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First of all,  What do we mean by ‘fade’ ?

The sample image here is taken from a picture completed by a reader of this site which has hung on a studio wall ( out of direct sunlight ) for around 4 years.

The reader wrote to say ‘ I submitted 2 entries to the UKCPS International exhibition in 2007.  Both were on Daler-Rowney Canford 150gm black paper.   

The framed pictures have been hanging on a wall in my studio since then.  They do face a window but are not in full sun.   

I didn't think they had faded till I removed the mount today.   

The difference is quite considerable as you can see from the attached photo.   

I enjoy working on dark paper so will be interested to find which brand is considered most light-fast.

 you can see the effect of sunlight where the area covered by the mount

( to the left hand side ) is substantially darker than the rest of the

Image which has taken on a brownish tint.

The image has not been adjusted in any way

Why is it important that the Paper and Pigments used have the same lightfastness qualities ?

Coloured Pencils are becoming more and more lightfast, and manufacturers are more and more aware of the need for artists quality materials to be as stable as possible.  The days are long gone when coloured pencils were made almost entirely for children’s use and therefore considered not to need expensive stable pigments.

If you work a picture using lightfast pencils ( like Luminance, Cretacolor Karmina, Marino or Monolith -  or Prismacolor lightfast ) the colour applied to the paper should not show any appreciable fade.  If you use other examples of the major manufacturer’s products ( like Polychromos, Pablo, Supracolor, Coloursoft, Inktense etc ) and select those colours with a high light fastness rating ( see the topic on ‘Lightfastness’ ), you should also have a stable result with no fading.

If the paper colour fades, the balance of the picture will be affected, and - more importantly - any touching in of edges with a pencil colour matching the surface - to ensure crisp edges of the subject - will show up when the paper colour fades and the pigment doesn’t.

What papers are on the market place in the UK and what do we know about the way they are manufactured ?

Possibly the widest stocking of black paper,

Daler Rowney’s Canford black and coloured card/paper which is around 150gsm weight.  

Pads of A4 size ( 8.25ins x 12.75 ins) are sold at around £7 and the larger A3 size for just over £12.  

This product has been around for years and I have used it quite a lot, though have never done a test on the effects of sunlight.   Daler Rowney also sell a 180 gsm pad with 40 sheets A4 for around £8.

Daler Rowney were asked for information and said in reply

that their Canford black 150gsm Is manufactured  : ‘using direct dyes with normal light fastness values.

Only pigment dyes used for conservation colours have high light fastness values.  The Canford light fastness will be limited and depend on the colour. These limitations are unfortunately more noticeable in darker colours especially Canford Black’.

A reader of the site here who responded to our appeal for information also reported as follows on Canford :

I've generally used Canford paper previously and I've not had any complaints from people about light fastness but I have always recommended that they should hang pictures away from direct sunlight wherever possible.

I have one of my own in a frame that I did some years ago that has also been hanging out of direct light. I can't recall exactly when I produced it, but it must be at least 6 years ago, and by folding the paper over to compare the unexposed back with the exposed front, I have found no obvious visible difference.

However, as I said previously, this has not been hung in full sunlight.

Whilst it appears Canford black does not to suffer greatly provided it is hung away from strong light, I feel it would be better to post a warning to any buyer of such a picture to avoid strong light if possible. This would protect the artist from any later complaint - particularly if the picture was sold at a high price.

Winsor & Newton were asked for information one their black papers sold for artwork

They sell pads of the thicker 180 gsm black card at around £8 and £13 ( A4 and A3 ).  

They also sell a pastel paper in colours under the Lana brand

I have not tried the surface or tested the lightfastness.  

As at the time of writing the original article ( late July 2011) no reply had been received from Winsor & Newton.

A further email was sent last year ( 2013 ) but again they did not feel a reply was required.

I would guess that their paper is manufactured using Dyes rather than pigment and will therefore be liable to suffer the same as Canford.

