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How to Pen Plot on Black Paper

An inky abyss, a deep void into darkness, the absence of light – is it even a color? The first prompt for the November 2023 Plot Party is Black Paper! There is nothing better for high contrast than experimenting with black paper, although the approach often calls for a more careful consideration of appropriate pens, the absorption of ink and a design that shines when “inverted.”

In light of these extra considerations, here are tips from 12 pen plotting pros on how to best use black paper with a pen plotter.

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Artist Tips for Black Paper Pen Plots

Chris Bly

Artist Chris Bly uses Strathmore Mixed Media paper (300gsm weight).

Pen plot by Chris Bly (IG: @machine.arm)

Chris recommends using Sakura Gelly Roll pens for their opacity, and running the AxiDraw on a slower speed with a little weight.

Pen Plot by Chris Bly (IG: @machine.arm)

Sometimes if it’s cold in my studio I’ll actually warm up some water and put the pen in it for a bit before plotting. Also with all paper, but black especially, I use gloves when handling it.

Chris bly

Michelle Chandra

Michelle Chandra uses paper by French Paper Company often used by screen printing artists.

Pen Plot by Michelle Chandra (IG: @dirtalleydesign)

Michelle also runs the AxiDraw slowly using Sakura Gelly Roll white pens (size 08) with a little extra weight added.

Pen Plot by Michelle Chandra (IG: @dirtalleydesign)

Michelle also experiments painting on heavy weight black Legion Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress paper for space painting pen plots, space ray design drawn using Posca Paint markers.

Floris de Jonge

Pen plot by Floris de Jonge (IG: @dejongefloris)

Floris De Jonge’s black paper of choice is ClaireFontaine Trophee Black (210 gsm).

Pen plot by Floris de Jonge (IG: @dejongefloris)

I usually use Rotring white ink. It’s not that opaque and it’s necessary to use multiple passes, but in my experience it smudges or scratches less. I also like Sakura white ink. But it costs a lot of pens to continue plotting and I like to reuse my pens and use refillable inks.

Floris de jonge

Julien Gachadoat

The go-to paper for Julien Gachadoat is Fedrigoni Ultra Black (250gsm+).

Pen plot by Julien Gachadoat (IG: julienv3ga)

Julien also recommends white Uni-ball Signo pens or Rotring white ink.

Pen plot by Julien Gachadoat (IG: julienv3ga)

AI Gardening

Pen Plot by Bren (IG: a.i.gardening)

Like many pen plotting artists, a.i.gardening’s pen of choice is Sakura Gelly Roll white pens (size 08) on heavy black photo card.

Pen Plot by Bren (IG: a.i.gardening)

Vernon Miller

Pen plot by Vernon Miller (IG: @aldernero)

Vernon Miller’s latest favorite paper is Legion Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress.

Pen plot by Vernon Miller (IG: @aldernero)

Go slow and be prepared to go over areas multiple times, especially when using white gel pens. AxiDraw I set the speed at 10% of maximum and use a tiny empty jam jar for extra pressure.

Vernon miller

Swan Mouton

Pen plot by Swan Mouton (IG: @swan.sheep)

For Swan Mouton, the emphasis is on the pens more than the paper. Swan enjoys experimenting with different paper such as this Arches watercolor paper (pictured above) which is “not inexpensive but so nice to the touch, very velvety.”

Pen plot by Swan Mouton (IG: @swan.sheep)

Swan prefers metallic pens on black paper for that “extra awe moment when they catch the light and they shine so bright against the dark background.”

Pen plot by Swan Mouton (IG: @swan.sheep)

I do enjoy color as well, I’ve only used Posca so far, but two passes are often needed to get the colors to really block the darkness of the paper. For these very bright, rainbow-colored pieces, I’d never go for white paper, though. The black background really helps pushing the colors forward, and they get a bit of a neon vibe, even though they are not fluorescent inks.

