Create your own toned paper with these 3 easy methods.

Here are 3 easy ways to tone gesso on paper for drawing.

Why tone gesso on paper?

A toned or colored surface can enhance your drawing.

Here are 3 easy ways to tone gesso on paper. You can apply gesso to drawing paper. Use gesso paint on paper to create a durable drawing surface.

Applying gesso to paper is also a great way to control the texture of your drawing surface. Gesso is commonly available in white, black, or gray. Use these 3 easy methods to tint or tone gesso on paper to any color of your choice.

  1. Tint gesso with acrylic paint
  2. Tone surface with Conte Crayon or charcoal
  3. Tone surface with a watercolor wash

Tone gesso on paper by tinting the gesso with acrylic paint.

Mix a small amount of acrylic paint into your gesso before you apply gesso to your paper.

If you coat your drawing paper with tinted gesso the color will not be easily affected by erasing or by small amounts of water or wet medium like ink.

Use a small amount of acrylic color with white gesso to create a mid tone paper.

Tone gesso on paper with Conte Crayon or charcoal.

Rub a piece of Conte Crayon or charcoal across the surface of your gessoed paper, then blend with a cloth.

If you tone your drawing paper with Conte Crayon or charcoal, the surface color can be lifted or erased to produce highlights.

The toned color creates a mid-tone to draw upon. You can lift out lights to reveal the white gesso underneath creating highlights in your drawing.

Tone gesso on paper with a wash of watercolor.

Dilute watercolor paint with water. Paint this diluted color across the surface of your gessoed paper and let it dry.

When you tone your drawing paper with a watercolor wash the surface color will not be affected by erasing. You can lift the color with a damp paintbrush, revealing small areas of the white gesso where you desire to create highlights.


There are many reasons why an artist may want to tone their drawing surface. While you can purchase toned drawing paper, there is often a limited selection of colors available.

The methods above offer easy ways to modify the color of your drawing paper using materials that you likely already have in your studio. Using these methods, you can tone paper to virtually any color you desire.

Toning gesso on paper is a great way to manipulate the color and durability of your drawing paper.

Author: Sonia Reeder-Jones