Black Paper Sketch Book Test

Drawing on black paper can be a lot of fun! We tested out the Sundaram black paper sketchbook using chalk, oil pastels, white gel pens and (Liquitex & Posca) markers. The dark charcoal-gray smooth-surfaced paper in a spiral bound book has a wonderful chalkboard feel to it. Watch the video to see what mediums worked best for lettering and drawing on this black art paper.

Reviewing the Black Paper Sketch Book from Sundaram Books

Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive with Inky Memo.

Minjal: Today we’re talking about the Black Sketch Book for Artists by Sundaram Books.

Samir: I’m Samir.

Minjal: This is Minjal.

Vishal: I’m Vishal and wonder of wonders, we are artists, we are also calligraphers and designers, so this should be right up our alley.

Samir & Vishal: We are also premium!

Vishal: Are we A4? I mean I’m more than 180 gsm but maybe if you stretch me out!

Samir: We’re mostly Made in India.

Vishal: Do we have books for success? We’re surrounded by them. I’m high bulk, that’s for sure. And if all this jocularity and mirth does not convince you that we are less than reverent about the process and art of art, well that’s what we do on the show.

We take things for a test drive because we have varied points of view on things, we each take an implement, today we’re doing a paper for the first time. It is black and we each do something different with it. Usually we see them on the same day when we’re recording. So Samir why don’t you show us what you’ve done?

3D Lettering on the Sundaram Black Paper Sketch Book

Samir: This is my piece on the Black Sundaram Paper and it’s for a change, it’s lettering-based rather than the figure.

Black Sketch Book S1

Vishal: Samir is a graphic designer by trade, so am I and with a bit of illustration. Minjal among us is the actual professional working calligrapher. So sometimes we like to bumble around, I don’t think you have bumbled around in this one too much.

Samir: Yeah, I mean this was going back to I think my college days, with kind of making abstract letter forms and trying to put them together in various interesting ways.

Minjal: Do we ever want to go back to college days?

Vishal: No! Not the days but the work. I think we did, we looked through an old carton of papers recently and we found some of Samir’s old, calligraphic things. If I have pictures I’ll put them up.

Samir: I think the reason I mentioned college days is because in some cases for many of us that’s the last time we experiment with anything as far as the work is concerned. We have not fallen into that trap and then continued doing interesting, new experiments through this show.

But yeah it was a great test to just try this out with lettering and to try it out with different mediums because this being the first paper that we’re testing out. The interesting thing for me here was actually to try it out with different mediums on that one paper.

Vishal: Right! It says works best with pencil colors, gel pen, chalk, pastel, metallic color, acrylic colors and it is for dry media. So no drinking while you’re around!

Samir: It’s interesting that well, I don’t think I quite used pencil colors, I did use a gel pen because the white pen is a Gelly Roll, a White Gelly Roll.

Sakura White Gelly Roll

Vishal: We’ll be seeing more of that when I show you mine.

Samir: ..which is the gel pen and we have covered that in a previous video.

Vishal: Yes we have it was a very fun implement.

Samir: I guess you could call an oil pastel something like a chalk and it actually does a very convincing chalk impression on this black paper.

Vishal: And oil pastels do contain chalk in some form right? As a medium?

Samir: I don’t think so. I think those are more the normal chalk pastels.

Vishal: Or is that gouache?

Samir: Gouache also does contain chalk. So chalk is actually found in a fair number of mediums. And acrylic colors, actually I think the the gold here is done with the Posca marker which we will be covering in a future episode. And I don’t know if acrylics are actually in Posca markers but I know that a lot of artists like to think of them as acrylic paints in a pen. This kind of covers a few different kinds of mediums on the black paper and I thought that was a good way to test it out.

Posca Markers

Vishal: So which of these mediums did you have the most trouble putting down? Which ones worked out well?

Samir: The Sundaram Black Paper is a fairly smooth surfaced paper. So the thing I have noticed with a lot of black paper because I’ve tested out other ones before is that most of them come in some sort of a textured surface. I guess mostly to do with the fact that you end up using things like pastels on them which are the only things that would be visible on a dark color and pastels require a textured surface.

Whereas is this is a perfectly smooth surface and that was interesting to try out. The gel pens and the Poscas worked perfectly on this medium, I have to say there was absolutely nothing to complain about. I was actually surprised to find that the oil pastels worked fairly well on this. I got quite an even line.

