Sketching on Toned paper – Inspiration from the streets of Italy

Toned paper is nothing but coloured paper. But to choose the right texture and thickness of paper for a sketch is pivotal!

The most commonly used shades of paper are either toned tan or grey paper. But why these shades ? For portraits, especially, the medium tones are largely used to fill up the sketching area. But with toned paper, the paper tone itself is a medium tone! So using this shade as the base, the artist can only use highlights to create dramatic effects in a portrait.

My first look at toned paper sketches was in Florence, Italy in 2011. I remember visiting the Accademia Gallery which hosts Michelangelo’s ‘David’. After this, we went on a walking tour to the old town and the 3 famous bridges and close to the Florence Academy of Fine arts. I think it was here, I saw amazingly talented artists who were sitting on the streets with their easels, toned tan paper & the classic chalk pastels and creating masterpieces with tourists as their subjects. I wondered what that paper was called? Would it be easily available etc. Once I returned home, I was still curious to find out what materials they used and I WANTED to procure it. I went to most of the local paper markets & stationary stores, but all in vain! They looked at me as though I was asking for something alien :-/

So, I did my research and learnt more about portraits, using the classic shades to create dramatic vintage effects that a graphite pencil cannot do! It took me quite sometime to find Strathmore’s Artist paper in toned shades and since they did not ship to India back then, I had to make my friend buy it for me and ship it. I used Derwent soft drawing pencils to create the below sketches. These pencils are the best quality I have used until now and highly recommend anybody who wants to try their hand at the art.


I have used the classic portrait shades in both the sketches below, just to show that one can use these materials to their full versatility.



For any further questions, plz feel free to comment below, OR just shoot an email to me 🙂


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