How To Draw On Black Paper: A Complete Guide

Dr. Doom vs. The Thing and Mr. Fantastic

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 guide I’ll teach you:

  • 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.

Let’s start!


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 Draw On Black Paper?

drawing materials on black paper

If you’ve decided that it’s time to try your hand at drawing on black paper – how can you do it?

What do you have to pay attention to?

I’ve compiled a list of tips that will give you a good grasp of what it takes to draw on black paper.

The most important tip is this though:

Just start!

I’m a big believer in learning by doing. Just get your feet wet and make your own experiences while reading my article.

That said, let’s start with my list of tips.

Below, I go into much more detail, but for a quick overview, you can watch my YouTube video:

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?

Just go google black paper drawing for amazing examples.

You could draw:

  • a wolf in the moonlight
  • a moon
  • a portrait with „studio lighting“
  • a zebra where you 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!)
  • or what I like to draw most: superheroes!

If you are currently not that creative, check out my 15 Amazing Art Ideas To Spark Your Creativity.

2. Pick The Right Paper Size

black 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.

A joker drawing in A4 I created.

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 Medium

Choosing the appropriate medium can make or break your black paper drawing.

lead pencils

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

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
  • chalk

4. Test Colors BEFORE You Start Drawing

testing colors on black paper

This is very important!

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.

yellow pencil on black paper
A yellow colored pencil on black paper: This one is not as bright as you would expect it to look. It looks more like green than yellow.

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.

5. Use Bright Colors

bright colored pencils

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 on black paper:

6. 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.

brighten colored pencils with white
A patch of green color – before and after brightening it with a white colored pencil.

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.

7. Don’t Draw With Black OR Use Black As An Eraser

black pencil as 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.

black pencil marks on dark paper
My joker drawing from above. Here you can clearly see the areas where I tried to use a black colored pencil like an eraser.

I say:

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 paper!

8. Start Light And Build Your Values

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:

building values with colored pencils
Work your way from light tones (pressing lightly) to dark tones (using more pressure).

9. Sharpen Often

residue of sharpened pencil

Colored pencils tend to get dull very quickly and the rough black paper can kindof 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:

pencil sharpener

10. 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.

effect of turning a pencil
Depending on how you hold the pencil, the tip is either flat or you can get a sharp edge. Of course, you can apply this thinking to drawing on normal paper, too.

11. 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.

colored pencil residue on black paper
The residue colored pencils leave behind if you use a lot of pressure.

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.

12. Avoid Using A Blending Pencil

don't use a blending pencil on black paper

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.

result of using a blending pencil on black paper
Here’s an example of what happens, when you use a blending pencil on black paper.

13. 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:

blending colors on black paper
Effective blending of colored pencils on black paper: Not using a blending pencil, but drawing with the colored pencils above each other with light to medium pressure until you get the desired result.

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 Draw Anything and What Is The Best Way To Improve Your Art? might help. Maybe you just need a boost of motivation? Try working on your artist mindset.

P.S.: Just to let you know: I’m on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. I’d appreciate it if you check it out!

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