W & N pastel paper used to be produced for the group at the Lana Mill in France but I understand that the Mill is now owned by Hahnemuhle who are now marketing Lana products through their own outlets. This could be why the W & N pastel papers are now branded differently.  The Lana black is a good paper with quite an acceptable surface for CP but I have no information on the fade resistance - although Great Art suggest it as a good paper ( Below)

If we get any further information from W & N, I will post the result here.

Great Art sell packs of A2 90 gsm black paper which they describe as dyed in the pulp and this is in 50 x 70cm sheets - 100 for £25. - a bit thin for my use.    Great Art also sell a Jansen pad with 20 sheets of 130gsm black paper for around £5 ( 34cm x 34cm ).  

 I raised an enquiry with Great Art some time early in my investigations about some of their black papers as listed in their extensive catalogue, and asked whether any of them were considered lightfast.  They came back with the advice that most of the black papers listed in the catalogue (which are sold mainly for craft purposes) are not considered lightfast.  They suggest that either the Fabriano Tiziano ( Catalogue item 13768031) would be suitable, as they consider that lightfast - or alternatively the Lana colours (item 13250463) would be suitable.   As both of these papers are sold for pastel use, the working surface of Tiziano is patterned/fairly rough and I would not recommend it for detailed CP use. The Lana paper is smoother, but still not as smooth as the Stonehenge or Somerset Velvet paper.  

Derwent have introduced black paper pads and Artifolk sell these with an A4 pad ( 20 sheets of 200gsm ) for £6.30 which would be a good buy if it was reliable.   I have had rumours of the black fading quickly on these, and a pad will be tested to see if this is so.  Derwent were asked for information on the degree of lightfastness, and advised that the black paper was currently under test for this  (2013 ) and they were not able to give details . I will check again to see if the position has changed.

Stonehenge ( Rising Stonehenge as marketed by Legion Paper )

In the USA the old reliable Stonehenge black paper is fine.  About 300gsm so the heaviest weight found.  The surface is ideal for CP, but I do find the black comes off the surface on to your hands and from there on to other paper surfaces so care is needed. There are other black papers in rolls available in the US but these seem to be very thin - even though they are quoted as fade resistant. The US market is obviously more up to speed on the need to avoid fading.

I asked Legion Paper for information and they answered as follows .....

Our Black grades (Stonehenge and Museum Board) meet/exceed the lightfastness requirements of the Library of Congress and the Fine Art Trade Guild. Competitive grades (which are not meeting the requirements) are likely colored (partly or entirely) using dyes. Our black colorant is light fast pigment.

From my own use of Black Stonehenge, this is what I expected.

Stonehenge Black 300gsm paper is accompanied on to the paper market by a range of other Stonehenge colours.

I assume that all the papers will be coloured with Pigment stains and be similarly fade resistant.

Stonehenge paper is available in the UK through Tim Fisher’s ‘Creative Support Company ( www.thecsc.co.uk)

And also through Jacksons Discount Art  ( www.jacksonsart.com )

I also raised a query with one of the major paper importers into the UK about his views on the stability of black papers.

His reply was as follows ........


Somerset Velvet

seems the obvious suggestion. I think it is one of the blackest papers around.

Black is a very relative term.  Very few black papers are acid free, Somerset being one of them.

The key element for colour stability is whether the black is produced by dyes or pigments.

Pigments are always far more light stable.

Any product description which includes the word ‘dye’ should raise a warning for the user.

I am a little surprised nobody has mentioned Canson Mi-Teintes.  Once again, this is acid free and uses pigments.

It is 65% cotton. Perhaps the surface texture which makes it so popular with pastel artists makes it less suitable for coloured pencils.....but that is where I would have to ask your opinion.

Pigments are considerably more expensive than dyes, and cotton is considerably more expensive than wood free pulp. Hence these two constituents should be important to an artist if the work has intrinsic value as a piece of art. ‘


St Cuthbert’s Mill, who manufacture Somerset ‘Velvet’ black paper advise :

I can confirm we do manufacture Somerset Velvet Black available in 2 grammages –

250gsm sheet size 560 x 760mm and    280gsm sheet size 760 x 1120mm.

