Colored Pencils on Black Paper: THE BASICS | Sandrine Curtiss | Skillshare

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Colored Pencils on Black Paper: THE BASICS

teacher avatar Sandrine Curtiss, Artist, explorer.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (1h 4m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. How to Transfer a Sketch

    • 4. How to Erase

    • 5. Making Marks on Black Paper

    • 6. Sketch Transfer

    • 7. First Layer

    • 8. Second Layer

    • 9. Sharpening the Details

    • 10. Final Touches

    • 11. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


This is the first class in a series where I'll show you how I create animal portraits with colored pencils on black paper. This combination can be tricky for beginners and more advanced colored pencils artists alike.
I've been drawing on black paper for nearly 15 years and I have developped my own style to make the colors pop rather than sink in the darkness of the paper.

In this class, I'll will teach you the basics to get started on black paper. I'll share a list of the supplies you need and those that are helpful to have handy.
After sharing with you a few tips, we'll draw together a black animal on the black paper. Don't worry, it's easier than it sounds.

If you've struggled with black paper for a while, or if you're curious and want to know how to use it, join me in this easy to follow class where only a limited amount of supplies is needed.

If you're interested in taking this class and are not a Skillshare member yet, I'm happy to share with you my referral link, which will give you a free two months subscription. You will not only be able to take my class, but also thousands of other classes offered here. Have fun!

Click here to sign up.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sandrine Curtiss

Artist, explorer.


Hello, I'm Sandrine.

I'm a self-taught artist, always eager to explore new mediums and new techniques. As I learn more and more, I like to share my findings with other artists as a way to give back.
Until now I've shared my art on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, and I'm happy to be able to do it in a bit more details here, on Skillshare.
I invite you on an art journey where we'll explore all sorts of media, both well and not so well known. So pack a bottle of creative juice, and come along with me.


