Techniques and Tips

The Potent Power of Using Colored Paper

The Potent Power of Using Colored Paper

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How many of us are guilty of automatically grabbing a white sheet of paper on which to draw?

I’ve heard that it can be less intimidating to begin a new piece with a colored substrate that already has color to it. It’s like having a friend greet you at a party rather than walking into a room full of strangers. “Come on in,” the hue says. “I’ve already made the rounds. We’re going to have a great time.” You’re not alone, left staring at a truly blank sheet that’s waiting for you to make something amazing. You can relax a little.

Sandra Angelo, a well-known instructor with Network, has offered to share three ways that she likes to use colored paper to make her colored pencil paintings “pop.” See what she has to say, and consider which technique you might take advantage of in your next drawing.

3 Ways to Pack a Punch by Sandra Angelo

When you view an art show, does one piece outshine the others, commanding the spotlight like a movie star in a crowd of commoners? Here are three insider secrets that could help your colored pencil paintings garner top awards and lucrative commissions.

The novice often selects white paper for colored pencil paintings, not realizing the potent power of colored grounds. Your paper choice should be deliberate, not a default setting. The effect you want to achieve determines which paper is most appropriate.

1. Choose colored paper that delivers drama and watch collectors flock to your work.

David Dooley invented a method called “reverse grisaille,” which makes colored pencil pop off the paper. He specifically chose black paper for Peaches and Ball Jar (above/right) even though there is no black in the subject. (In this eWorkshop, Dooley reveals his simple systems for rendering seven textures, including shiny and dull metal, sparkling glass, peach fuzz, wood and more.

2. Choose a colored paper that matches the dominant hue behind your subject.

As long as your composition is dynamic, a colored paper will fill in the background, saving you hours of laborious drawing. (Dooley used the reed to break up the negative space in this eWorkshop. Placing this bird on green paper–the same color as its natural setting–makes the background feel complete. If this had been drawn on white, it would feel unfinished.

3. Choose a paper that is the same as the dominant hue within the subject.

I chose a golden brown paper for this retriever because the paper furnished most of the color I needed for the dog’s fur. The colored ground also enhanced the color harmony throughout my drawing because I used a color-theory palette that matched this paper. (Learn my “magic grisaille method” to lend depth to your drawing.) ~S.A.

I agree that one’s paper choice should be deliberate–it’s a good way to start a new colored pencil painting with a specific intention and a fresh view. I love to hear from our readers, so tell us in the comments section below what your favorite color or type of paper is to use.

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