I think the only thing I would say this paper suffers from is that because it’s such a smooth surface when you do rub things out, you kind of end up getting that slightly reflective, I don’t know if it shows up on camera, that slightly reflective place where kind of the the surface changes texture. But besides that I would say it’s a fairly hardy and versatile kind of paper. It’s not the most heavy, it’s fairly light. I think it says it’s 180 gsm.


Vishal: It doesn’t really feel it, I will be honest about that. But it’s not too expensive. It’s Rs. 325 in India and probably you can get it cheaper.

Samir: And I’d say that it’s not the blackest of the black papers you can find.

Vishal: It’s a matte. If this was a suit fabric you would call it like a charcoal rather than a black.

Samir: But overall I’d say it’s been a fairly good experience.

Vishal & Samir: Minjal, do you agree? Do you disagree? Show us what you’ve done.

Abstract Calligraphy on the Sundaram Black Paper Sketch Book

Minjal: So this is what I came up with. I had to actually bring out the heavy ammunition for this. I used the Liquitex Paint Markers. Now, obviously the book says that you avoid wet mediums. So I used a couple of things, what really worked very well for me, which maybe I’ll just demonstrate. These markers are really fun to use and this paper kind of takes the color quite well. For me this test was actually more about the markers, which well, that’s not what we were covering.

Black Sketch Book M1

Vishal: We’ll do that an episode on them.

Minjal: I did have a lot of fun using these.

Vishal: I think the silver itself is a great pairing for a black paper.

Minjal: And also in this case, what a lot of artists will do is they will take a canvas, they will prime it, they will paint the background black. Now with the black paper obviously you save yourself some time and then you can just start with the markers itself. So that was my test drive. I did mix golden with the silver, also a Liquitex to get this effect.

Vishal: You were right, we’re kind of getting off topic towards talking about the markers. But how was it to layer these markers on this paper?

Minjal: The markers, Liquitex, they are water-based markers. So you have to put down the first layer maybe wait for a minute or two and then put down the second layer.

Samir: And as much as we were talking about the markers there that also has to do a lot with the quality of the paper whether you can go over it twice or thrice.

Minjal: What happened when I was using, putting down the first layer the paper kind of wilted. Maybe it is not meant for water based mediums.

Vishal: Well they do say that it is made for dry media.

Minjal: I thought I would challenge the Sundaram Black Paper and see. But it did wilt a little bit, but it kind of then settled back into shape.

Vishal: I think Stationery Challenge a much more violent version of this show is something we should consider an option.

Samir: I think the thing that I am finding that’s common between what you did and I did and which is the strength of this paper is that it actually genuinely looks and feels like a chalkboard, because I’ve looked at other art black papers and their strength is how perfectly deep black they are, but this one’s strength is in some ways the fact that it’s this charcoal gray.

Vishal: It’s a thin, portable chalkboard.

Samir: You can see that with the Liquitex markers and the oil pastels, it very much ends up looking like it it is a chalkboard.

Minjal & Vishal: Speaking of chalkboard, did any of us try chalk?

Minjal: Yes, I did. I have these chalks from Ikea and they do work well. Chalks as a medium, they’re very messy but you can get nice lines. I think the Ikea chalk is really good, it’s very pigmented. I don’t know if that’s the term you use with chalks, but they’re nice to use.

Ikea Chalk
Ikea MALA Chalks – Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Vishal: It’s certainly much better than the chalks we grew up with in school.

Samir: I think it’s partly to do with the pigment and also to do with the density of the chalk itself.

Vishal: Yes, I’m sure it is much more refined than the ones that we grew up with. And if we ever get to figure out how to clean up the mess of chalks.

Minjal: That is a marketing gap, right? Fixatives for chalks? Are there any?

Vishal: There are things like fixative sprays, there are varnishes but I think the problem with chalk and again we’re going off topic but yes it is a matter of bonding it to a paper. This paper is quite smooth maybe there is textured paper. So while chalk is in some ways the driest of mediums, it’s probably not the best for this.

Illustration on Sundaram Black Paper Sketch Book

Black Sketch Book V1

Vishal: I went with entirely wet mediums, so to speak, even though technically they would be dry. Mine was done with the Sakura Gelly Roll white gel pen, mostly and a bit of the Posca white and gold markers. I had a lot of fun with this one. It’s a lot smoother than the usual cartridge papers I use so in some ways the Gelly Roll took to it quite well. I could almost noodle it in these very fine kind of ways, less of a painterly approach more of a almost brass cut look to them and that’s quite nice. Just like it’s chalk it could also be a print. That’s the flexibility I liked about this.

What is Silverpoint Drawing?

