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Have you seen one of those beautiful dark drawings?
Colorful bubbles on a black background or an elegant figure drawn with just a white pencil?
Do you want to be able to create something like that?
You’ve come to the right place!
In this tutorial I’ll teach you everything about drawing on black paper:
- why you 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.
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).
Black paper offers two interesting advantages / challenges though:
- It’s 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.
Try it out, you can learn a lot.
How Do You Start Drawing On Black Paper?
If you’ve decided that it’s time to try your hand at drawing on black paper – how do you start?
What do you have to pay attention to?
The most important thing is to stop overanalyzing and just do it. Just start drawing on black paper and get your feet wet. Make your own experiences to familiarize yourself with the medium.
That said, I’ve compiled a list of tips that will give you a good grasp of what you have to focus on while drawing on black paper.
Below, I go into much more detail, but for a quick overview, you can watch my video:
Artists Who Draw On Black Paper
If you need some black paper drawing inspiration, here are some artists that have created amazing drawings on dark paper.
1. Regnault Lois
Regnault Lois has done a few amazing black paper drawings, mostly of movie characters.
Check out these drawings of the Joker and Kylo Ren from Star Wars:
Want to be able to draw like this?
Here’s why you can’t draw faces!
2. Jessica Lebo
Jessica Lebo draws stunning animal portraits on black paper.
Like these two for example:
ruzanna.air draws everyday things like legumes with great precision and makes them look really realistic.
A simple flower or a pepperoni look amazing like this:
4. K I B A R
K I B A R is a big comic fan like me and has created great black paper drawings.
Check out these of Batman:
K I B A R is on Instagram.
Jelisa often uses black paper for drawing and has created these fascinating eye drawings, for example:
Jelisa is on Instagram.
6. Ilojleen (Dominika)
Ilojleen (real name Dominika) draws on black paper quite often and likes to draw characters from movies or tv shows.
She has, for example, created these two amazing Game of Thrones portraits:
How To Draw On Black Paper – 4 General Tips
Here are some helpful tips for drawing on a dark surface.
1. What Can I Draw On Black Paper? (Black Paper Drawing Ideas)
Some cool things to draw on black paper are:
- a wolf in the moonlight
- a portrait (with „studio lighting“ from behind)
- a zebra (draw just the white parts)
- colorful bubbles (really, google that!)
- use a white pencil like you would use a normal pencil on white paper (just think in reverse!)
- superheroes (what I like to draw the most)!
- a moon
Now, what are some other good ideas for what to draw on black paper?
Just go google black paper drawing for amazing examples.
If you are currently not that creative, check out my 15 Drawing And Painting Ideas To Spark Your Creativity or my article on how to get inspired to draw.
Picking the right motif is really important because you want to maximize the use of the black paper.
As I said, black paper is especially suitable for dark settings and night scenes, because the dark parts are kind of 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.
2. Picking The Right Paper Size
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.
Colored pencils 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. What Can I Use On Black Paper?
Choosing the appropriate medium can make or break your black paper drawing.
On black paper, you should use a medium that has bright and vibrant colors. Good examples are colored pencils, a white pencil, chalk or gel pens.
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 the 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:
- pastel pencils
- gel pens
3.1 What Colored Pencils Are Best For Black Paper?
Wax- and oil-based colored pencils work equally well on black paper. The most important thing is that the colored pencils have vibrant colors that contrast enough with the dark paper.
So, which colored pencil brands do work well on dark paper?
The most popular ones are Prismacolor Premier and Faber-Castell Polychromos:
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.
They offer the best bang for your buck.
In fact, I use them and am very happy with them.
Consider checking out all the other art tools I use and recommend.
3.1.2 Faber-Castell Polychromos
The other option are Faber-Castell Polychromos.
They are a bit more pricey than the Prismacolors and only offer up to 120 different colors.
But they have a solid core and don’t break easily. They make layering and blending easy, too.
4. How Do You Sketch On Black Paper?
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, as 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 – Practical Tips
Below are some specific tips for drawing with colored pencils on black paper.
1. What Colors Work On Black Paper?
A lot of colors „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. Yellow tends to work worst 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.
CHECK OUT: 9 Easy Tips For The Digital Art Beginner
1.1 Using 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:
1.2 Brightening Colors
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 intensity.
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2. Can You Erase On Black Paper?
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 perfectly from the start and can build up your drawing without pressuring yourself too much.
Here’s an example:
2.1 Using A Black Pencil 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 „erase“ them.
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.
Do you want to recognize your own mistakes more quickly?
Try flipping your drawings!
3. How Do You Blend Colors On Black Paper?
When blending colors on black paper, you should avoid using a blending pencil. Instead, try to draw with one color over the other until you get a smooth transition between colors.
3.1 Avoid Using A Blending Pencil
Many (colored) 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.
3.2 How To Blend Colors On Black Paper
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:
4. Pencil Sharpness
4.1 Sharpen Often
Colored pencils tend to get dull very quickly and the rough black paper can kind of amplify this effect.
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:
4.2 Turn The Pencil To Keep Its Sharpness
A way to get around the dulling issue 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.
4.3 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 the paper.
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.
CHECK OUT: What Actually Makes A Drawing “Good”?
Now it’s your turn!
I hope this guide helped you in some way.
Now I want to hand it over to you:
Which tip helped you the most? Do you have any tips of your own?
Let me know in the comments!
You aren’t sure, where to start or if you can learn drawing at all? Read this. If you’ve decided to start your drawing journey, my guide on how to get good at drawing quickly might help. Maybe you just need a boost of motivation? Try working on your artist mindset.
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