Using Toned Papers in Nature Journals

I usually don’t advocate for using any particular type of art-making material, since I want folks to feel free to use what they readily have on hand.

But toned papers are a creative, flexible, and inspiring ground to work on, and they have some distinct benefits when used for nature journaling.

What are toned papers? They are a type of art paper that comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, which are available in both journal form and in large sheets that you can cut to size.


  • Less intimidating than white paper.
  • Produce less glare in sunny conditions.
  • Sturdier than some other types of art papers.
  • Come in a wide variety of colors.
  • Can match the shade of your background.
  • Can serve as a middle value in your work.
  • Make journal pages look more unified.
  • Play well with a variety of media.
  • Show off white subjects especially well.


Below, you can see some examples of my nature journals that have been created on toned papers so that you can get an idea of the variety of results one can achieve.

Here’s an example of using cream-colored paper with gouache; an opaque watercolor medium. These are Franklin’s Gulls, who winter by the 1,000’s in South America, which I observed on the coast of Peru.

Here’s an example of using brown-colored paper with complimentary brown Prismacolor Verithin pencils for these Rufous-collared Sparrows I observed in Costa Rica. I added a hint of watercolor for one bird to accentuate its field marks.

And here’s an example of using grey-colored paper with brown pencil along with black and white charcoal pencils. I observed these raucous sea lions on a pier in California.

And here are some examples on orange, blue, and brown papers of sketches I did of skeleton mounts at museums.

Learn More About Toned Papers

If you want to learn lots more about using toned papers I encourage you to join my monthly online subscription program, The Nature Nook, where I have a slide presentation on the subject with lots more tips and examples from my sketchbooks.