Swan mouton

Kris Northern

Pen plot by Kris Northern (IG: @krisnorthern)

Much like Swan Mouton, Kris Northern enjoys experimenting on a variety of black mediums including black Bristol, semitransparent acrylic and backing board as materials.

Pen plot by Kris Northern (IG: @krisnorthern)

For chrome / metallics I’ve found the Sakura PenTouch metallic inks to be too finicky for my taste and have settled on Molotow Liquid Chrome to perform much better. (They are refillable too, so you can minimize waste and half finished plots)

kris northern

Con Ryan

Con Ryan recommends trying pens from different manufacturers with all types of black card to find that one particular combo that works better than others.

Pen plot by Con Ryan (IG:

Much like other pen plotting artists have discovered, white pens look great on black paper but are difficult to get working consistently.

Pen plot by Con Ryan (IG:

If you can’t get white pens to work consistently, try and embrace that quality in your work. Not every line needs to be perfect. Silver ink pens are usually easier to work with compared to white pens and they look very similar on black card.

con ryan

Andreas Schönfelder

Andreas Schönfelder’s go-to paper is Fabriano Black Black paper, “it’s simply the best and so intense.”

Pen Plot by Andreas Schönfelder (IG:

However, Andreas is still searching for the perfect white pen. Andreas uses Sakura Gelly Roll white pens to mixed results and has found Rotring white ink to be too thick to flow properly.

Pen Plot by Andreas Schönfelder (IG:

Place the gelly roll in a hot cup of water to increase the temperature and therefore the ink flow. It’s the best solution I came up with.

Andreas Schönfelder


Targz also uses Fabriano Black Black paper for the best results, paired with Molotow markers and Molotow gold acrylic ink.

Pen plot by Targz (IG: @targz)

Targz plots each pen plot twice reversing the order of the pen plot. Targz recommends using vpype to reverse the drawing order of the pen plot.

Pen plot by Targz (IG: @targz)

Nick Tyrer

Last, but not least, Nick Tyrer also swears by Fabriano Black Black paper because the paper takes ink well unlike other papers Nick tried which absorbed too much ink.

Pen plot by Nick Tyrer (IG:

Unlike white paper, Nick has found that it is best to test pens with black paper first as “results can be unexpected. All of my prints require 2 passes, sometimes 3.”

Pen plot by Nick Tyrer (IG:

Like other pen plot artists, Nick advises handling black paper carefully as “finger prints, and other marks show up easily. So ensure hands are washed, and just generally minimize touching.”

Pen plot by Nick Tyrer (IG:

Really subtle one, the Fabriano Black Black is not loose sheets, it’s a paper pad. So there will be tiny bits of glue along top edge. So when selling my art, I guillotine off the top 1mm.

nick tyrer

Images in this post were used with permission by Chris Bly (IG: @machine.arm), Michelle Chandra (IG: @dirtalleydesign), Floris de Jonge (IG: @dejongefloris), Julien Gachadoat (IG: julienv3ga), Bren (IG: a.i.gardening), Vernon Miller (IG: @aldernero), Swan Mouton (IG: @swan.sheep), Kris Northern (IG: @krisnorthern), Con Ryan (IG:, Andreas Schönfelder (IG:, Targz (IG: @targz), and Nick Tyrer (IG:

About the Author

Michelle Chandra studied art, design and code at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Her work has been featured in many publications including Gizmodo, the Washington Post and Engadget. Follow her on Instagram @dirtalleydesign. Michelle organizes Plot Party 2-3 times a year, a pen plotting prompt challenge hosted via Instagram @penplotart.


  1. Rupert Russell

    I have just ordered a Fabriano 300g Black/Black A4 Pad
    Thanks so much for this Blog posting.
    I love Plotting on Black paper.

    • admin

      Thanks Rupert, glad you found the blog helpful.

  2. Rupert Russell

    Check out some of my plots

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