Drawing on Black Paper: Unleash Your Creativity

Have you ever tried drawing on black paper? It’s a unique experience that offers stunning results with striking contrast. Unlike white or colored paper, black paper allows artists to use the darkness as a substitute for the darkest shadow tones, creating a dramatic final appearance. In this article, we will explore tips and techniques to help you enhance your black paper drawings and make them more vibrant.

Tips for Drawing on Black Paper

When drawing on black paper, it’s important to follow certain guidelines to achieve the best results. Here are some tips to guide you through the process:

Plan the composition first

Before starting your drawing, take some time to plan the composition. Mapping out the placement of shadows and highlights on dark paper will prevent you from overworking the piece. Consider creating a low-key drawing or strategically place shadows to make use of the black of the paper. This not only saves time but also helps create a particular effect.

Create a sketch

Once you are satisfied with the composition, create a light sketch using a light pencil or a white pencil with a light pressure. Starting with an outline allows you to fill in the drawing as it progresses.

Start with light layers

Instead of drawing shadows, as you would on white paper, focus on drawing the light areas. Begin with the lightest pressure and gradually increase it with consecutive layers. This approach prevents filling in the tooth of the paper too quickly and allows you to build up tones and values gradually. It’s important to go slow at first to avoid having to erase white pencil marks, as black paper is less forgiving.

Start with a hard pencil

If you are using colored pencils, starting with a hard pencil will give you more room to make blends and transitions. Harder pencils and pastels do not fill up the tooth of the paper as quickly as soft ones, providing better control and layering ability.

Draw light tones first

When working on black paper, it is advantageous to work from light to dark. Instead of drawing dark values, focus on the lighter tones. Apply light pressure with your lightest pencil where the highlights should be and gradually build upon these tones as you progress.

Draw mid tones and colors next

After establishing the lightest highlights, gradually increase the lightness with each layer. Once the first layer of light tones is complete, start adding mid tones and colors to your drawing. Be mindful not to smudge or overblend pastel too early, as it can affect the overall appearance.

Use the glazing technique for bright colors

To achieve the brightest and most vibrant colors on black paper, layer white pencil beneath. This technique works best with colored pencils. Layer white pencil first to create highlights and then layer colors on top. The white underneath will backlight the colors, making them appear brighter. Remember to use light pressure when layering the white pencil to avoid tinting the colors.

Leave the black paper to show through

One of the unique aspects of drawing on black paper is that you don’t have to cover the darkness completely. Embrace the black paper and use it to represent shadows in your drawing.

Test colors first

Before applying colors to your final drawing, test them on a scrap piece of black paper. Certain transparent colors may appear differently against the black background, so it’s essential to layer them over a white pencil to make them appear brighter.

Work upright with pastel to avoid dust

If you are using pastels, work upright at an easel to avoid unwanted light dust that can create splatter effects across the page. Working upright allows dust to collect beneath the easel instead of smudging across the drawing.

Use fixative before final layers

If you find that the tooth of the paper has been lost after layering mid tones, spray a little workable fixative to renew the paper’s tooth. This will help the final highlights pop and keep them separate from the rest of the drawing. Note that this technique may not be necessary if you are working on papers like black Pastelmat, as they reduce the need for fixative.

The Best Black Drawing Paper: Product Picks

When it comes to black drawing paper, there are various options available. However, if you are using colored pencils or pastels, a toothy paper will make the white pencil look more intense and saturated. Here are some recommended products:

Black Pastelmat

Pastelmat is a unique, coated paper with a sanded texture that offers better pencil and pastel adhesion. It’s perfect for colored pencil work, allowing for multiple layers without losing tooth. The soft and velvety feel of Pastelmat makes it ideal for blending techniques and drawing fine details.

Strathmore Artagain

With a coal black color and slight texture, Strathmore Artagain drawing paper is suitable for use with soft pastels, coloring pencils, or gel roller pens. Although not as toothy as Pastelmat, it is a more affordable option and works well with fewer layers.

Recommended Drawing Supplies for Black Paper

Aside from specific papers, here are some supplies that work great on black paper:

Colored pencils

Colored pencils made from oil or wax are perfect for drawing on black paper. They offer softness, vibrancy, and high pigmentation. Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils are oil and wax-based, providing excellent coverage and sharp points. Prismacolor pencils, on the other hand, are slightly softer and more buttery in texture, allowing for quick coverage and smooth transitions.

Soft pastels

Soft pastels or oil pastels are another excellent choice for drawing on black paper. They offer highly pigmented and broad marks, covering more of the paper and providing opacity. Unison pastels are known for their high quality and pure pigments, while Art Spectrum offers a more affordable option with a slightly harder texture.

White gel roller pen

For super bright highlights, consider using a white gel roller pen or white marker pen. These can be useful for adding small dots of white or cleaning up edges in your drawing.


When working on black paper, it’s essential to use erasers that won’t smudge colored pencil marks across the paper. Kneaded erasers have a moldable, putty texture, making them ideal for lifting details and highlights without damaging the paper fibers. Tombow Sand eraser is recommended for cleanly erasing colored pencil marks.

Supplies to Avoid for Drawing on Black Paper

Charcoal and graphite won’t show up on black paper, so it’s best to avoid using them. Regular white colored erasers can accidentally smudge colored pencil marks, creating undesirable grayish marks. Instead, opt for a kneadable eraser to prevent this issue.

Benefits of Drawing on Black Paper

Drawing on black paper offers atmospheric effects and brilliant contrast that can take your artwork to another level. It allows for faster completion of drawings, as artists can be more restrictive with their pencil application and leave more shadow areas out. This leads to a more contrasted effect, with highlights appearing lighter than they are.

Ideas for Drawing on Black Paper

If you’re new to drawing on black paper, start with something simple like a water droplet, glass, or monochrome subjects like a zebra or snowy tree. These subjects will allow you to explore the unique qualities of black paper. Alternatively, try botanical or wildlife drawings using colored pencils. The black background will make your subjects stand out.

Drawing on black paper offers a world of creativity and possibilities. So, why not grab your supplies and delve into this exciting medium? For more inspiration and resources, visit Quill And Fox, where you can find a wide range of art supplies and tips for artists. Your creativity awaits!