It might seem like any old colored pencils will look amazing on black paper, but that is absolutely, and so utterly incorrect. So, so wrong. Pfft.
The truth? The truth that Crayola doesn’t want me telling you is that the best colored pencils for black paper are…. highly-pigmented and not highly-waxy colored pencils. I.e. Not your kid’s colored pencils.
Read on to not only see which colored pencils work best on black paper, but also which black paper to use with colored pencils. Ooh.
Here is the TL;DR version, if you just want to hoof it over to ye olde arte shoppe and get to purchasing.
The top 3 colored pencils that pro artists use on black paper:
Top 3 black papers for use with colored pencils:
While oil pastels and chalk pencils are natural mediums to use on black paper because of their softness, you can still use colored pencils to good effect, but be sure to pick high-quality pencils. This isn’t the time to skimp on art supplies.
The good news is that you don’t have to buy all sorts of paint tubes, brushes, canvases, etc. Colored pencils and black paper are pretty straightforward art supplies, and the only extra materials you really need are a sharpener and something to smudge or blend with.
Related: Best oil pastels (and paper, too!)
Take a look at this quick doodle my daughter made while we were sitting around, and try to guess which was the Crayola and which was the Prismacolor. Isn’t the difference dramatic?
Related: The Best Drawing Pencils
The Best Colored Pencils For Black Paper
Finding the best colored pencils for black paper is sort of a 2-step process. The type of black paper is as important as the colored pencils when you are searching for the look you want. Let’s take a look at different colored pencils first, then we can check out the papers.
Colored Pencils For Drawing on Black Paper
Drawing on black paper is a majorly different experience than on white paper. You can achieve some stunning results, but it’s vital you use highly pigmented colors, or you’ll be left with underwhelming results.
Faber-Castell Polychromos are the hands-down favorite for colored pencils to use with black paper. I see these more than other colored pencils tagged in artists’ Instagram feeds, and the reviews are always rabidly positive. As of this writing, these are $10 cheaper on Blick than Amazon!
Caran D’Ache LUMINANCE colored pencils – Are the super duper splurge of colored pencils. They are rich and buttery, bright and colorful, just what you want in a colored pencil for black paper. As with the Faber-Castells, they have their die-hard fans who won’t use anything else.
Prismacolor are a great higher-end colored pencil that are a little cheaper than some of the others. You can usually find single colors of Prismacolors at art stores if you run out of certain colors, or you just want to give a few a try before investing in a whole set.
This video by Kathleen Darby is really helpful to watch for tips on how she uses colored pencil on black paper. You’ll see a sped-up version of her drawing a bird and she talks you through some of her technique.
Black Paper For Colored Pencils
When choosing black paper to use with colored pencils, you can go super dark pitch black or pick a shade of black that is a bit lighter. You’ll get a much more dramatic look with a pitch black; white colored pencils look amazing on this.
Some black papers go almost grey, so you’re either going to want to compare black papers in person or carefully read product descriptions.
Colored pencil likes to grab onto a little bit of tooth on the paper, so you want something not totally smooth. On the other hand, a very textured paper can make the colored pencil look weird as it skips over the valleys in the paper. Plus your colored pencils won’t last very long with this type of paper.
Of course there are always exceptions in art-making, so if you end up trying a super-smooth paper or crazy-rough paper surface and love them, go for it. In general, however, you’ll want a paper with a little bit of tooth to it.
You also want to make sure your paper has a little heft to it so it stands up to shading, colored pencil layering, and any solvents you want to use for blending.
Here are the top 3 black papers artists use with colored pencils:
Fabriano black paper – This one’s the winner with most colored pencil artists using black paper! This paper is very dark with a little tooth. It’s a hefty paper at 300gsm (140lb), so it will hold up well to layering, shading, etc. Fabriano Black Black comes in 3 sizes: 9×12, 8×8, and 11.75×16.5. Note: almost any place that sells this is cheaper than Amazon, and I found the best price for this by far on Blick.
Canson MiTientes – This black paper is meant for pastels or colored pencils. There is a smoother side and a more textured side, depending on your preference. This is a 9×12″ pad of 24 sheets of 98 lb black paper.
Strathmore 400 Series Artagain – 24 sheets of 60 lb paper in a glue bound pad. The size I link to is 9×12″, but there is also 6×9″ and 12×18″ available. Good medium weight paper with a light texture – this is a good black paper for anyone.
Related: The best drawing paper for every medium
This video is a fun watch as Sandy Allnock brings a jellyfish to life in colored pencil on black paper. Isn’t is relaxing to watch someone else draw?
Other Supplies For Colored Pencil on Black Paper
- Graphite pencils – for making your initial drawing
- Derwent Chinese White Pencil – for brightest white on black paper
- Black erasers
- Tortillons or cotton swabs
- Small brushes
- Pencil sharpener
White Colored Pencil in a Tin
Many colored pencil artists will use acrylic paint or a white gel pen to add finishing highlights. It’s hard to get a really nice, bright white with a white colored pencil over more colored pencil.
This product was created by a professional colored pencil artist and author of The Colored Pencil Painting Bible, Alyona Nickelsen. You can use it dry or mix it with a few drops of Brush and Pencil Touch-Up Texture if you want to paint it on. Experiment with the ratio of powder to liquid to get the exact opacity and brightness you want when it dries.
Watch how this artist mixes and uses it on her drawing:
Tips For Colored Pencils on Black Paper
Make sure your hands are clean so you don’t leave oil smudges from your skin on the paper.
Use cotton swabs or small soft paintbrushes to blend colors.
Draw lightly with your pencil, using tiny circle movements, and layer up that way, instead of pressing too hard with the colored pencils.
To help your colors ‘pop’ off the black, put down a layer of white pencil before using colors over it. This will allow them to be brighter since the black paper will always show through the pencil somewhat.
You can still use a black colored pencil on black paper! They work well to give you a defined edge on your drawing, or darken down some areas.
Night scenes are obviously a perfect choice for drawing on black paper with colored pencil. You can leave large areas of your paper black to take advantage of the darkness.
To get a few super-white highlights, add white gel pen marks on top of the pencil. You just aren’t going to get this type of highlight with a colored pencil.
Happy colored pencil on black paper-ing! Tag me on Instagram @artmakespeople with your creations.
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