New Mini Tutorial: How to Colour Black Backgrounds.

Hello everyone.  First off, apologies for everyone waiting for the next installment of the Inktense Colour-A-Long.  We are having a glitchy problem with our rendering software which is causing a problem with some of our longer videos.  We will have the next part out as soon as it is resolved.  In the mean time I have another mini tutorial for you.

I have been asked quite a few times how to go about creating a black background in a colouring book.  I’ve seen a lot of different techniques used by others that have been quite successful: gel pens (a LOT of gel pens), acrylic paint, acrylic ink, Indian ink, markers, thick dense layers of black pencil, pastels etc.  So I decided to look for a way to create good, dense black backgrounds with the minimum of fuss which would work for almost anyone on most types of paper.  This is a video of what I came up with. (Note: The book used was Millie Marotta’s ‘Tropical Wonderland.  Remember to always test each technique on a back page of your book before committing it to your colouring page.)

What you will need are:

A black pencil… a good budget priced one works just fine.  I used a Faber Castell Classic.

Two black Faber Castell Pitt pens; one a ‘big brush’ with a fat brush shaped nib (you can find them at craft stores if not at art stores.) and a ‘b’ style with a thin brush shaped end.  Both use the same Indian ink.



Coat the background with a layer of black pencil.  You don’t need to go dark, just try to keep it even.


Outline the black area with a Pitt Pen ‘B’ brush… the finer nib.  That’s so you don’t go outside the lines when you use the big brush pen next.



Fill in the rest of the area with the big brush pen.  If it still looks too patchy to you then wait ten minutes or so for the ink to dry then add another layer.




Finish off with some gel pen stars for a starry sky. 🙂






I tested a number of different markers for this purpose and I found I preferred the Pitt pens because they are Indian ink and thus set permanently when dry.  If you use anything water based over the top it shouldn’t reactivate it.  Als the Pitt Pen ink will not bleed through white gel pen if you want to add bright white stars.  I found Tombow and other water based markers did leaving the stars looking a bit grey.  If you don’t intend to add white gel pen over the top and you aren’t using any other water based medium that could go over the black then a black Tombow over the black pencil will work brilliantly as well.


And here is the video if you want to see me do it in real time:


  1. Pam

    How can you tell which is a good Tropical Wonderland? I purchased one at
    JoAnn’s in the U.S. Nearly everything bleeds through or shows through on the other side. Even darker gel pens show through. I was hoping to use fine line markers but unless I decide to only do half the pictures, sacrificing the other side, that’s not an option.

    1. Nido

      actually, so far i noticed that most colouring books that spelled as Colouring Book has better quality then those spelled as Coloring Book. And alot people did complain on how bad the US version is compare to UK version. And i did have some luck in my local bookstore during the peak of Lost Ocean sales, they sold 4 versions of the Lost Ocean which are from US, UK, China and Taiwan. And by far Taiwan version was the best and follow by UK then US lastly the China version.
      And the quality seems to depends more on which country the books is being publish instead of which publisher printed the book. Since this seems to applies to other colouring books such as Animorphia, Enchanted Forest, Secret Garden and Animal Kingdom.etc.

    2. Melissa K

      I second Nido’s comment. The U.K. versions seem to be better for the ones I’ve tried. And you can get them online from with free shipping worldwide of they carry the one you are looking for. They tend to have multiple versions on their site so check the details on where it was printed. That’s where I just ordered Animorphia from after seeing lots of comments on the UK version having better paper quality.

      1. Marisa

        The UK versions are often printed in other countries. The UK version of Enchanted Forest that I ordered from Bookdepository was printed in Italy.

  2. Mandy

    Love, love, love the info and inspiration. Happy Mothers Day, you Mother us all

  3. Ana

    Very good tips. I only use pencils because of the previous page, but I think I’ll try this. Thank for your tutorials!

  4. Debbie Blaxton

    Thanks for the video. I look forward to giving this technic s try.

  5. Lizanne

    Did the marker bleed through to the previous page?

    1. Emma

      Lizanne, I used the Pitt pens today. They don’t bleed though. AFAIK, India ink (that’s what’s in Pitt pens) doesn’t bleed through any paper.

  6. Phyllis Stuart

    Thank you! I’ll give it a go after I buy the markers! ☺It looks really good!

  7. Phyllis Stuart

    Thank you! I’ll give it a go after I buy the markers! ☺It looks really good! Happy mothers day!

  8. Coral

    Thank you, Peta! You’re the best coloring tutor! Happy mother’s day!

  9. Carrie

    Fantastic! This is a great tip! Thank you!

  10. Emma

    I did this on a background today, Peta, and was really happy with the result. Thanks for the tutorial.

  11. kelly

    thank you Peta, i was looking for the answer to this very technique for a while

    i’ve been able to get very dark intense black background by using just cheap black crayola pencil dipped in vaseline. but it takes a long long time to cover everything.

  12. Kristy Tyra

    I have just recently found your videos on Youtube. I love them! You give detailed instruction that I wanted! Thank you! And I am on the edge of my seat for the 2nd part of the Inktense Paris pages.

  13. BigT

    I had a brand new, extremely juicy black Tombow. It bled through on my test page. I’m waiting for a box of Sakura black brush pens to arrive in the mail so I can try them.

    Have you tried activating inktense pencils with a Tombow blending pen. Interesting results.

    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      Wow. I’ve only known Tombow’s to bleed through really thin paper such as in the books printed through Amazon and then only slightly. Which book did you use to test them on and is that after applying a first layer of pencil? They must be particularly runny Tombows perhaps. Good luck with your Sakura, let me know how they turn out. As for activating with Tombows. Some paper this is brilliant on, some paper not so good. I don’t generally use this method with large areas simply because Tombows are not cheap here (are they anywhere. 🙂 ) But small areas on suitable paper they are fantastic.

      1. BigT

        I was testing in Millie Marotta’s Tropical World, which I just received. I thought I might black background the feathers page. Maybe I put down too light a layer of pencil or (I didn’t test the pencil I used as a base) maybe my base pencil was slightly water soluble. I will try again basing with a Prismacolor black. Those things have enough wax to burn as candles.

  14. Emma

    Peta, I’ve seen quite a few galaxy skies being coloured lately, generally in pinks, purples and white. I’d really like to give this a go as a background but don’t really know where to start with it or which colours to lay down first, etc. If you’re ever running out of ideas for a tutorial I would be very interested in this!

  15. Betty

    I discovered today after watching your tutorial that using a black inktense pencil for the base and a Tombow black marker was beautiful! (I used a staedtler fineliner for the outline.

    Thanks for putting my brain in the right gear!

    1. Chaypeta (Post author)

      I haven’t tried that combination. Excellent. 🙂

  16. Karen

    PETA, thanks for your wonderful tutorials. I want to try backgrounds in acrylic artists pain.i have some, but worry about ruining the back of the page. I can’t find anything on YouTube on the net to help me learn if this is ok. Jeans thinking I could even combine colors using acrylics. Any thoughts?


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