Have you seen one of
those beautiful dark drawings?
Colorful bubbles on
a black background or an elegant figure drawn with just a white
Do you want to be
able to create something like that?
You’ve come to the
In this tutorial I’ll teach you everything about drawing on black paper:
should draw on black paper
how to make
the most of it
a lot of
tips and tricks
In fact, these are
the exact techniques I used to create the drawing in the cover image
of the article.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Draw On Black Paper
Why should you draw
on black paper anyway?
Black paper, in general, is nothing special. It’s just another tool in the toolbox of an artist.
Most people draw on
white paper. Quite a few people also draw on special drawing paper
that is grey or tan (and obviously more expensive).
offers two interesting advantages / challenges though:
especially useful for drawing dark settings or night scenes. The
black of the paper already represents the dark parts, which means
that you only have to draw the lit parts of the characters and
objects in your composition. Depending on what you want to draw, you
can finish a drawing in much less time than one on white paper. And
it will probably look very atmospheric.
You have to
think in reverse: On white paper it feels like the whole canvas
is lit and you are drawing all the shades and shadows. On black
paper it has the unique feeling that your scene is in darkness and
you are painting the light.
Here are some helpful tips for drawing on a dark surface.
1. Pick The Right Motif
The best tip I can
give you is to pick the right motif.
This is very
important because you want to maximize the use of the black paper.
Like I said, black
paper is especially suitable for dark settings and night scenes,
because the dark parts are kindof already there and you only have to
paint the illuminated parts on your characters or objects.
Depending on your
motif this can save you a lot of time. You can finish a black paper
drawing in much less time than a drawing on a bright surface.
Now, what are
some good ideas for what to draw on black paper?
Black paper is generally rougher than normal paper and it can be hard to draw details on it.
The larger the
piece of paper though, the easier it becomes to draw details.
Don’t make your life
extra hard by choosing a small piece of paper, if you want to draw
lots of details. Choose an appropriate paper size.
aren’t as sharp as normal ones and they get dull faster.
I’ve tried drawing
with them on an A4-sized (21 x 29.7 cm) piece of black paper,
but drawing details posed a little bit of a challenge for me.
Recently, I’ve drawn another piece on black paper (the one with Dr. Doom in the article thumbnail) which was 30 x 40 cm in size. With that one, it was a lot easier to draw fine details.
I would recommend using a paper that’s at least as large as this.
3. Choose The Right
appropriate medium can make or break your black paper drawing.
Graphite pencils don’t really work that well on black paper. There’s just not enough contrast between the grey lead of the pencil and the black of the paper. (They are okay for sketching phase though.)
Colored pencils, on the other hand, are a very good and popular choice.
You can even use just a white pencil, which is kind of the opposite of drawing dark on white paper. Here the surface is dark, but the pencil is bright.
Other mediums that
can work well are:
3.1 Good Colored Pencils For Black Paper
Which colored pencil brands do work well on dark paper?
The most popular ones are the following two choices:
3.1.1 Prismacolor Premier
The Prismacolor Premier colored pencils are a solid choice for beginners.
They have a large variety of colors (up to 150) and they aren’t very expensive.
Sketching on black paper is essentially the same as doing it on white paper.
It’s a bit harder because you (almost) can’t erase your lines.
Using a normal pencil for a preliminary sketch is fine, but, like I said above, for a finished drawing the grey of the pencil isn’t visible enough.
If you want to do some loose sketches, I’d recommend using a white pencil instead.
How To Draw With Colored Pencils On Black Paper
Here are some specific tips for drawing with colored pencils on black paper:
1. Test Colors BEFORE You Start Drawing
This is very
You have to
understand that a lot of colors just „don’t work“ on black paper.
They are too dark or appear darker than they actually are. Some colors can
become nearly invisible on black paper.
To get the colors
you actually want, you should test out your colors BEFORE you start
your final drawing.
To do this, just
keep a piece of black paper around for testing purposes. Try out the
colors that seem to be closest to the ones you like. Draw small
patches of color with several different pencils until you find the
color that works best.
