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Challenge Yourself by Drawing in “Reverse” on Black Paper


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Whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or professional artist, it’s always fun to test your skills with a creative challenge. If you’re looking for a way to shake up your art routine, why not try drawing on a different color paper? Black paper encourages you to approach your subjects differently while adding a distinctive visual quality to any artwork.


The One Technique You Need to Know With Black Paper

Drawing on black paper is essentially working in reverse. With a sketch that’s on white (or light-colored) paper, you’re typically starting with light shading and working towards deep shadows. The opposite is true when working on black paper; a dark ground is already there, so you've got to transition from pitch black to medium grey to bright white marks.


Here's a quick look at this approach in action:


Supplies for Drawing on Black Paper

You can buy entire sketchbooks and pads that only comprise black paper. This makes it easier than ever to try out the inverted technique.

  • Derwent, a top art supplies brand, makes a Black Book that features heavyweight paper that’s suitable for sketching or water-based media (like gouache paints). It’s lauded for its deep black color.
  • Canson, a company known for its paper, also sells a sketchbook featuring 40 sheets of fade-resistant dyed paper.
  • If you’re looking for a pad of paper with easy-to-remove sheets, check out Faber-Castell’s highly-rated black paper pad.

Once you’ve got your black paper, you need to procure the right utensils for the job.

  • For drawing with dry media, you’ve got many great choices. Colored pencils or white charcoal—like this set of General Pencils—is popular because you can build volume through conventional shading techniques. Simply sharpen the pencil to create fine, bright whites on the page.
  • Pens will also work, but you’ll need to look for an opaque ink to ensure that they stand up to the darkness of the page. For this reason, white gel pens are best.
  • Translucent colors (like watercolor) will fade into the black paper—you’ll hardly be able to see them. If you’d like to paint, try gouache. The hues have a slightly chalky appearance to them and are striking against a dark background.


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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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