Whether you’ve been browsing through your favourite art supplies shop or searching the internet for new ideas, you may have come across some black watercolour paper. It probably seems strange and counter-intuitive – how can you paint on black paper with a translucent medium like watercolour?
In this guide we’ll look at what black watercolour paper is for and how best to make the most of your unusual paints. We’ll also look at more translucent mediums such as gouache to create unusual work with extra depth.
What is black watercolour paper?
This is going to sound simple, but it’s watercolour paper that is simply dyed black! It contains the same ingredients is white watercolour paper, in that it’s made from cotton, sizing and other binders to make it suitable for watercolour painting. It’s designed to withstand the high water content of the paints without buckling or warping.
Black watercolour paper is a relatively new product in the watercolour world, but it increased in popularity recently after Legion Paper released the Aqua Stonehenge Black. Legion Paper said their black watercolour paper is specifically designed to be the best surface to use glittery, metallic and iridescent paints. It creates the perfect backdrop to show off the little glittery pigments within the paint.
While these paints don’t scan well, they do look good in real life, especially metallics like gold, silver and bronze!
How to use black watercolour paper
You can paint on black watercolour paper the same as white watercolour paper. I’d recommend taping it down if you’re going to use a lot of water, to prevent too much warping.
The main difference will be the paints that you use. Many regular watercolour paints will be too translucent to work on black watercolour paper – they’ll simply disappear as they dry and you won’t be able to see them.
But if you use glittery watercolours, metallic paints or thicker, more opaque watercolour pigments such as Cadmium paints, these should show up on the black paper. It’s worth experimenting with your paint set to see which ones show up best on your paper. Below you can see some regular paint swatches which don’t show up well, then Cadmium and opaque watercolours underneath which are much more visible.
Using gouache paint on black paper
One of my favourite things to do with black watercolour paper is to use opaque mediums like gouache. These are less translucent than watercolour which makes them suitable for the dark background.
Gouache is water-based like watercolour, so it works really well on watercolour paper which is thicker and designed to hold watery paint. You can simply water down your paints and mix up your colours as you would your favourite watercolour paints, and get creative!
Depending on the brand of gouache you have, you may need a slightly thicker mixture to get coverage, though it also creates a nice semi-translucent effect with a lot of water mixed in.
You can also use Bleedproof White from Dr PH Martins or rather white pigment on black watercolour paper.
Painting ideas for black watercolour paper
Glittery and metallic watercolours
Use your favourite glittery paints to create a beautiful scene on a dark background that really highlights the iridescent particles. It could be florals that shine, a shimmering landscape or abstract shapes that catch the eye.
You can also try adding some glitter to gouache or thicker watercolours to create just areas that catch the light as you tilt the paper.
Below I’ve painted some loose florals in gouache mixture using the black paper. But the sky is the limit with this medium – you can create any of your favourite subjects on a dark interesting background. Gouache is great for portraits on a black base, or build a landscape under a deep stormy sky.
White subjects are the hardest to paint in watercolour, because the paper is white. Black watercolour paper is the perfect excuse to try out a high-contrast snow scene. Try a wintery landscape or cute snowman. You could even make adorable Christmas cards for it, and add writing with a metallic gel pen.
Gel pens & Posca paint pens
You can also add details with a metallic gel pen or Posca paint pen. If you create a stormy sky, you could add a bolt of lightning in a silvery pen.
You can be as creative as you want to be with black watercolour paper, so if any of these ideas appeal to you, why not pick some up and start having fun! I’d love to see your work – please tag me on Instagram to see it and share it.
More creative watercolour ideas
Download my free watercolour supply guide
Feeling overwhelmed and confused by watercolour paints, papers and brushes? Download my free guide filled with insider info, including a list of good supplies for every budget, and my complete supply list!