What mediums can I use on black paper?
Have you ever wondered what medium you could use on black paper? Do you have an array of unused fluorescent markers, neons, coloured pencils, metallic paints, or pastels just bursting to be used?
Instead of struggling for ideas, try using a black sketchbook as a support and let your imagination run wild and go on a journey of creative discovery? Dark toned or black paper offers you lots of possibilities, the dark surface is already a base for drawing night scenes and all you have to do is add the lightest tones of your theme to the paper! Using the black of the background means you don’t have to draw in all the shadows so drawings take half the time, you are basically drawing or painting in the light tones and highlights!
Lots of great themes to try: super heroes, birds of prey, portraits, animal portraits, tropical fish, fruit, vegetables, flowers, graphic logos, calligraphy, surface patterns, nightscapes! …
You might be surprised at just how good your pencils are on black paper! Or your metallic gel pens and paint!
Below we have listed a range of black paper sketchbooks in different weights and different sizes of paper to suit different projects, from creative calligraphy, incredible illustrations, to messy and magnificent mixed media! Choose your paper and then choose your products. We have provided a list of wet and dry media that you may already own or if not, link to our product pages to purchase and then use as part of your creative adventure... As always we have included hints and tips for ideas and inspiration along the way!
Black sketchbooks and paper
Frisk Black Mixed Media Paper Pad 250gsm
Suitable for acrylics, watercolours, gouache, ink, pastels, pens, markers and pencils. Extremely effective results with opaque, metallic and interference colours. Acid free for longevity.VIEW PRODUCT
Frisk Black Watercolour Paper Pad 320gsm
Suitable for use with watercolour pens, pencils, markers and brushes. Extremely effective results with opaque, metallic and interference colours.VIEW PRODUCT
Clairefontaine Carb'On Black Paper Artist Sketch Pads
Suitable for chalk, pencil, and paint. Available in A3 and A4 sizeVIEW PRODUCT
Daler Rowney Black Paper Hard Back Spiral Sketchbook
A hardback spiral sketchbook containing 40 sheets of 180 gms black acid free cartridge paper. Suitable for chalk, pencil, paint, gel pens, metallic markers.VIEW PRODUCT
Seawhite Black Paper Hard Back Spiral Sketchbook
A hardback spiral sketchbook containing 40 sheets of 220 gms black acid free cartridge paper.Suitable for chalk, pencil, paint, get pens, metallic markers.VIEW PRODUCT
Daler Rowney Ebony Spiral Bound Landscape Sketchbook
Excellent for working with dry media and dry brush paint techniques. Great for working outdoor sketching.VIEW PRODUCT
Seawhite All Black Paper Starter Sketchbook
Suitable for media such as pastels, gel pens and metallic markers Each pad contains 40 pages.VIEW PRODUCT
300gsm Recycled Black Card - 50 Sheet Packs
Great for posters and mixed media, medium weight card with a smooth surface.VIEW PRODUCT
Seawhite Black Paper Rolls - (63cm x 10 metre)
Suitable for Metallic markers, gel pens, chalk pastel, coloured pencil, Posca and yomo neon markers.VIEW PRODUCT
- The lighter weight paper:
Frisk Essentials Black Pads - 135gsm - 30 Sheets - A3 (135gsm) will take all of the dry media and some of the wet media, dry brush technique can be used, but don’t flood your paper with lots of water or it will ripple! We used Americana Multi-Surface Premium Acrylics - 59ML undiluted and sparingly and the colours were vibrant.
- The heavier the paper:
Frisk Black Mixed Media Paper Pad 250gsm 30 Sheets (320gsm) the more mixed media you can use wet and dry, and it shouldn’t ripple! Great for acrylic or acrylic inks or watercolour pencils.
- Mark out your composition with a white pencil first, work slowly, light pressure, medium pressure then hard pressure when applying the last white highlights. Work in layers. If you need a thick line think about using a white gel pen.
- Use bright colours that will stand out against the black background, especially when painting, or drawing bright tropical flowers, fish or birds!
- If you want to lighten a colour, lay down a white base first then work over it with the desired colour, then work over it with white again, this technique will lighten the colour and create a great pastel version. If you want more of the same hue just work in layers on top of the white base to achieve the colour you want. This technique will work for paint and coloured pencils.
- To increase intensity of a colour, layer up your pencil colour by increasing pressure you use, this will distribute more pigment onto the paper. To increase intensity of colour with paint add more layers but let each paint layer dry first. Aim to create a practise tonal range page first before embarking on a final piece, using light to heavy pressure.
- Always test your medium in your sketchbooks first or on a spare bit of black paper. You may be surprised at how many different mediums you can use together, some opaque and some translucent mediums work together really well. Also try your marker pens over your dried wet medium; acrylic, gouache or metallic paints!
- If you feel like you need to correct an area of your work, instead of trying to erase it out which is very hard to do on black paper, just draw or paint over it with a black pencil or paint. This will only work for small areas.