Doing this can save
you a lot of nerves.
2. Use Bright Colors
Since black paper tones down the intensity of many colored pencils a lot, I recommend using bright colors.
They tend to work better on black paper because using them offsets the darkening effect a bit.
Here’s a good video to see which colored pencil brands work best and which colors will show up on black paper:
3. Brighten Colors With White
Let’s say you’ve
started using a specific color for a large area of your drawing and
feel like it’s too dark.
One little trick you
can use is to brighten the existing color with white.
It doesn’t always work out, but it can be used as a last resort to try and save a part of an artwork.
To do this, just
lightly draw over the color you want to brighten.
Keep in mind that
while the color WILL get brighter, it will also lose some of its
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4. Don’t Draw With Black OR Use Black As An Eraser
Many artists recommend using a black colored pencil as an eraser.
It can work well for
little areas where you made small mistakes. You can just use a
black colored pencil and draw over those parts of the drawing to
But I advise you to use this trick with caution:
The black can be too eye-catching and it can actually be darker than the black paper itself.
This can lead to
some ugly little black patches that distract the viewer from your
actual drawing. From certain viewing angles and in the wrong light it
can be really conspicuous.
DON’T use black.
Try to avoid it as
much as possible. Only use it to correct little mistakes, if you
really have to.
On black paper, you almost can’t erase colored pencils. It’s even hard on normal paper, but on black paper, it’s pretty much impossible.
If you press hard
with your eraser, you might be able to soften the colors a bit, but
you won’t be able to erase a color completely.
A way to work around
this issue is to start using only light pressure and gradually
press harder while rendering the forms.
This way you don’t
have to draw everything perfect from the start and can build up your
drawing without pressuring yourself too much.
Here’s an example:
6. Sharpen Often
Colored pencils tend
to get dull very quickly and the rough black paper can kindof amplify
So, what I would do
is to sharpen your pencils often.
I personally use the Dahle 133 pencil sharpener. It costs about 10$ on Amazon and can make sharpening quick and easy.
You can, of course, use a normal sharpener like this, too:
7. Turn The Pencil To Keep Its Sharpness
A way to get around this is to turn your pencil regularly.
What you can do, so you don’t have to sharpen that often, is turning the pencil a bit as soon as it starts to get dull.
It kind of has a newfound edge that makes it feel like it’s „sharpened“ again.
You can’t repeat
this process forever, at some point you obviously have to sharpen
again. But it reduces the hassle of constantly having to sharpen
every few minutes.
8. Dust Off Paper Regularly
Don’t forget to blow
away the residue of the colored pencils every now and then.
Compared to normal
pencils, colored pencils tend to leave more little fragments on
That means that while you’re drawing, you’ll find little pieces of colorful „dust“ around the areas you’re currently drawing.
Don’t try to wipe it away with your hand, a tissue or something similar!
You can end up
smearing it around and leaving ugly marks on the paper where you just
don’t want them. They’re more conspicuous than on white paper. And
since you can hardly erase them, it might pose a problem.
Instead, try to blow
it away before it gets too much.
9. Avoid Using A Blending Pencil
pencil artists often use a blending pencil or a blending stump.
In essence, it’s a special pencil that doesn’t leave any color pigments on the paper but blends colors together smoothly.
While it can work
wonders on normal paper, based on my experience, it doesn’t really
work well on black paper.
You end up
smearing around color without blending it effectively at all and it
can lead to a big mess. I wouldn’t recommend you to do that.
10. Blending Colors
Instead of using a blending pencil, try this for effectively blending colored pencils on black paper:
Draw with one color over the other one with varying degrees of pressure, until you get the gradient right.
Basically, the further away you get from the hard edge between two colors, the less pressure you should use.
Here’s an example:
Now it’s your turn!
I hope this guide helped you in some
Now I want to hand it over to you:
Which tip helped you the most? Do you have any tips of your own?