Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different ways of drawing a rich black background. I’ve tried different pencil and paper combinations, different blending methods, and new tools. Today, I’d like to share a brief tutorial showing how to draw a dark background on white Pastelmat.
Drawing a Rich Black Background
The Brush & Pencil tools I’m using for this background are Powder Blender and ACP Textured Fixative. Powder Blender is a dry powder that makes blending and lifting colored pencils on sanded art papers easy. No matter how many layers you add, you can continue blending and lifting.
ACP Textured Fixative seals the Powder Blender and layers of colored pencil. Once you seal your work, you can work over it without affecting the sealed layers.
Step 1: The Initial Layers of Color
I first applied a small amount of Powder Blender to the paper, then spread it around with a sable round brush. A little Powder Blender goes a long way, so don’t use too much.
Next I loosely outlined my subject (a campfire) with a color that will be used in the campfire. You’ll see some progress on the campfire, which I’ll be writing about on my art blog in the near future.
I began the background by layering Faber-Castell Dark Indigo over all of the background. After that, I added Faber-Castell Black around the outside edges. I wanted the background to be dark, but also vibrant, so I next layered a complement of the fire colors (yellows, oranges, and reds) over all of the background. The color I chose was Faber-Castell Mauve.
Here’s what the background looked like after I finished layering the colors.
Step 2: More Layers of Color and Blending
You’ll notice I didn’t take much care to make the color layers very smooth. In fact, I wanted the somewhat blotchy appearance to begin with. Why? Because even slight variations and in color and value give an otherwise solid background a little more interest.
I did a couple of layers of each color, then used a sable round brush to blend the colors. I didn’t add more Powder Blender because it wasn’t needed. The Powder Blender I applied at the beginning works until I seal the drawing with ACP Textured Fixative.
Step 3: Still More Layers of Color
After blending, I layered Dark Indigo over all of the background. This time, I layered it with a more careful, precise stroke. I still stroked more boldly than I would on traditional paper, but I was more careful to shade all of the background.
I did a couple of layers of Dark Indigo, hatching the first layer and crosshatching the second.
Then I blended with the brush again.
I continued layering Faber-Castell Dark Indigo over the background, but I increased the pressure to medium-heavy pressure. I also began using strong, diagonal strokes, and covered all of the background. You can see those strokes in the background in this illustration.
Next, I layered Black over all of the background with heavy pressure. My goal this time was filling the tooth of the paper as much as possible.
I also began more clearly defining the shape of the fire by cutting into the orange with Black.
Step 4: Blending Again with Powder Blender
After that, I blended with Powder Blender. This time, I blended with a sponge applicator instead of a brush or my fingers. I softened the edges of the fire by pulling some of the background color into the flames. I didn’t want to dirty the oranges, so I was careful not to get too much Black into the oranges.
Then I sealed my work with three light coats of ACP Textured Fixative. The background is finished until the campfire is finished.
How do I like Drawing a Rich Black Background with Powder Blender?
So far, the results are completely pleasing. As mentioned, the background won’t be complete until after I finish drawing the campfire. Then I may find that the background is dark enough.
Or I may decide to darken it more or liven it up a little.
But I’ve been so pleased with this drawing that I’ve started another drawing of luminous fire against a dark background.
And this fire is much bigger and more active! I can’t wait to see how it turns out!