- If you are using coloured pencils, or chalk pastels remember not to wipe the debris with the side of your hand as this will create a smudged effect, aim to blow away your surplus pencil debri or lift paper up and tap the excess off. Or work upright on an easel so the debris just falls off whilst working.
- Keep your pencils sharp for small details, or for large areas tilt your pencil on its side then blend with Derwent Paper Stumps, blending pencils, or your fingers or use Zest-it Pencil Blend. This will allow you to create seamless transitions between hues or to create gradations of tone.
- Always use a fixative on chalk or oil pastels, watercolour pencils, and gouache to ensure longevity of your work. When working with pastels, spray during and after the drawing process. Apply to your work in layers, then wait a minute to dry then continue with the drawing. The final coat will protect the finished picture from the elements and from smudging.
- Remember to always be the explorer of your own creativity! The more you travel through your medium the more you discover uncharted territory! The process is the journey and there is no rigid destination! Stay inquisitive and be brave.
Metallic mediums on black paper
Metallic markers, fibre-tip and gel pens on black paper
Metallic pencils, oil pastels and pigment sticks ob black paper
- Derwent Metallic Pencils
- Derwent Metallic Pencils Set of 12
- Faber-Castell Gelatos Metallic Colours Set of 12
- Sennelier Iridescent Artists Quality Oil Pastel Sets
Metallic paints on black paper
If you are going to use black paper under 200gsm don’t dilute your paint, use them straight from the tube. This will ensure your paper doesn’t ripple too much. If you want to use a lot of diluted paint, use Frisk Black Mixed Media Paper Pad 250gsm 30 Sheets. This will take more wet media without buckling or wrippling too much. Try to apply your paint with a palette knife rather than a brush for that extra challenge!
- Lumiere Multi-Surface Acrylics 66.54ml
- Roberson Liquid Metal Acrylic Paints- 30ml
- Sennelier Abstract Acrylic Paint Pouches - 5 x 120ml - Metallics
- Americana Multi- Surface Premium Acrylics - 59ml
- Docrafts Artiste Multi- Surface Acrylic Paint- 59ml
- Amsterdam Acrylic Paint Set of 6 x 20ml - Metallic
- ARTdiscount Studio Heavy Body Acrylic Paints- 200ml Tubes
Pearlescent and shimmering acrylic inks on black paper
There is something quite festive about using pearlescent inks on black paper! They shine and sparkle much more on a dark background. The contrast between dark and light really brings out the colours. Absolutely essential for all card makers and calligraphy lovers!
White products on black paper
Drawing or painting white on black paper is so satisfying! We have listed some excellent products below which can be used for illustration, design work, card making, calligraphy, or for touching up those highlights and adding detail. Graphic designers especially love these versatile products as some of the brands below offer lightfastness, permanence, and are odour-free! When working with white you do have to think in reverse!
Coloured markers on black paper
- Posca Markers - 8 Standard Colours - Assorted Sizes
- Liquitex Paint Marker Set 6 x 2mm VIBRANT Colours
- Marabu Yono Markers set of 4 Bullet Tip (1.5-3mm) - Neon
- Liquitex Paint Marker Set 6 x 2mm VIBRANT Colours
- Pebeo 4ARTIST Marker- 2mm
- Pebeo 4ARTIST Marker- 4mm
- Uni Chalk Marker Pen PWE- 8K - Assorted Pack of 8
Coloured oil and chalk pastels on black paper
Traditionally oil and chalk pastels are used on a support with a slight tooth or grain. This textured surface ensures the pastels adhere to the surface well, rather than sliding off. The deeper the tooth the more you can layer up the Pan Pastels, block pastels, conte pencils and pastel pencils. The smoother the tooth, the less you can layer up multiple colours, as the top layers have nothing to cling to. If your project is of an organic nature, then a heavy tooth paper would be suitable as it would show the texture through the colours adding to the composition, especially when drawing plants.
If you are going to create lots of fine detail, you could use the smoother paper or if you want to blend your pastels, you can use Pan Pastel - Sofft Knife & Covers tools, paper stumps, cotton buds or your fingers, then a medium tooth is recommended. For more information on PanPastels click this link:
A beginner's guide to PanPastels.
Black paper can make your pastel colours sing off the paper and is an excellent background for creating subtle tonal ranges! Just alter the pressure you use to apply your medium and this will create a gradated tonal range or use a range of blending tools. Most pastel based mediums will need a fixative to ensure your artwork will not move off the paper or smudge whilst working and a final coat of fixative can be added on completion. We can offer SpectraFix Degas Pastel Fixative, based on an antique recipe used by Degas himself, this is the perfect fixative for Soft pastels, Oil Pastels, charcoal, gouache and watercolour. Degas Pastel Fixative has a workable matte finish that allows deep layering with minimal colour shift. Safe to use indoors and in the classroom! We also have; Frisk Pastel Fixative 400ml, Sennelier d'Artigny Fixative for Oil Pastels 400mland Loxley Aerosol Fixative 400ml with a U.V. Filter.
