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?

The Top 5 Best Types Of Paper For Ink Drawing

By Nicole Tinkham


Looking to improve your ink drawing skills? We know that working with ink can be intimidating but when it comes down to it, the supplies you use make all the difference. A simple shift in paper type can give you a totally different look and we’re not even exaggerating. Today we’ll be talking about paper and the types that we like using with ink. If you’ve been dabbling in the world of art for awhile now, you know how many options come with art paper (and just about every other art supply imaginable). As with anything else, not all paper is created equal and you certainly can’t use just anything with ink!  If you’re interested in playing around with ink washes, you’ll definitely want something with a harder surface. But it goes much further than that with many other options. Read on for the top 5 best types of paper we recommend using for ink drawing.

1.    Bristol Board

Description: Bristol board provides a stiff surface (heavier than drawing paper). Basically, it consists of many sheets of drawing paper together, forming multi-ply sheets.

Application: With the smooth surface option, use with marker, airbrush, pen, etc. With the vellum option, use graphite and colored pencils, mixed media, charcoal, and oil pastels.

2.    Mixed Media Paper

Description: Mixed media paper is a combination of both watercolor and drawing paper characteristics.

Application: Use the media of your choice. It’s great for watercolor, pastel, collages, marker, acrylic, etc.

3.    Watercolor Paper

Description: Cold pressed watercolor sheets in both 90lb and 140lb. We recommend Arches.

Application: Use for watercolor or ink painting.

4.    Illustration Board

Description: Illustration board offers a hard, durable surface that is only finished on one side. We recommend a hot press as it provides a nice smooth surface for pen and ink.

Application: Ideal for watercolor, pen and ink, and any media where a hard surface is needed.

5.    Drawing Sketchbook

Description: Just your typical sketchbook ideally in a smooth, fine surface.

Application: A sketchbook is perfect for line drawings done in both graphite and pen.

Not sure which type of paper to go with for your next ink drawing? Play around and try a few out! You’ll quickly realize what works well and what doesn’t for your particular project. Even though starting out in ink can be overwhelming (what if you make a mistake??) having a good quality paper will definitely work in your favor and eliminate a ton of frustration. These were our top 5 types of paper for ink drawing but we want to hear from you! What is your favorite paper to work on when it comes to ink? Leave us a comment below!

23 Sketching tips for the beginner

By Nicole Tinkham


As a beginner artist, you most likely know two things are sure: 1) If you want to get better at your art, you’ll have to practice often AND, 2) you should keep a sketchbook handy. To improve and grow as an artist you’ll have to be all in. You’ll need to start taking your art seriously. If you make one commitment today to better your art, make it to sketch DAILY. If you’ve purchased a brand new sketchbook before, you know there’s no better rush of excitement than opening it up to the first page. But don’t stop there. Filling that first page in can set the pace for where the rest of the sketchbook will go. So, where in the world do you start? Our best piece of advice is to just get started. And we have a list of 23 sketching tips to help you do just that. Note: These tips will cover a little bit of everything from choosing the right pencil to shading techniques. Let’s begin!
1.    Always start with the basic shapes. Draw these in lightly and add in more details as you go.

2.    Avoid smudging by placing a sheet of paper under your hand when shading. Right-handed artists should shade from left to right and left-handed artists should do the opposite.

3.    Don’t use your finger to blend! The oils from your skin will end up on your project and they can make taking away graphite in these areas difficult.

4.    Instead, use a blending stick to blend the graphite. Use a small circular motion for even blending. This will give it a more natural look.

5.    When shading, work from light to dark. Otherwise, the dark graphite could get stuck on your blending stick and mixed in with your lighter areas.

6.    Add some texture by using different mediums in your sketch like watercolor pencils. You can add water on parts and leave other parts dry.

7.    Use “H” (harder) pencils for lighter lines and “B” (softer) pencils for a darker line. More on pencil lead options here.

8.    Get a very soft look by scribbling on a scrap piece of paper with your pencil. You can then pick up the graphite with your blending stick and transfer it to your project. This way you won’t get those pencils lines in your sketch.

9.    Choose a paper with a “tooth” for added texture.

10.    The closer you hold your hand to the end (lead end) of the pencil, the more control you have.

11.    Use a photo as your reference. The nice thing about photographs is your object won’t move and the lighting won’t shift on you.

