How to draw on black paper

One of my favorite ways to draw on black paper is to use colored pencils, especially white or light-colored pencils. In this tutorial, I show you how to get started learning how to draw on black paper with white colored pencil.

There's something about the pop of white highlights you can achieve with a black background that makes your drawings way more impactful.

Also check out my guide on how to use colored pencils on black paper.

Key points

  • Using colored pencils on black paper: Colored pencils, especially white or light-colored ones, are ideal for drawing on black paper. They allow for clean, precise lines and offer a smooth, creamy texture that glides over the surface, making details and highlights pop against the dark background.
  • Reverse drawing technique: Drawing on black paper involves a shift in thinking towards highlighting the light areas instead of the shadows. This reverse drawing technique focuses on areas that reflect light, creating a striking contrast and bringing depth and dimension to the artwork.
  • Adding details and shading: After outlining the subject in white pencil, shading, and detailing are crucial for making the drawing stand out. Applying heavy pressure with a white colored pencil and varying strokes can add texture and depth, enhancing the overall impact of the drawing on black paper.

How to draw on black paper with a white pencil

1. Find good reference photos

Step one is finding good reference photos that show both highlights and shadows.

It can be difficult to imagine how to draw the highlights if you're only looking at a white object on a white background.

So, having reference photos will be very helpful.

You can find these by searching for “highlights and shadows” in Google Images. 

2. Shift your thinking to reverse drawing

The next step is shifting your mind to think about drawing the highlights instead of the shadows.

This can be tricky, but it's important to think about what would reflect light if you were looking at the object in real life. 

3. Get the supplies

I recommend using a simple white Prismacolor pencil to learn how to draw on black paper.

They have a smooth, creamy texture that easily glides over the black surface, allowing for clean and precise lines.

Plus, they won't smudge or smear when touched.

These pencils are readily available in many art supply stores or online retailers, making them both convenient and affordable for anyone looking to try their hand at drawing on black paper. 

4. Draw a basic outline

When drawing on black paper, it can be helpful to first outline your subject in white pencil.

This not only helps to map out the composition but also serves as a guide for shading and adding depth to the final drawing.

If necessary, you can also erase any stray marks or lines with a kneaded eraser. 

5. Add details and shading

Now that your outline is in place, it's time to add the finishing touches.

To make your drawing pop on black paper, shading and details are key.

Using your white colored pencil, start adding contrast to bring shape and dimension to your subject.

Apply heavy pressure for the best results, and vary strokes for added texture and depth.

6. Finish up your drawing

Drawing on black paper can be a fun and new way to experiment with your artwork.

However, it can also be tricky if you aren't used to it.

One important tip is to give your drawing one final pass with the white colored pencil.

This helps to make sure that all of your details pop against the dark background and appear crisp.

You may need a lighter touch compared to how you typically use the white colored pencil on regular paper.

And that's it!

You've now successfully drawn on black paper with a white colored pencil.

Next, read my tutorial on how to additional colors with colored pencils on black paper.

What draws well on black paper?

My favorite medium for drawing on black paper are colored pencils. They have a wide range of colors, from light and bright to dark and rich, so you can achieve different tones and shades with just one color. When I'm working on larger drawings that are 24″ x 36″ or larger, soft pastels are better as it's easier to cover more space with them.

What other drawing mediums work on black paper?

There are many different things that you can draw on black paper. Some of the most common tools for drawing on black paper include colored pencils, gel pens, white charcoal sticks, and white paint markers. Materials such as oil paints or watercolors may also work well depending on how dark the paper.

Why is black paper important to drawing?

Black paper can be an important tool for artists because it provides a unique canvas on which to experiment and create original works. It is also a great way to explore different color combinations, as the dark background can help certain colors really “pop.” Additionally, drawing on black paper forces you to focus on technique, detail, and shading, as these things can be more difficult to achieve on a darker background. Next, let's learn how to additional colors with my tutorial on how to use colored pencils on black paper.