DIY Tutorial: How to tone a paper

How to tone a paper - DIY Tutorial: How to tone a paper

Why do I need to tone a paper?

There are many reasons why you should draw on a toned paper. At our local art store, you will find a huge selection of papers. These are mostly white. When drawing on a white paper, the brightest areas of the drawing remain as light as the paper. So, you can actually “just” get darker. A grey-toned paper is a neutral tone, in which we can work in both directions: in the dark areas of shadow and in the bright areas of light. The result is a realistic drawing which gives a 3-D feeling.

Our students, as well as anyone, who studies realistic drawing and painting at art academies, learn to draw on toned paper because this prepares them to later paint with oil paints. Drawing with charcoal and white chalk on toned paper is practically the end of the drawing program before starting with the oil painting. The first works in oil are done in grisaille, that is a study painted entirely in black and white. The student can concentrate on the new medium of oil color while working with a palette of just two colors and their shades.

Now, let’s start!

The materials we need:

  • A wooden board as big as the paper
  • Tape to stick the paper to the board
  • A piece of paper (we recommend Arches Watercolour Paper 300gsm grain fin 56x76cm)
  • A soft and wide brush
  • A plastic bowl filled with 1,5/2 cm of water
  • Black ink (we used, for example, Chinese ink)
  • A pipette to drop the ink into the water
  • A small piece of extra paper

The process

Step 1: Carefully stick the paper on the board with the tape. We recommend to not just stick the angles with the tape, but the entire length of the paper itself, so that it won´t slip away.

Step 2: Use the pipette to put the ink into the bowl of water.

Step 3: Mix the ink and the water with the brush. Now test the mixture we have obtained on the small extra piece of paper, to see if the color is good or not.

Step 4: Start stroking the brush with the water-ink mixture and spread it evenly on the paper. First with vertical brush strokes and then with horizontal ones.

Step 5: If the result is even, the process is finished. Leave the paper on the board for 24 hours to let it dry.

The next day you can start drawing on your toned paper. For the preparation and the toning process you only need about 15 minutes. However, the drying phase, as we have seen, lasts longer. Therefore, in the end, you need 24 hours.

Check out the tutorial of how to tone a paper.


Did you like the tutorial, or do you still have questions? We look forward to receiving your comments. You can also visit our Youtube channel, where you can find some useful art tips.


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