Drama on the Cheap: working on black backgrounds

This is for all the lovely artists out there.

A few years ago, I realized that it was tremendously fun to work with chalk, Conte, colored pencils or white paint pens on a perfectly black background. I loved the dramatic look and enjoyed the fun of working entirely with highlights. However, I quickly grew tired of dealing with inadequately pigmented construction paper, and black gesso was expensive and messy. Black paint was inadequate. Black foamcore mattboard was nice but expensive and flimsy.

I craved something better!

After much searching I found a perfect solution online.  That was ultra-black presentation board!  Made for mounting photographs and other art, this stuff is ideal for painting or drawing on. It takes paint well and doesn’t fall apart, it’s reasonably stiff, it has enough texture to make using chalks and pencils a breeze. It’s light, and best of all, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!  A five pack of the largest size is only around $20 and it comes in several sizes.  Here’s one piece I created with this material.


Moonlit Beach web


I was ecstatic. I love creating with this material! It is easy to work with and looks great, and at the same time these boards are cheap enough, that I want to actually use it instead of “saving for the right piece” which may never come. Black presentation board is easy to frame, too, and easy to fit on an easel. Best of all, when I need more, I just go online and my favorite art store delivers more within a week, safely packed for me.

If anyone wants to try this amazing material, I found the best price at DickBlick.com.  Funny name, amazing company.  If you check them out, use this affiliate link and you won’t be sorry.  They offer amazing deals and great customer service too.  They also carry all my favorite supplies at prices below their competition.

So click here:

And search for

Blick Presentation Boards

to find the best perfectly black background I’ve ever seen.  While you’re there, you’ll see that they also carry Conte pencils, chalk pencils, Liquitex fine point paint pens, and about a half a million other things.  Buy enough and they throw in free shipping.


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