This product is Mould made * Acid free * 100% cotton * 4 deckle edges * Watermarked * Archival.


The crucial word here is ‘Archival’.  Velvet paper is described as marketed in ‘8 highly lightfast colours which reach a minimum of 7 on the Blue Wool Scale’ ( out of 8 ).  Velvet has a slightly rougher surface than Stonehenge, but I guess that it will still work well for CP .... It is certainly not as grained a surface as most pastel papers .  

Most of the Somerset coloured papers are shades of white and Buff with the one deeply coloured Black paper

Somerset papers are available through Jacksons (as above), Ken Bromley art supplies and T N Lawrence.

Other Papers

From other comments received - and some of those reported above - some of the major manufacturer’s pastel papers are probably light stable, though the surfaces will leave something to be desired for detailed Coloured Pencil work.

The same requirements will apply, though, for pastel pencil work ( though in many cases much of the paper surface will be covered by pastel and will not be visible to fade in strong light ).

Canson Mi-Teintes has been suggested

- as have Winsor & Newton’s Lana papers and Fabriano Tiziano ( suggested by Great Art ).

I have used Daler Rowney’s Murano paper for CP but it does have quite a rough patterned surface

To summarise

Canford is widely available and relatively inexpensive

It is is not lightfast, however, and should be used with care

Somerset Velvet is an exceptionally good paper for Coloured Pencil and in view of it’s archival quality and stability, should be high on any list of potential papers

Stonehenge is available in a range of colours and has a smoother surface.  Availability may be a problem in the UK but check with retailers The CSC, and Jacksons Art

For the purpose of this topic, we will look closely at the ranges of BLACK papers, as these are the most likely to fade and be the ones most usually purchased for Coloured Pencil use.

As and when we get the opportunity, we will look at other colours and report separately.

The previous section looked at Coloured Papers in general and some of those general points are repeated below for readers who come direct to this section.  I apologise for the repetition, but it does make it easier for readers who are searching for a single topic and not reading the whole site !

 Left is Daler Rowney Murano

and see the white of the Murano lable  below left to compare extremes of tone

Top Right is the Canford

Bottom Right is the Somerset Velvet

All the samples were in the same frame for the same period

A narrow strip of mountcard was laid across the samples to highlight any changes


On July 28th 2011 a set of black papers was set up in a short term light test against the glass in my greenhouse, in a protective  frame, and facing south.  The aim was to see what effect strong light would have over a period of one month.

It had been intended to include the Derwent black paper in the test, but it was not possible to find a supplier with stock in time for it to be included.  Derwent had advised me that they were doing their own light test on their new paper,

so I left their product to them and went ahead rather than delay the overall check.

Light quality during the month was good, but not the bright regular sunlight we normally expect.

Five sample papers were included.  1. Legion Stonehenge Black, 2. Somerset Velvet, 3. Canford black card,

4. Daler Rowney Midnight black Murano paper, 5. A sheet of inexpensive black art card from James Crocker ( Papermill brand ) which I expected to show the greatest fade.

The Stonehenge and the Somerset Velvet showed absolutely no sign of fade (as would be expected).

The Canford showed the most marked fade and that was such as to suggest that it would be unsuitable for quality artwork.

The Daler Rowney showed very slight visible fade - compared to the Canford it was negligible, but it was still visible.

The inexpensive Papermill black paper was better than the Daler Rowney - which surprised me as the Papermill stock was very low cost.

I have showed three of the samples below  

Velvet - which showed no change ( it is an archival quality paper like Stonehenge )

Canford which showed the most change

and Murano from Daler Rowney where you may be able to spot the area of fade.

