Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

When you think of drawing papers, you probably usually think “smooth,” don’t you? As in, the smoother the better. Have you ever considered using colored pencil on sandpaper?

No, not the sandpaper you buy at a hardware store (though you can draw on that if you really want to.) I’m talking about sanded papers made for artists.

Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

The kinds of surfaces suitable for colored pencil are nearly endless. If a surface will accept dry media of any kind, it will work for colored pencil, often with a minimum of preparation.

In the past, I’ve described 3 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil.

A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sanded pastel paper.

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper.

Most of these papers were created for pastels, which require a lot of tooth. Some oil painters have started using sanded surfaces on a rigid support with beautiful results.

But colored pencil?

On sanded pastel paper?

What is Sanded Pastel Paper?

In short, sanded pastel paper is drawing paper that’s been coated with a gritty surface that looks and feels a lot like ordinary, hardware store sandpaper. The surface texture is measured by something called “grit.” The higher the number, the finer the grit.

800 grit sanded paper has a very fine texture. It’s still a lot coarser than a regular paper, but it’s the best suited for drawing detail.

240 grit paper is very coarse.

TIP: If you’ve never tried sanded pastel papers before, get small sheets or check with the manufacturer. If they offer samples, that’s the best way to try papers.

Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

Great For Layering, Not so Great for Details

Since even the finest grits are still like drawing on sand, they’ll take a lot of layers.

What you won’t be able to do without the use of solvents is draw a high degree of detail. The smaller your drawing, the more difficult it will be to draw detail.

Excellent for Solvent Blending

Because the surface of sanded pastel papers are generally non-absorbent, you can use solvents without worrying about damaging the paper. Rigid supports are best for this, of course, but you can use solvents even on the papers.

Just make sure you use a brush—a stiff bristle is better than a soft brush. The paper will pull cotton balls or cotton swabs to bits.

Try “Painterly”

If you usually draw a lot of detail, try a more painterly approach with sanded pastel papers.

Go Frame-less

The real reason colored pencil drawings are usually framed under glass is to protect the paper from staining, tearing, or punctures.

You don’t have those worries as much with sanded pastel papers. Use a rigid sanded panel and you have no need to frame under glass at all!

Want to Finish Fast?

Then you’ll want to at least give sanded pastel papers a try. You can lay down a lot of color in a hurry, especially if you’re using woodless pencils.

The downside is that the paper may eat your pencils for lunch.

Light over Dark

It is possible to layer light colors over dark and have them show up. The reason is the amount of tooth on even the finest grit sanded art papers. Unless you use solvent (see above), it’s next to impossible to fill the tooth of the paper so much that you can’t add more color.

That means you can add some light highlights at the end of the drawing and they will still show up!


I’ve done only one small drawing on sanded pastel paper so far. I described the drawing process in an article written for EmptyEasel.  Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

But I have three sheets from my original sample still available, and have ordered more. I’m looking forward to working a few landscapes as larger format drawings (the original one was an ACEO).

I encourage you to give it a try, too. It may be exactly the surface you’ve been looking for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *