you want to use some special tools. For example, you can use Brush & Pencil Titanium White and Touch-Up Texture mixture to paint an opaque white on the paper, then add your color over that.

You can also add other pigments to Touch-Up Texture and paint that mix directly onto the paper, then draw over that.

Or you can do like John Guiseppi does, and draw on white sanded paper and fill in your black background with Faber-Castell Polychromos (see the tutorial in the December 2021 issue of CP Magic!). That’s probably the best way to get vivid color on a black background!

Got a question? Ask Carrie!


  1. Gail Jones

    Thank you for showing some ways to do the vivid color on black. I also wonder how an underpainting of watercolor might do, with colored pencils on top of that, to add pop to black. Great article Carrie!

    1. Gail,

      Watercolor is even more transparent than colored pencils are, so I’m not sure how it would work as an underpainting medium on black paper.

      Gouache might work, since that’s opaque watercolor.

      But I’m still not sure if there’s a black watercolor paper available. Any thoughts on that?

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