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.

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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.

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

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