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1. Introduction: Hi, everyone. My name is centering. Curtis have been drawing Animal portrait's with coloured pencils on black paper for nearly 15 years. I've learned to love the simplicity of a dark background and especially how much of a time saver it is. Working on black paper is very different than when using white paper. You thought process needs to be adjusted. Not only that, but the pigments from the colored pencils also look different. You won't have the luminosity of the white support showing through your layers of pencils, and the blackness of the paper will tend to absorb the colors. And that's often a cause of frustration for artists. When they first tried this support in this first class in the series, I will show you how to easily render a black animal on black paper. This will be an important step for you to understand and master before moving on to colors . And like I always say, it's easier to start learning a new medium with as few colors as possible. That way you can concentrate on the medium itself. I hope you'll join me in this class where you can follow the easy step by step instructions to create a simple portrait of a crew as well as learn a few tricks to transfer your sketch and keep your paper clean. I'll see you in class. 2. Supplies: For this project, you'll essentially need three things. First, a piece of black paper five by seven The choice is yours, but this is what I've been using for quite a while. It's been working well. It's black Stonehenge paper by legion. I like its thickness. I think it's £90 the surface is smooth, but it has enough of a tooth that it holds many layers. You will need a white Prisma color premier pencil after it many brands, and for my style, this is what fits the best. I find it to be one of the white ist pencils, and finally you will need a pencil sharpener. The rest you don't necessarily need, but you might find it handy. A black person, my color pencil, a black Derwin drawing pencil e drafting brush to get rid off old of pencil residue on your paper. Or you can also use a soft watercolor brush. Find stance. A large one. Some poster putty. I use this instead of it needed eraser. It has more of attack, some tracing paper or some white transfer paper, a piece of paper towel and some fixative. You can use whatever you have. I used a crile and Matt finish. Ah, but anything that works with the cold pencils will work 3. How to Transfer a Sketch: One of the big mistakes people tend to make is to sketch their final drawing straight on their good paper, and for some papers, it's OK, but for some more delicate paper, it might damage the surface. It's especially the case for watercolor paper, for instance. But for black paper, at least this one, the Stonehenge paper. When you start sketching on it, um, and you make mistakes, you're gonna use an eraser and needed a racer Used is usually pretty gentle, but what you're going to see is a difference in the sheen of the paper, so you can see that already, Um, the surface has changed. It might not be damaged, but it's changed, so you're not gonna have a uniform finish on your paper. And if you start pushing harder and harder with an eraser, then you might even start damaging the tooth of your paper. So for colored pencils, the truth of the paper is very important because you need in off so that you can add as many layers as you need to build your values to build. Build your colors. If you have a paper that's juice move, you might not be able to achieve what you want. Also, you can see that if you sketch with a graphite paper, you can see what you're doing. But it's not. Um, you're relying on the shine of the graphite. So depending on the light you have, you might not see what you're doing very much so you might be tempted to use a white pencil to sketch. Then you can actually see what you're doing. But if you make a mistake, you're gonna have a harder time erasing you're mistaken. So you're gonna push harder on your eraser and you're gonna damage your paper even more so my recommendation for any type of final project, no matter what paper you're using. Of course, it's different for painting on the canvas. But if you're using paper and you're not using an opaque, water based medium like quash or acrylic, they can be fixed. I suggest to either sketch on a piece of paper or in a sketchbook and transfer that final sketch or that final line drawing onto your good paper. You can also trace if you're not very comfortable drawing the final line drawing it doesn't really matter. I'm gonna show you how to transfer your drawing because this is black paper. It doesn't work like the white paper. So let's say you've sketched you drawing on your skin, your sketchbook, and you wanna trace it. I'm only going to do a small part, so tried to use a pencil that's soft enough. So that shows well, when you transferred onto your paper. So once you have it, you flip it over. That's where you actually use your soft pencil and then you flip it over one more time on your paper thin. Here, you can see it a little bit, but the problem with tracing with a graphite pencil is that your lines are going to be very faint and you're going to rely on the shine off the graphite, which is not going to be very practical. Another way to trace is to use some transfer papers, so the most common one that you'll see is carbon paper. But you're gonna have the same problem as with tracing with graphite pencil, because carbon paper is gonna transfer you drawing with the silvery line also so you can find transfer paper in all sorts of colors. Yellow, blue, red. This one is white and the great thing with this is that you Can you reuse it over and over again? You can see all those lines. Um, that's because I've used it many times. So on one side of the paper, there's some white powder you can see on my fingers that this is the right side. So decide. Where do you have the white powder? You put it against your paper, and then you take your drawing, and all you have to do is just trace it. The great thing with this is that you only do it once. You don't have to flip it over. So let's say you were gonna trace, um, the photo itself just printed out. Put it over your white sheet of transfer paper and you can trace your your outline that way . So see how much brighter you outline is compared to the one in graphite next to it. Now, the problem I have with transfer papers, it's often messy. You can see all the white that left on my black paper contract to remove it, but it's still gonna be messy, and eventually you're gonna need an eraser. So you kind of missing the point here now, the way I like to do it is tracing it like the first time we did it with a graphite pencil . So this is the right side up for my drawing. So I'm gonna need the pencil that's gonna be on the other side is gonna be what's gonna show on my black paper CSA I flip it over and I take a white colored pencil. I go over the graphite line, so remember, I'm on the other side of the tracing paper right now, and you can push hard if you want. Just put a good layer off pencil in it. So you see that on this side I've got the white pencil, so I'm going to flip it over again to the site. It has the graphite so that the white pencil is gonna be against the black paper and you can see it very well. That shines through because you have the black paper in the background and now you have a white line. It's not very strong, but you see it just fine. So it's enough to see all the details from your sketch and as you add layers off called pencils, no matter what colors they are. These lines will disappear, so you won't have to erase anything. So this is the best way that I found to transfer my sketch from my sketchbook. Or again, you can just trace directly from the photo. It doesn't really matter, but that's the best way that I found to do it. So it's not too messy, and I can see the lines well enough, but now we have to clean up this mess. 4. How to Erase: Okay, so now I've made a mess on my paper. I get white spots everywhere. Um, what once I've done transferring my sketch often does little white specks it They come from the pencil or sometimes a be sharpening weapon. So over my paper and I get some more of those white specks or I'll get little pieces of the wood. So the first thing I dio is I grabbed my brush, and I go over it as much as I can to remove the biggest part of it. Sometimes, if I noted loose little loose piece of something, I'll just blow on it. But I never go like this with my hand because I'm going to crush two pigments and I'm gonna have big lines, big white lines or whatever color you using. And it's going to be really hard to remove from your paper. Also, like I've shown you before. If you use an eraser, you're gonna get rid of those, um, marks. But you also gonna damage the surface of your paper. So I do not use an eraser. Ever. When I used black paper with colored pencils, I use my poster putty. So I've got a few specs here. You in here? So all I do is shape it if I need to, and I just gently Deb on the spec and it removes it, and you can hear the tack. You can't even really dab at it. It usually removes it. And if I make mistakes with my colors, I'm going to show you in a moment. Um, just dabbing with it will remove a good layer of it. So if you're drawing and you think you've added too much or done something wrong that you want to fix or you added too many layers and it's not working anymore, grab your postal putty and Deb on it and you'll see that it removes a lot of it might not go all the way back to the black of the paper, but it's gonna remove a good amount, and you will be able to add more layers to it. And you see, it did not damage the paper. You can go like this as hard as I can. The paper is intact, so as you're drawing, always try to keep your paper clean. Always have this handy. And if you see any little specks here and there just either use your brush. And if it's not working with the brush, just ab, once we start working on our project, you'll see me uses ah lot. So don't use these, but use your putty instead. No rubbing on your paper. You can't even try. These are supposed to be good for black paper, but they're still will leave. Um, a little mark. It's not as bad, but you can still still see it. So stick to post a putty. 7. First Layer: no other. We've transferred our line, drawing on the black paper. It's time to put into practice what we learn in less and five for destroying the biggest of smoothest area. So we're gonna draw it kind off the same way as we did the ball during less and five. First, we're gonna define the outline a bit better and then very, very lightly at the areas of light. Just remember that the shadows are defined by the blackness of the paper, so gently applied that first layer of white where the light hits the beak and do that for the whole week. - Take your time, observe your reference photo really well, and you also see that in some areas it's a little brighter. So the blind between the two parts of the beak, I pushed on the pencil a little bit more to define it more, and once I was on with the faint lights, I went over the beak again and added another layer or two, where the highlights are more pronounced. Now, remember to always sharpen your pencil. Try to make sure that your tip is sharp all the time as much as possible, so this process takes a little while again. Just make sure. Yeah, you always compare your drawing with the reference photos so that you can put the lights in the right areas. And because it does take some time and some parts, I have sped up the video so that you don't fall asleep in front of it. You also not is that from time to time, I dropped some pencil residue on the paper, and I use even my brush or the Postal Party to pick it up to clean it. I don't brush it off with my hand. I just used those two tools that I've already mentioned before now that have established a light on the beak. It's time to do the feathers that's besides the big in the eyes. Everything else is the feathers, so you'll notice that there are several types of feathers and we're going to approach them differently. Do you see that around the beak? Top and bottom? They're more like hares. And to draw these feathers, it's pretty easy. You just have to draw lines. Now. Make sure you don't draw them evenly side by side. Same length parallel. This is not what you're gonna find in nature to all in different directions and do look at your reference photo again because you need to follow the direction that you see on your photo. You'll see that someone overlap each other, so that's how you're going to make it look riel with your pencil. Put it down on the paper at the base of the feather and with your wrist. Just flicked the pencil up and make a whisper line so that the start of your line is a little bit more pronounced. It's gonna be whiter, and when you live the pencil off the paper, it's going to be less pronounced and kind of disappearing into the blackness. So when I worked with my first layers, I usually start from the top left because I'm right handed. I feel free to start from the top right if you're left handed. Um, it's just that I can see what I'm doing better that way. So once I'm done establishing the feathers on top of the beak in on the chin part that has psychic Nicollet that I started working on the eye now on the photo and I'm not going to try to detail it so much, I want to give it an impression to make it look real, but not necessarily have the very minute details. And from what I see, I see kind of little dots, little white dots around the eye. And so that's why I'm drawing. And it doesn't have to be perfect. I see some areas are more white than others, so I'm gonna work with that, and I will so establish right away the highlight in the I saw Drew of very white little spot. Also, there's some shine on it, so the shine is definitely not as bright as that white spot. So with a very light pressure, I'm adding it a little bit of white following the shape that I see on the I and then working outward from the I, I start establishing all the other feathers and often on the top of the head and around the head in the back. The feathers also look like hair, so they're thin lines that you can draw again. Make sure you follow the direction of the feathers that you see on the reference photo so that they look natural overlap. Some of them make some little brighter than others so that you give it some volume and make sure that they're not all the same length. Now the feathers that are on the neck there bit different. You can actually see the shape of a father or least the tip of it. So you see the pointy part of it, and it just as it goes back towards the skin. It's get surrounded. So for this you need to be very careful again. Observe you reference photo very well, because those feathers catch delight in a different way and because they overlap each other . There's a little shadows underneath the top feathers where they overlap the feathers that are underneath. So here again just established the highlights on those feathers and use the black of the paper as the shadow. I know he doesn't necessarily look like it on the video, but I'm still using very, very light pressure on my pencil, except for the areas where the light is much brighter. But at this stage, I'm still working very lightly because I know that I'm gonna add more white so that it stands out even more because it's a jumble of feathers all over the place. make sure that you take a break, that you don't end up with crossed eyes. And what I often do is that I work in an area, and if I start getting confused and can't see where I'm at anymore, can't pinpoint the area and of reference photo anymore. I just leave that area for a while, and then I go work in another area. That's why you're going to see me go from one spot to another just to relieve my eyes. That's all the feathers on the back of the neck or at the base of the neck. There also a little bit different because they are not pointy, they are rounded. So these air pretty easy. Just put a little bit of highlights on the rounded edge. And then what's under that father? Leave it black and then just kind of like fish scales. Just put little round fathers like that and then back around the eyes. The feathers are much easier that just little lines like hairs, so some areas are very dim, so make sure you don't put too much pressure because they're going to stay dim like that as you work with your white pencil as you apply more pressure or less pressure. Eventually you're gonna build your values that way, and you're gonna have the areas of your drawing that stay black, and then you're gonna have the areas of your during that are very white, very bright because of the highlights because of the light that shines on it. And then you're gonna have your mid tones in betweens there are less bright, but not quite very dark. So working with the values like that is gonna give you a nice three d effect, and it's gonna make your drawing look a lot more real that way. 8. Second Layer: So with that first layer alone, you can see how we've already defined our crow pretty well. But it's time to define it more and at contrast, work with the value to make it pop even more. So. Let's go back to the beach and add more pressure this time with our pencil to make the lighter areas even lighter. Just remember to always keep your eyes on the reference photos that you know where to add this light. You can also use this time to define your big better. The tip of the beak is a little rounded, so with my sharp pencil, I went, and that defined it a little bit more. You can define also the the line between the top and the bottom off the beak. Make sure it's the right shape. Then, with the feathers on top of the beak again, I make some that are brighter. Not all of thumb, because they're not all the same brightness. Some catch a light more, and some are underneath, so they're more in the shadows, so make sure you Onley brighten some of them. Not all of them that we didn't talk about the feathers that are at the base of that beak under the eye. These are even a little bit different. I think they're just shorter, and they look like a Siri's off tiny little lines or little dots put together. - So at this stage, I'm going over the whole drawing IDing the highlights where the light it's the crow the most, and I'm still using flicking motions to make sure that the lines on, even so that it looks more natural that way. Just roll wispy lines, make some lines that overlap others and always follow the direction off those feathers. Always keep your eyes on the reference photo for the feathers on the neck. You can see that I'm adding some brighter highlights, but not all over the feathers. Just on the edge is the area that catches a light the most. So now you can see that those fathers air looking even more riel because of the the nice contrast you have between the shadows and the lights. It's not uniform, and I'm not doing that on every single feather, either. Some stay in the shadows. I don't I won't touch those now , working on the feathers on the back of the neck the base of the neck. You'll see what I was explaining to you earlier. A bit better. I'm just defining the edge of those feathers with the light with the white pencil, with the light hitting them and just drawing lines, because if you think of a feather, it's not a flat thing. The feather is made of lots of little fibers that they kind of look like hairs put attached together. So the edge of a feather looks Harry, and that's why you see all those little lines for the father's on the neck. There's so tight, so close to each other that you don't necessarily see it, but the feathers at the base of the neck. You actually see the little lines that make those feathers, so that's why in that area I do. I do draw those lines to show some texture 9. Sharpening the Details: so you could very well. And you have drawing at the at the end of last lesson. You've established all your values and it looks great. But I usually work it a little bit more and try to deepen those values a bit more. But those steps are totally optional. It's really up to you. And that's why I also told you that those supplies are optional because you don't have to do it. Unfortunately, I lost the beginning off the footage of this lesson, but you can still see what I'm doing here. I used a black Prisma color pencil and I sharpened it very well, and I'm using it to add some black feathers. So, yes, the crow has black feathers. We've been using a white pencil this whole time. It doesn't mean that the crow has white feathers. We've only drawn the highlight on those feathers, but the feathers air still black. And by using a black pencil, we can re establish some darker areas, some shadows and the fact that the feathers are black. So, for instance, on top of the beach, we're gonna use some long, wispy lines again to draw some black lines and it's gonna help overlap some feathers even better than what we did earlier. And that way we're going to see some white