I have not shown the Papermill brand as the degree of fade does not show in the photo

Whilst this is a short and relatively unscientific test , It shows that it pays to be careful over the paper you use


One of our readers has been undertaking a longer term test with black paper and used two papers that we used on the UK short test and three papers we did not use.

The test ( In Israel ) over six months of summer daylight, used  Stonehenge and Somerset Velvet which both appeared in the test detailed above, and Canson ( I assume MiTientes) , a craft paper called ‘Europa’ which I have not seen in the UK, and also the new Derwent Black paper which came out earlier this year.

After 6 months of display in a sunlit position, the test was halted at the start of September and the photo of the result looks like this ......

I have slightly edited the reader’s report for the purpose of this publication, but the outcome and the reader’s opinions are exactly as stated by her.

She wrote :

After almost half a year of Mediterranean sunshine, giving the equivalent of quite a few years of British indoor lighting, I have decided to call the test finished.

You will need to note that the Europa paper has a slightly reflective surface and  comes across a little lighter than it really is.  There is slight fading, but considering it is a craft scrap book paper,  it has done well.   It is not supposed to be exposed to the sun for half a year!  Although the colour has faded a little, it has stayed dark grey and not turned brown or shown fibres.

The Derwent is also a reflective paper and comes out slightly different from its real colour in the photo.  As it fades, it becomes slightly more reflective, and therefore appears lighter and possibly browner in different lighting conditions. The fibres are more visible.  The Canson, Somerset Velvet and Stonehenge have not changed.  They are still very matte black, and not reflective.  The Stonehenge is naturally slightly lighter in shading than the Velvet and Canson.  The textures of the papers are different for drawing on, but I have not tested that, as the only ones I had big enough pieces of were the Europa (from a A4 Scrap book from Tollit and Harvey Ltd) and Stonehenge!  The Europa was good to use when I had run out of Stonehenge, as I had bought it in a local stationers in the UK

Europa paper, unexposed, is used as the background paper.  The Somerset Velvet and the other papers near it are backed by an unexposed piece of Somerset Velvet.  The Stonehenge exposed has a smaller piece of Not exposed resting on it.  I think that there is a very slight reflection of light from the Stonehenge which makes a difference depending on which way the papers are aligned, that sometimes makes the paper seem slightly different!  I have a picture on black Stonehenge accepted into the 2011 UKCPS September exhibition, mostly with Coloursoft.

For dark and least shiny, and for its good texture, the Somerset Velvet would be my winner from the ones I tested.  (I would love to see how it is with coloured pencils for a picture rather than just testing out the pencils on the corner!!!!)

I have a piece of Strathmore Black and the other piece of Somerset (name temporarily forgotten) that have only recently been put out in the sun, and are not ready yet.  I am sure there will be no change in the Somerset.  I am going to try out the Strathmore black with the coloured pencils shortly.  I have a good sized piece of it.

The Strathmore Bristol Vellums (white papers) are very nice to use, and come in different weights etc.  I used the Sequential Bristol Vellum 300 Series for a wide panorama and found it very nice to use.  The surface has a pleasant tooth, and for the wide landscape pictures, the sizing, 5 inches by 17, was ideal.  When I take photos from a moving vehicle of distant hills etc, the cropped picture would suit the panoramic paper!  I think I shall be using this quite frequently!

J.H.C. 2011


In strong natural light the Ultra Violet wavelengths will be liable to affect the colourants used in papermaking and produce a fade in the darker colours.

For this reason we like to know whether the manufacturers have used dyes or pigments in the manufacture.

If Dyes are used - as they often are in the making of lower cost craft papers - the colour is more likely to fade.

If Pigments are used, the manufacturer is faced with higher costs, and the paper will be more expensive.

Manufacturers who use high quality pigments will describe their product as ‘Archival’ or possibly ‘Lightfast’

and we can then be happy that the paper colour is likely to resist fading


There is a page covering the actual working of CP on Coloured Paper ( mostly black paper)  in the section covering General CP Techniques and this link will take you there direct

Latest revision of this page October 2014

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