Creating Custom Toned Paper for Drawing

Savannah Tate Cuff
Duration:   9  mins

Why tone paper? Artist Savannah Tate Cuff tones paper, first, because the tone can help do the work of drawing, acting as a halftone between light and dark values. Second, toned paper allows you to highlight with white wash or white chalk. Third, custom toning lets you control the temperature and value of the paper. Savannah demonstrates two methods of toning, first with inks and/or gouache paints mixed with water, then with charcoal.

For the ink/gouache method, Savannah works on Fabriano 140 lb hot-press watercolor paper using a variety of inks and gouache paints (you can use either or both) and shares samples to show the variation you can achieve. Watercolor paper has two sides, with the watermark readable on the right side. Savannah first adds neutral dark ink to a bowl of water, then adds in sepia ink and gouache, mixing thoroughly. Next, Savannah tests her mixture on a square of paper, adjusts, and tests again, using a wide wash brush for mixing and application. When her mixed tone is satisfactory, she spreads it across the width of the dry paper in wide, smooth strokes. You can modify brushstrokes with more of less of the mixture. If the tone is too light, let the first layer dry and add a second layer. If the tone is too dark after the initial application, carefully wipe the surface with a paper towel to remove tone.

To tone white paper or toned paper with charcoal, Savannah works with vine charcoal and a sandpaper pad, scraping the charcoal on the pad to sprinkle the paper with charcoal dust. This method is ideal for mass drawing, since you can remove charcoal for highlights. After sprinkling, Savannah uses a shop towel to gently wipe the surface of the paper, spreading the charcoal around.