And “They” Said it Couldn’t Be Done… Watercolor on Black Paper

It’s not a secret that I love making up my own rules for my watercolor paintings and that I’m often operating far from tradition.  I’ve been thinking about the metallic and iridescent watercolor paints that I love so much (I almost exclusively use Daniel Smith watercolors), and how I could get some of them to pop.  Like electrically pop.

I decided that black watercolor paper would do it… too bad no one seems to make black watercolor paper (at least that I could find online).  So, I went to my local art store (Meininger) and asked for help:  “Doesn’t exist”, “Can’t be done”, “Paint with watercolor on black paper?  You won’t see the paint!”.  Good thing I wouldn’t take no for an answer (although after having explained that metallic and some opaque watercolors would certainly be visible on black, I had to accept a blank stare for an answer).

I finally decided to try some black Somerset printmaking paper – it felt too lightweight and wasn’t nearly as smooth as my usual hot-press Fabriano watercolor paper, but couldn’t find any other fine art paper to try.

What do you think of this mini that I created today?

Untitled, watercolor on black printmaking paper, 6 x 6 inches framed, $95
Untitled, watercolor on black printmaking paper, 6 x 6 inches framed, $95

20 thoughts on “And “They” Said it Couldn’t Be Done… Watercolor on Black Paper

  1. candiedfabrics March 25, 2009 / 6:03 pm

    ooh! Cool! They do pop…the lines between the shapes are so much stronger! To heck with “they”! 😉

    Sorry, as a textile artist, I have no ideas re: where to find thick black paper…could you make your own? How do watercolors work on handmade paper?

  2. Tay March 25, 2009 / 7:18 pm

    I don’t like Meininger’s – they are always rude there and I think overpriced.

  3. Seth March 26, 2009 / 6:30 am

    Stunning! The colors really pop and the piece is so powerful as a result. Way to go in not taking “no” for an answer too!

  4. staggerlee March 30, 2009 / 7:14 am

    Left this on the wrong post…oops!

    never accept no as an answer…I want a true watercolour gesso I can apply myself!! Akin to what ampersand uses on their boards…now have the recipe (exact)just gotta get to work!! Schminke makes an alright one that they say can be tinted w/ watercolours and then be used as a tinted W/C ground…not like the paper you usu. use but might be worth attempting though…Have some here, may try it and let you know what it looks like…

    Love the work on black…opening some new doors!!

    What is convention, but something to be subverted?

  5. Jill Zaheer April 3, 2009 / 10:37 am

    Your black mini is just stunning! Jill

  6. Mary Kaiser April 5, 2009 / 11:08 am

    David – This is beautiful! I love the experimentation!

  7. sophia September 21, 2009 / 1:21 pm

    I paint gouache on black illustration board, which seems to be just like archival matting board. it works fantastic. I’m really wanting to experiment more with painting in gold watercolor on black board.

  8. Annie February 14, 2010 / 3:31 pm

    I also use Daniel Smith watercolors, and came to the same conclusion you did. We need black paper! I have used white gesso for watercolor before, and Daniel smith makes a black gesso, so this is a place to start. But, I want to be able to have water marks and gesso will effect that. I was thinking about using a dye to get the black, or maybe black ink. Well “off to the drawing board”!

  9. Smitty May 3, 2010 / 9:28 am

    Fantastic I was in need of black watercolour paper as well, its great with duo chromes and interference colours, pearlesents and more, thanks for the inspiration David!

  10. Anne May 14, 2010 / 7:49 pm

    David, that is gorgeous! I’d love to see it in real life – the shimmer effect must be exquisite. Good for you for insisting on what you want!

  11. Marilu F Queiroz November 25, 2010 / 4:06 pm

    No dia 18/11/2010 dei um workshop na Jornada do Universo da Aquarela: Aquarelas sobre papel preto.
    Foram 42 pessoas fazendo o Workshop – para minha alegria o resultado foi muito bom – aquarelas maravilhosas.
    Uso o papel Murilo 360 grs. De um lado é liso, do outro é texturado.
    Pode ser usado tanto de um lado como de outro. Os efeitos que se consegue é muito lindo.
    Experimentem essa experiência.

  12. Marilu F Queiroz November 25, 2010 / 4:17 pm

    In the 11/18/2010 I tought to paint watercolor in black paper in an event called Universo da Aquarela (Watercolor Universe) hear in Brasil. 42 people learn that day and the results were amazing.
    I used the Murilo Paper (Fabriano)360 g, one side is flat and the other is texturized.
    The effects you can create are amazing.
    Try to make this experiment.

  13. Kaytie November 1, 2012 / 3:03 am

    Hey this is really cool and helpful. This year I’m creating travel poster to haunted locations for my senior thesis. As a fellow watercolorist I had some concerns as to how I’d get the dark part of this project when I finally considered to do black paper. I was so worried that it couldn’t be done, but this was the first thing that popped up on google when I searched it!!

    Thanks so much! This really did me some good, and I’m gonna go out and experiment on it as soon as possible!

  14. Mel McSweeney February 14, 2013 / 7:27 am

    LOVE IT! I’m always experimenting with colored and handmade papers for printmaking and was wondering today if I could do my etching with white on black – you probably already know this by now but Carlson makes a black watercolor paper – going to go purchase a piece or two in the next five minutes!

  15. Deirdre Hunter March 20, 2014 / 8:54 am

    I have been trying to find black watercolour paper for ages 😦

  16. rickbraveheart March 13, 2015 / 1:02 pm

    Absolutely WONDERFUL David. Black is such a perfect backdrop to create a mood or set off an element and you have done it fabulously. Your results are amazing and I’m glad you listened to the muse in you to find a way to give it a whirl instead of listening to everyone who says It Can’t Be Done! Bravo my friend. ~Rick

  17. Randi Mackey December 3, 2015 / 12:15 pm

    I have some multimedia Artboard found at Hobby Lobby. It is for all mediums including watercolor. I was looking for instructions on using it with watercolor when I came across this. try They are out of Mechanicsville, VA. It’s acid free, ph 6.7-7.0 neutral.

  18. Coral Staley December 7, 2015 / 8:24 pm

    Khadi has black watercolor paper. Fun to use bleach in a spray bottle for patterns.

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