lines and some black lines, and it's gonna reinforce the fact that the feathers are black and not white. I hope this makes sense can also redefine the shape of the beak, all those lines that you might have drawn over with the white pencil. So essentially, what we're doing here is that we're using the black pencil to clean up our mess if we have a mess. So if you've drawn some lines where they should not be, you can take this opportunity to go over those lines and black in that area, if there to light or if it's too light at some more shadow, we use essentially the black of the paper for the shadows. But sometimes we tend to go overboard, which is drawn more and more more white for the highlights. But some sometimes there's not as much highlight in that area, so we can instead of using an eraser, we can use the black pencil to to do that and also at the base of some feathers. If they're to clump together We can just grow wispy lines there as well, to define them a little bit better to make them look more natural. And it's gonna help establish a better shine on some of those feathers as well. For the neck feathers, you can also define the shadows under the overlapping feathers. And, um, if you've put too much highlights there, it's going to help you correct that. So again, and now you can stop right there. It looks really good, but for me and a and that's what I used to do, I used to stop at this stage. But then when you look at the areas where you added the black, if you look at the paper at an angle, you actually can see the sheen of the pencil that's popping. And I never really like that, but I found a fix. I use the door one drawing pencil. Those pencils look more Matt on the paper, and they're very, very creamy. So I will apply that pencil in all the areas that are just black, not on the feathers, not under drawing itself, just the areas that are black, not the background, either. I don't overlap on my lines. I don't push too hard just enough to put some pigment on the paper, but doing this it will overlap the black lines from the Pres Mikel pencil, and you won't see the shine of those black lines anymore. Okay, then I use a paper towel to spread the pigments under drawing, and sometimes I will overlap on the feathers, and it's going to soften some of those brighter areas, and it's really gonna help build the values, even Mawr. You can always go back over it with a white pencil later, because you'll see, and you might be horrified to see that if you go over the white, it's gonna cover up all the work you've done before. But I only do that in the areas where I think I've added to many highlights. And now the last thing you can do and again it's totally optional. But you can also do that if you've been too forceful on your pencils. If you push too hard from the beginning and you've lost some tooth and you cannot add any more layers, use your fixative spray at a couple layers. Make sure it's dry, so read instructions on the back of your bottle. Make sure you wait long enough and then it's gonna add a little more tooth to your paper and you will be able to add more pencil more layers. So that's a good trick to keep in mind. And that's what I did for this drawing. I sprayed it with my fixative. I let it dry, and then I added my final details. 10. Final Touches: Now that the layer of spray has dried, I am bag at it and it's gonna be very similar to lessen eight, where I'm gonna work on the highlights again. And so basically, this whole technique has been some pushing and pulling the highlights and pushing them back into the shadows with the black pencil. And that's how you kind of struggle between the two and find a happy medium. Always keeping your eyes on the reference photo, of course, the direction of the feathers to shape of all the different fathers. It's always a game of observation, first and foremost, and at this point, if you have some highlights that are very, very bright, that's where you gonna push the most. And for our crow, the brightest highlights are mostly on the beach, also throughout the whole process. Make sure you you move your paper around so that you don't strain your wrist and that you're comfortable drawing and you can draw the lines the right way rather than have a cricket arm, crooked wrists and not being able to draw your lines the way they should be drawn. And now you see that with ease. Final highlights it really makes every element pop a little bit more. I think that layer fixative really helped bring a bit more to through the paper, and it catches the pigment from the pencil very nicely working in the I again adding the very sharp highlight and the white dots around the eye. They're not that white all around the I just in some areas that catch the light more. And if you think you've added too much white, you can always fix that by using your paper towel. You should have a black spot on your paper towel where use much that black pencil, so use that area to add a little bit of black pigment rather than using your pencil. Just smudge it on the area where you think you've added too much highlights. That's what I did with my eye, and it worked really well. - Remember those wispy lines and remember to overlap thumb here, and they're not everywhere just in some areas. Remember to keep the directions the same way you see it on your reference photo. - Also , I mentioned earlier that you should sharpen your pencil all the time away to prevent from sharpening it too often is to rotate your pencil as you're drawing. You'll see me quite often, drawing a few lines than rotating my pencil. So choosing one side of the tip, and then when I rotate my pencil, it uses the other side, and it's kind of sharpening it naturally that way. But eventually it'll still end up being to round and not sharpen off, so you'll still have to use your pencil sharpener. But that's a way to wait a little longer before doing it and wasting a little less time. So just go over your whole drawing. Keep compared with your reference photo at the highlights here and there, and it's just the finishing touches, so don't go overboard, and once you're happy just up right there. 11. Final Thoughts: this concludes our first called pencil on Black Paper class. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share your experiments. Your practices. If you decided to draw that little white ball to practice establishing the highlights in the shadows on your black paper and also please share your crow. I'd love to see how you did it. And if you enjoy doing this, if you found it hard, please don't hesitate to ask any questions that I would be happy to help you. I know that it's a difficult medium to use on black paper. So if you're having trouble, just let me know. I'm looking forward to see you in my next class. I will be teaching you how to build on the skills you just learn and start using colors on the black paper. Thank you all for joining me today. I hope you had a lot of fun and I hope you will love drawing on black paper as much as I do . I'll see you soon. Bye bye.