12.    Vary your line widths for a more interesting drawing.

13.    Use cross-hatching or stippling to shade for a different and unique look.

14.    Practice every single day! Whatever you’re struggling with, just keep sketching it out and you will get better.

15.    When creating 3D objects, you’ll have three different tones to pay attention to: highlights, shadows, and mid-tones. Your highlight area will be the part directly facing the light. Shadows are the area facing away from the light and mid-tones are the other area (not directly facing the light source and not directly away from the light source).

16.    When choosing a reference photo, make sure there are both light and dark areas.

17.    To achieve accurate proportion (especially when working on a portrait) use the grid system. Lay a grid over your reference photo and lightly draw a grid on your drawing paper to scale.

18.    Practice blind sketching. This is a fun technique that loosens up your drawings, like a drawing warm up. Basically, you’re drawing the subject without looking down at your sketchbook. This is just a fun way to get those creative juices flowing.

19.    Carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go. Observe and sketch often!

20.    Draw what you see. Pay close attention to your subject matter. Really look at shapes and shadows.

21.    Always keep your outlines light. Real life objects don’t have dark lines running along the edges. However, if you’re drawing in a cartoon style, this tip doesn’t apply.

22.    Choose which details to include and which ones to leave out. It’s not necessary to include every single detail in the leaves of a tree. Think about what’s aesthetically pleasing and decide what can be left out.

23.    Add color! Bring in some colored pencils, pastels, or even watercolor paint to your work to add some color.

We stressed in the beginning of this blog that these tips are meant for the beginner but actually, any artist regardless of their experience can use them. Print this post out and save it. These are excellent tips to look back on when you’re struggling or have artists’ block.

As with many of our other posts, we’re always adding and changing it based on what our fans have to say. If you have a killer sketching tip you want to see on the list, leave a COMMENT below and we’ll add it. Do you think we can reach 100 tips on this post??

What is quilling and how to get started

By Nicole Tinkham

What is quilling and how to get started Image from Creative Commons by Ipshita B
Are you mesmerized by paper art? If you’re anything like me, you think detailed projects like quilling and many other paper crafts are way over your head. Based on the research I’ve done, quilling just takes a lot of time and patience. With that being said, everything else is actually pretty simple and basic. Very few supplies are needed, creating the basic shapes are simple, and you can even use patterns to help you with the design part. So as long as you have the patience to take on quilling, read on to learn more about the craft and how to get started.

What is quilling?

Quilling is the art of coiling strips of paper to form beautiful designs. While the term “quilling” may be new to your vocabulary (it was for me!), this art form has been around for hundreds of years dating back to the Renaissance. The quilling process hasn’t changed much over the years but the tools and designs have been updated. Many designs are very detailed and some are even in the form of huge installations. Each project can be so unique and that’s what we love about quilling.

The supplies

–    Strips of paper in various colors depending on your design. You can find pre-cut strips at the craft store or you can cut your own using a paper trimmer. We recommend practicing first with ordinary copy paper.

–    Clear glue suitable for paper

–    A tool to help roll the paper (you can purchase one at a craft store or just use a bamboo skewer or toothpick)

If you are purchasing tools from the craft store, you’ll notice two different types: A needle tool and a slotted tool. The slotted option will be easier to work with but may leave a crease in the center of your coil.

–    Tweezers (used for pinching coils to form oval forms)

–    Straight pins (used to hold pieces in place while they dry and to apply glue)

–    Styrofoam board or place to allow work to dry

–    Damp paper towel to keep fingers clean

–    Scissors to trim excess paper

How to begin

There are many shapes that can be created in quilling but we’re going to start with a basic coil. Here’s how it’s done.

1.    Wrap a strip of paper tightly around your quilling tool until you reach the end of the paper.

2.    Release the coil from the tool and let it relax.

3.    Glue the end of the paper to the coil to keep it in place. All it takes is a tiny drop of glue. You can apply glue with the tip of a needle.

There are a TON of other shapes to move forward with:

•    Teardrop
•    Curved teardrop
•    Marquise
•    Double-curved marquise
•    Square
•    Diamond
•    Rectangle
•    Gumdrop
•    Half moon
•    Oval
•    Bunny ear
•    Duck foot
•    Triangle
•    Arrowhead
•    Tight coil

Get the tutorials here!

Other things to consider

The size and length of the paper strips will change the look of your quilled shapes. You can always cut down pre-cut strips to the ideal length.

If you would like to measure your coils, a circle template comes in handy.