- Sennelier Artists Oil Pastels Sets - Assorted Colours
- Sennelier Soft Pastel Box Sets - Assorted
- Sennelier Soft Pastels Half Stick Set of 6
- Sennelier Oil Pastels Set of 24 Still Life Colours
- Inscribe Gallery Oil Pastels Set of 24 Assorted
- Conte Carres Assorted Crayons
- Derwent Individual Pastel Pencil
- Pentel Arts Oil Pastel Sets
- Uni POSCA Pastels Assorted - Set of 24
Coloured pencils on black paper
One golden tip if you are working on black paper would be to lay down your composition using your brightest tones and highlights first, map out your highlights, mid tones and use the blackness of the paper to describe your shadows and deepest tones.
Choose your boldest colours for your palette and enjoy the process of layering and blending colours together or layering them over the white pencil to create pastel tones.
Don’t be tempted to use a firm pressure initially, build up your layers gradually so you don’t fill in the tooth of the paper too quickly. Work slowly, gradually building up layers of colour to make smoother transitions to build up tones and values.
Whilst working in layers you can also use blending tools to help create those subtle gradations of tones, soften shades and soften some of the line qualities. Some coloured pencil sets do come with a blending pencil. The Top of the range coloured pencils are pigment rich, providing an intense bright colour range which is usually light resistant. You can also use a pencil medium Zest-it Pencil Blend to create soft transitions of colour, add atmospheric perspective or soften gradients of the same hue. We tested Derwent Inktense Pencils on our Frisk black paper and even diluted them slightly with a little water, they retained their vibrancy and could be worked over again once dried, opening up lots of different colour palette and tonal ranges to investigate!
Coloured paints on black paper
Most acrylic paint will work on black paper. As discussed earlier on in this article, the heavier the paper (anything over 250gsm) the more successful the results and remember not to dilute your paint if working on a lighter weight. Mixing white into any of your paints will create a pastel shade or tint of the original colour, mixing the paints will really allow them to stand out on your black paper. We have used undiluted Americana paint on our paper just to test the colours and they worked beautifully!
In this painting above we used ARTDISCOUNT STUDIO HEAVY BODY ACRYLIC PAINTS - 200MLS TUBES and applied the paint with a palette knife onto Frisk Black Mixed Media Paper Pad 250gsm 30 Sheets.
Equally, heavy body acrylic paint and a palette knife will create some very interesting transitions from opaque to translucent colours. We tried them on some black paper cards and painted some contrasting white Azaleas, with violet and turquoise tints. The leaves transition from opaque lime green with added translucent darker greens suggesting shadows. The colours stayed vivid when mixed with white and muted when glazed with darker colours.
The beauty of heavy body paint is that you can also sgraffito marks into the paint to add texture and dimension revealing the black paper underneath. If you have layered several colours on top of each other in your painting, using sgraffito techniques will reveal the colours underneath! We also painted some honeysuckle to test out a warmer palette. The heavy body paint also dries with a satin sheen which contrasts against the matte black of the paper, another very pleasing and surprising effect.
Acrylic paint on black paper
There are a myriad of acrylic paints on the market, below are just a few listed on our website. We offer a full range of graduate and professional acrylic paints, in various sizes and with various viscosities; heavy body, soft body, fluid acrylic, and acrylic ink.
- Americana Multi-Surface Premium Acrylics- 59ml
- Acrylic Paint Set for Artists - 10 x 22ml Tubes
- Daler Rowney System 3 Original Acrylic Studio Set - 10
- Amsterdam Acrylic Paint Pearl Colours Set 6 x 20ml
- Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Tubes
- ARTdiscount Studio Heavy Body Acrylic Paints - 200ml Tubes
- Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic - Classic 12 Set
- GOLDEN Heavy Body Professional Acrylic Set (6 x 59ml)
- Daler- Rowney System 3 Ink Individual Colours - 29.6ml Bottles
- Liquitex Acrylics Inks 30ml Dropper Bottles
Gouache Paint on black paper
Gouache paint has a beautiful flat finish when used on black paper. Colours are bright and vivid and can be mixed with white to create stunning tints and pastel brights. Gouache colours can be painted first as block colours then acrylic inks can be used on top to accentuate line qualities. We would recommend using Pebeo Gouache Varnish 400ML Spray, to enhance the longevity of your artwork. For more information on Gouache paint please link to our earlier blog What is Gouache Paint?
Adding white gouache to create tints and pastel tones.
- Liquitex Acrylic Gouache 59ml bottles
- Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache 14ml Tubes
- Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache Introductory Set
- Winsor & Newton Gouache Set 10 x 12ml
- Daler-Rowney Aquafine Gouache Set 12 x 15ml Set
- Daler-Rowney Simply Gouache 12 Tube Set
We hope you have gained some inspiration from this article and feel inspired to use your art equipment on a more challenging Black surface. If you are feeling really brave and want to take your investigations further why don’t you try our very popular Black Canvases!