Samir: I think Minjal and my work very much reminds me of chalkboard drawings or not, yours actually reminds me of silver point.

Vishal: Yes, silver point that’s the thing that I was looking for and please explain silver point to people who don’t know it.

Samir: Silver point is essentially a board with a metallic foil which is then painted over with a black paint or a black medium and you scrape out the black paint with the metallic stylus and exposing the silver and sort of drawing in negatives.

1024px Fallen Palmetto silverpoint Jeannine Cook

Fallen Palmetto, Silverpoint, Jeannine Cook – Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Vishal: I’ve always been curious about using those but I never could muster up the courage to pick up those kits because I’d see them in stationery stores and bookstores. They’d always have a really nice etching of a deer or some kind of other usually American fauna. I think we should test those out because I’ve rarely used a black paper for anything before.

Yes, there’s chalkboards but those are always temporary but I think I was surprised by the versatility of both what we have gotten here but also what I started thinking of doing with this. These are all test drives but I’m sure we can do more elaborate, painterly things. Right here I think we’ve got what 5, 6, 7 different implements that we’ve tried on this paper?

Samir & Vishal: Yes, and the interesting thing about black paper is we’re so used to drawing, writing in a positive and additive way. Not just additive, but positive in that it’s black on white or red on white or whatever. As soon as you get black and then you have to kind of put in, your idea of negative space flips. And that’s been a very interesting experiment and I think because of that we’ve also pushed ourselves to use materials which we would normally not.

How is Colored Paper made?

Minjal: So black paper or any colored paper would basically be pulp mixed with some kind of dye? Is that how colored paper is actually made?

Samir: Yes. Most papers are essentially just a dye that’s mixed in with the paper pulp as it’s being made. I assume black paper is as old as paper itself. I doubt it’s something that no one thought of from the early days and if it is as old as paper itself I assume that most black paper uses carbon black as its pigment, because it’s the simplest pigment to make. It’s what India Ink and lot of inks have used for millennia.

Vishal: So carbon I guess you just get it from organic sources such as off paper pulp?

Samir: Carbon black is actually, I mean it’s an interesting process. It’s done by burning oils and things and collecting the soot that comes off it onto I believe glass vessels, traditionally. And you kind of scrape that off and that becomes your pigment.

Vishal: It’s a fascinating process and it’s a fascinating paper. Downsides, yes, the only thing is if you rub it out then there are going to be stains and you can see a few there. I didn’t bother rubbing out my pencils, there were certain sort of silveriness to them now which helps with this thing.

Minjal: Yeah, rubbing pencil marks off the paper, I also faced the same problem. It’s difficult to completely erase it.

Black Sketch Book M2

Vishal: You kind of have to be very deliberate and probably even fingerprints will end up on this quite easily. It does not seem to have any difference on either sides. At least, usually on papers because of the way they are pressed out there’s sometimes a sort of shinier side. This one seems to be fairly even on both sides.

Samir: I think all of the downsides to this paper that we are mentioning which are very few honestly are all to do with the fact that the paper is not as dense as some more professional paper, so that’s the same reason why you can’t erase out a pencil mark completely. It’s the same reason why they’re suggesting it for dry media rather than water-based media. It’s that the density of the fiber isn’t very high and therefore it kind of indents easily and also absorbs water easily. But other than that I think it’s a fairly good piece of medium to work on.

Vishal: I think we covered some of this in the Gelly Roll that there was a specific way of getting a clean line by sort of reducing your pressure that you would put on it and I think that’s true of this paper as well. It takes to mediums that require less pressure such as these markers, anything that kind of like sits on top is fine, anything that probably tries to gouge into it paradoxically or rather ironically, the opposite of things like silver point.

Black Sketch Book V2

But you get a similar thing to silver point, you get a similar thing to chalk, similar thing to acrylic gesso that’s black. It’s more versatile than we thought and as much as we made fun of it at the beginning, I think it’s worthy for artists. It’s not too expensive. Very much variety can be derived from it. It has a cool eagle with a proper smooth treatment on it.

Samir: I definitely think we should be looking at more colored and negative drawing mediums as time goes by because it definitely forces us to use different tools and implements that we normally wouldn’t.

Vishal: And we should definitely check out things like Liquitex in the future. I think that is all for this week, we will be back with more experiments every week, more tools, more papers soon. Until then I’m Vishal.

Samir: I’m Samir.

Minjal: This is Minjal.

Vishal: And this has been Stationery Test Drive. The future is not dark but it’s certainly black!

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