Love color and love the ease of working in your sketchbook? Here are a few surprising and fun ways to incorporate color into your sketchbook so you are guaranteed both!

Start with Toned or Colored Paper

You can have color front and center before you ever make a mark. Use a sketchbook of tanned butcher paper if you want to experiment with a non-art materials surface. There are also colored papers sold in single sheets or as entire sketchbooks available from a wide range of manufacturers.

Strathmore has a range of toned papers in grey, tan and blue that offer you a subtle colored surface to start working on. These are all great because they give you a midtone to draw on that you’d otherwise have to render.

Extra 1 (On Red) by Maya Suess, conte

Collage Color Swatches

Incorporate pure swaths of color in your sketchbook by adding color swatches. Collage them into a sketch alongside your painted or drawn portions for a mixed media look. These are also great to glue on an adjacent inspiration page if you want to map out your color palette for your sketch in advance.

You can paste a whole page of these down and then use pen and ink over top of them. I’ve also practiced my color mixing by putting a swatch on my paper and then mixed paints right on the page until I get a close version of the original.

And this art supply is completely free. Just take a trip to your local hardware store.

Color swatches are great for sketchbook inspiration.

Color swatches are great for sketchbook inspiration.

Add Watercolor Splatters

A lot of artists go a bit Jackson Pollock with their sketches when working with watercolor or thinned acrylic by introducing an expressionistic, uhm, splatter (yup, that’s the technical word for it) of color across the page. Simply flick your brush (the load and mix of color and water is up to you) like you were twirling a wand right at your paper.

It adds surface adornment and decoration that might be perfect for your sketchbook and gives you a pattern of marks that will be anything but symmetrical. Do it at the beginning to give yourself a bit of color to build on. Or use it at the end of painting for a exciting exclamation-point style finish.

In the right sketch this can be rain or snowfall. It can preserve the color of your paper while giving you a way to add movement and texture. And it’s fun to do. Play around with distances between the point of the brush and the paper, as well as layers of those flicks of colors. Get carried away!

Watercolor shapes come in many forms including flicks! This watermelon slice is juicy and ready to be eaten as those splatters show.

Watercolor shapes come in many forms including flicks! This watermelon slice is juicy and ready to be eaten as those splatters show.

Metallic Gleam

If you are a bit of a magpie and love all the bright and shiny things, add gold leaf to the pages of your sketchbook. There are metallic pens and paints too if you don’t want to go the leaf route, which does take some getting used to.

Gold leaf your sketchbook pages for instant gleam!

Gold leaf your sketchbook pages for instant gleam!

Sticker Your Sketchbook

Just to clarify, I’m grown and I love stickers so too can you. I use stickers in my sketchbook because my sketchbook is a slice of my life, just as our SketchKon partner Danny Gregory says is the best way for us creative types to keep art in our lives in a yay-not-groan-another-thing-to-do kind of way.

Stickers are also incredibly artful nowadays. Many artists make them and you can make your own if you want to invest in a printer. You can also easily get them made by the hundreds on the cheap by sourcing a maker online.

Stickers are great to swap with fellow artists and, full confession, I use them all the time to cover up areas in my sketchbook that I want to get gone.

Artists use stickers as another form of travelling art. Exchanging them is tons of fun and artists can put them up (naughty!) wherever they go!

Artists use stickers as another form of travelling art. Exchanging them is tons of fun and artists can put them up (naughty!) wherever they go! Courtesy Chuttersnap / Unsplash

Add Fabrics

Add fabric to your sketchbook. You can use fabric pens to add text or use more collaged pieces to integrate in a subtler way.

Add fabric to your sketchbook. You can use fabric pens to add text or use more collaged pieces to integrate in a subtler way.

So many of us love textiles, whether designing them (which is becoming easier and easier to do online) or scooping up fabrics with patterns we love that we don’t know what we’ll do with (me) or embellishing fabrics with paint and lettering.

You can use fabric pens to adorn any swatch you sew or glue into your sketchbook. I’ve seen artists put horizontal or vertical bands of cloth along the pages of their sketchbooks and others cut out smaller pieces and use them in a collage way.

Washes, Pencils, Markers and Pens

Of course the easiest way to add color to your sketchbook is to use a colored medium. A watercolor wash, watercolor pencils, markers and colored pens and inks all get you there but in very different ways.

I’ve been on a kick of using different media but all in the same color. So the sketchbook page has a lot of diverse marks but they are all unified by my chosen color. It’s a way to control the chaos in a very fun way and it has allowed me to use a lot more different art supplies than I normally would. This is a great cure if you are feeling a little one-note.

These purple-grey washes are purposeful for the shadows the pigs cast, but also abstract and fun in the top left. Have fun using the same color throughout a work but many different media. Imagine how enlivening it would be if the rest of this page were filled with other purple-grey elements.

These purple-grey washes are purposeful for the shadows the pigs cast, but also abstract and fun in the top left. Have fun using the same color throughout a work but many different media. Imagine how enlivening it would be if the rest of this page were filled with other purple-grey elements.

Sketchbook Confidential

Here, you learned a few ways to keep color and your sketchbook the best of friends, and there is more to discover! When it comes to tips and ways of working in your sketchbook that will let your creativity flourish, Sketchbook Confidential is one of our top recommended resources. Get your copy today and learn the not-so-secret secrets to making your sketchbook your special creative place.

You and Your Sketchbook Are Invited…

All this talk of sketchbooks has me counting down to our first ever SketchKon, Artists Network’s art workshop and convention on drawing, sketching, creating and sharing. This event is built for you, my readers! It’s going to be the perfect balance of what I know you love: learning and inspiration. I can’t wait to see you there!

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Many of you come from an illustration and design background. Many more of you are looking for the opportunity to tell stories with your artwork. Artists, if you are looking to put words to your artwork for a graphic novel, narrative project or comic book, be sure to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference workshop on Writing Comics and Graphic Novels. It’ll put you well on your way to putting your stories and your art together in exciting ways.