10 Reasons Why You Should Use Toned Paper for Pastel Drawings

By Nicole Tinkham


If you’re reading this, you’re most likely an artist, and if that’s true, it’s also very likely you love COLOR. So why is it so natural for us to start a project on a blank white sheet of paper or canvas? Of course, not every artist starts that way but it seems to be the norm. Don’t get us wrong, we really do love a fresh, crisp, white surface. But in the world of pastels, there’s a reason why there are various toned paper choices. Read on for 10 reasons why you should use toned paper for pastels and how to go about selecting a color.

The benefits

1.    Ability to produce different effects and moods. Colors (the color of the paper and the pastels combined) can influence how the viewer feels. Consider the mood of the piece when selecting a toned paper.

2.    Mix it up! Dare to do something different. Challenge yourself to use a different tone for each project you do this year. This will help spark new creativity and get you thinking.

3.    Contrast pastels with paper. This is your chance to use paper color to your advantage and practice some brilliant contrasting techniques.

4.    OR you can do the opposite and harmonize pastels with paper for a totally different look.

5.    Emphasize dark-toned pastels with light-toned paper. This will really make your drawing pop.

6.    OR you can do the opposite and emphasize light-toned pastels with dark-toned paper. This technique can be so eye catching!

7.    Provide balance with mid-toned paper.

8.    No need to hide the white of the paper. Let the tone of the paper shine through and use it to your advantage. We love the look this produces.

9.    Works well with portraits and figure drawing. Just choose a nice skin tone paper for this.

10.    Less intimidating. Staring at a blank white sheet of paper can be overwhelming. But toned paper can help you ease up and get started. It takes the pressure off.

Your color choices

Remember that pastels don’t cover the entire surface, and when working on toned paper they don’t need to! That being said, you’ll want to choose your colors wisely. Most toned pastel paper is natural colors, making them ideal for portraits and figures. Here are a few colors you can find in toned pastel paper: black, dark gray, ivory, moonstone, oyster, pearl, sand, sky blue, smoke gray, steel gray, and tobacco. By the way, you can purchase an entire pad of different toned colors to play around and experiment with.

Now here’s how they can affect your drawing

Red/brown paper = Warm glow, ideal for yellow and cream pastels
Pale grey = Subdued, ideal for winter landscapes
Just starting out? Go with a neutral paper as it tends to be the easiest to work on. If your drawing is light, choose a pale paper.

Did you know you can DIY?

You can have a lot of fun tinting your own pastel paper using tea, coffee and red wine. Only drawback is having less for you to drink 🙂

Maybe you’re just starting out with pastels and are a little scared to try a toned paper for fear of choosing the wrong color. We recommend playing around with different colors first. You can get the pad of all different colors and experiment with different effects and techniques to see what works and what you like. We really think you’ll enjoy working on toned paper and it could even make it easier for the beginner. Tell us, do you use toned pastel paper? What are your thoughts?

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