Once you have your basic shapes down, it’s time to make something out of them. A great place to start is with greeting cards because you don’t need anything elaborate for them.

Get creative and think outside the box. You can even create quilled earrings!

Once you get the hang of the basics, look into patterns and other resources for inspiration on more advanced pieces.

Quilling takes a lot of PATIENCE! Keep with it and keep practicing to get better at it.

Although the supplies needed and the tutorials mentioned in this blog seem super simple, if you don’t have the time and the patience to sit down and really focus on your project, it’s very easy to become frustrated. Just BREATHE! If you get in the zone and keep your cool, it can actually become quite relaxing. Don’t worry about being perfect especially when first starting out. As with anything, it takes plenty of practice to get the hang of it.
Tell us, have you ever tried quilling? What did you think of it?

How to organize art paper in 4 easy steps

By Nicole Tinkham
How to organize art paper in 4 easy steps

Is your art room in need of some serious help? Does it look like a creative explosion went off in there? If you can’t see the floor or are spending way too much valuable studio time searching for what you need, we can help. Storing paper always seems to be a struggle among artists. It’s important to keep art paper in a safe place where it won’t get ruined. Plus you most likely have large quantities of it as well as size variations which only add to the storage struggle. On top of all that, you also have to consider what to do with all those scrap pieces floating around the house. Feel overwhelmed yet? Luckily, we have a 4 step system to organizing art paper that works! Now let’s get started.

Step #1: Look at what you have
The first step in getting your art paper organized is taking a look at what you have. We bet after collecting scraps here and there around the art room (and the rest of the house), you’ll discover you have WAY more than what you thought! Clear off your art table, dining table or an area on the floor so you can lay everything out. When we say everything, we mean everything. Get out every piece of scrap paper, crumbled paper, paper towel, tissue paper, and whatever else you can find that you were saving for a future project. Getting it all organized at once will save you a huge headache later.

Once you have everything in front of you, sift through and toss anything that you want to get rid of. If you don’t see yourself ever using it in the future, toss it! Trust us you need all the extra space you can get. Once you have ONLY the paper you’ll be keeping for future projects in front of you, it’s time to move onto the next fun step of sorting.

Step #2: Sort paper into piles

The first things to do when sorting your art paper is separate the full sheets with the scrap pieces. You should have 2 main piles. Next you’ll get more specific with your sorting by creating categories. For instance, you may decide to sort by color or texture. There’s no right or wrong method for doing this but make your system work with the paper you have in front of you. Here’s a list of some ways you can begin sorting:

•    Color
•    Size
•    Texture
•    Season/holiday
•    Pattern
•    Manufacturer
•    Theme
•    Polka dots
•    Stripes
•    Flowers

Start sorting your paper into different categories. Do this by grouping paper together in various piles around your space. It doesn’t matter what system you use to do this as long as it makes sense and works for you.

That’s what getting organized is all about. Create systems that WORK for you. Think about how easily you can find things. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding what you’re looking for? What will fix these problems? What types of paper do you use most of? What kind of projects are you working on? All of these questions are specific to you as an artist so be sure to keep them in mind when putting together categories.

Step #3: Choose a storage option

Storing art paper is probably the most difficult part of the process. There are so many different types of organization bins, drawers, and files but not all of them will be ideal for you and your needs. Here are just a few ideas to help get you thinking about your options.

Magazine file

magazine file

Letter tray

letter tray

Wall files

Wall file



File box

File box

File cabinet

file cabinet

When looking for a solution to store art paper remember to consider what will be easiest for you to keep up with, how much space you have in the art room, what size paper you’ll be storing, and how much storage is needed. When it comes to your SCRAP PAPER, we recommend putting smaller pieces in hanging file folders or drawer compartments.
Once you find a storage solution that works for you, the finish line is near! You must also label everything so you can easily find it and place things back where they belong. This may seem tedious but it’ll keep your paper organized in the long run. You can label file folders, drawers, slots, bins, and whatever else you can think of. Most importantly, make sure to be descriptive with your labels. An example might be “purple flowers” or “Christmas scrap paper”. This will make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Step #4: Maintenance

Keeping things organized for the long haul tends to be a problem for most people. Sure we can get everything organized but can we keep it that way all week, month or even year?? It’s all about following your system every single time. If you take something out, it MUST go back in its place. If you buy a ton of new paper, you need to add it to a category that makes sense or start a new category.  You should also be sorting through your paper collection a few times a year to make sure everything’s in its spot and also get rid of anything you no longer want.

