How to draw on black paper

Drawing on black paper might seem daunting if you're more accustomed to working on shades of white and ivory, but a dark background can set the stage for bold, reinterpretations of everyday subjects. If you are comfortable with experimentation, you'll find that black paper affords you the opportunity to use pastels or pencils that might otherwise go neglected in your toolbox. Begin with an easy subject (metal kitchen gadgets make good still life) to get accustomed to using media in new ways to achieve highlights and shadow.

Use the first sheet of paper to test your colour palette. Notice how some colours will virtually vanish into the background, whereas others will appear to have undertones that you might not be accustomed to seeing.

Experiment with laying down a preliminary "primer" layer of white, ivory or grey, and then add brighter colours as a second layer. Depending on your medium, you likely will experience some degree of blending of the colours.

Arrange the placement of the subject of your drawing. Items with chrome or metal surfaces provide good focal points that are fun to capture when using light media on dark paper.

Adjust your room lighting to create bold shadows. If you are relying on natural sunlight, you might wish to work from a photograph of your subject to avoid shifting lowlights.

Set aside your test palette, and use the second sheet of black paper to begin your drawing. As you work, constantly re-evaluate the shapes that form your subject (positive space) and the space that surrounds it (negative space). Depending on the colour of your subject, you might see places where you can more easily capture the background than the subject itself.

Use a kneaded eraser (a soft, pliable eraser that can be used in small spaces) or stump (tightly rolled paper shaped like a small pencil) to blend colours as you work, if desired. An eraser or stump softens values and transitions from light to dark. The effect will vary depending on whether colour has been applied directly to the dark paper or layered on top of a lighter tone. If working with pastels, you might prefer to use your finger to create subtle shadings.

Spray an acrylic fixative on your test palette to determine if the product produces a satisfactory finish without substantially altering the colours used in your drawing. If you are pleased with the quality of your fixative, spray your finished drawing to prevent future smudging.

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