Why is maintenance important? If you don’t keep up with your organization throughout the year, it’s like starting all over again from scratch, sorting and creating a new system. We know you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Organizing art paper is only difficult if you make it difficult. Don’t stress out over it. Clear plenty of time in your day to sit down and focus on getting organized. Follow the 4 easy steps mentioned in this blog, find a system that works for you, and take your time on it. Spending some extra time on it now will save you loads of time in the future.

Tell us, what’s your favorite method for storing art paper? Let us know in the comments!

How to find the best paper for Copic markers in 5 easy steps

By Nicole Tinkham

How to find the best paper for Copic markers

Stop guessing! You shouldn’t have to invest in various types of paper to determine whether or not your Copic markers will work well on it. Here’s a quick and easy test to finding the BEST paper for your Copic markers so you don’t go wasting any more paper. (Note: This will take testing on a few types of cardstock but once you discover the perfect one, you’re golden)

Step #1: Gather your supplies

You’ll need cardstock samples to test on (be sure to record which type each is on the back so you don’t get them mixed up), something round to trace with a pencil, and a medium shade Copic marker (and a darker one to test shading).

Step #2: Drawing and filling in your circle

Trace your circle in pencil on each sheet of cardstock. Next, color in each circle with your Copic marker. Be sure to reach the line, not going past it.

Step #3: Examine the feathering

Take a look at the edge of your colored circle and notice whether or not there’s any feathering that goes beyond the drawn line. You want to choose the clearest and cleanest option in the test.

Step #4: Flip your cardstock over

Next you’ll take a look at the back of the cardstock at the bleed through. This will tell you how evenly the ink was applied. The blotchier and more uneven the bleed through is, the worse that type of paper is when using  Copic markers.

Step # 5: Test the shading

Surprisingly, the type of cardstock used greatly effects the markers ability to blend evenly. With your darker marker, shade one side of the circle and use the lighter shade to blend it all together. A no good cardstock will leave streaks when trying to blend.

This little test may seem stupid simple but it’s supposed to be! Sometimes we don’t realize that we aren’t using the ideal paper for our project until it’s too late and then it’s just a huge bummer. Before you put in all the work, take this easy test to find out the BEST paper for your Copic markers. Remember to take note of the cardstock that you like best or keep your sample cards for future reference.

Did this test work? Tell us, what type of cardstock did you find to be the best to use with Copic markers??

What You Need to Know About Yupo Paper

By Nicole Tinkham

You’ve probably heard the name Yupo art paper when taking a workshop or browsing your favorite art supply store, but you may not be familiar with this popular paper or how to use it. In this post, you’ll learn why watercolor artists love this paper, tips for using it, and examples of how it can be used. We think you’ll be surprised at the different effect Yupo paper provides!

What is Yupo paper?

Yupo paper is a tree-free synthetic paper that’s 100% recyclable AND waterproof. Because of these properties, it’s often used for design, packaging, and labeling. For now however, we’re going to focus on how it can be used with watercolor paint and inks. Being water-resistant makes this paper ideal for use with watercolors as Yupo doesn’t absorb the paint like ordinary watercolor paper would. Because of this, you’ll notice nice textures that form as the paint dries on the Yupo paper.

Why you should use it

Yupo paper has many characteristics that will catch your interest as an artist. Here are a few:

• Smooth surface
• Durable/will not tear
• Waterproof
• Wipes clean

How you can use it

As mentioned, you’ll most likely use Yupo paper when working with watercolor paints and/or inks. Since Yupo is much different than your ordinary watercolor paper, here are a few tips to help you get used to this plastic-like paper.

1. Paint loosely: Since the paper will not absorb water, pigments have a tendency to “swim” until evaporated. Precise details may be difficult to achieve so a loose painting style may be a better choice.

2. Don’t touch the paper: You don’t want oils from your fingers getting on the Yupo paper so make sure to wash your hands frequently and use a towel to rest your hand on when working.

3. How to fix your mistakes: Simply add water to the mistake and wipe clean with a paper towel.

4. Experiment: Play around with Yupo paper and give yourself plenty of time to get the hang of it!

Do you think Yupo paper will become your new paper of choice when working with watercolors/inks? It’s a great paper to at least experiment with if nothing else. Stop by Keeton’s and grab a sheet of your own to test it out. Make sure to let us know what you think! You can connect with us here on the blog (just leave a comment below), or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We look forward to hearing from you!