Using the Colored Pencil

Pencil Drawing Instruction

The effects of pencil pressure on a paper's surface can be seen in this close-up view, The dark area at top is dense pigmeni material deposited on the paper with heavy pressure. Few visible flecks of white remain of the paper's valleys. The granular area at bottom represents the same dark pigment material—applied with light pressure—deposited only on the paper's hills.

A major difference between colored and graphite pencils is that the colored pencils are semiopaque. a quality that can loosely be called "transparent." In some ways, this characteristic makes handling colored pencils similar to handling watercolor, which is also based on a Iransparent system ol pigmentation. Because of the transparent quality of colored pencils, the hue of one pencil applied over another will combine visually to create a new hue.

An example of this transparent quality can be seen when the hue of a yellow pencil overlaid on that of a blue becomes a green. Artists who regularly work in this medium handle colored pencils in this way, layering from two to as many as ten separate hues for composite results. Such complex color constructions are pleasing and involving to look at and can—sometimes with astonishing accuracy—resemble the mingling of color in nature itsell.

Color right out ol ihe tube—in the context of oil painting—is said to be raw and to lack subtlety. Similarly, this is true of colored pencils: unmixed hues almost always convey a simplistic rawness when compared with layered or constructed hues. The handling of colored pencil's transparency, which is its greatest difference from graphite, cannot be ignored if any effectiveness or breadth in this medium are to bo realized.


As obvious as Ihe above statement may seem, there is a compelling reason for stressing it. Because when color is inherent in any medium, the considerations of its application techniques begin to arise. Is the color applied thickly or in thin glazes? Is it to appear dense or sparse? In painting. Ihe application ol color is manifested as brushwork and the support surlace. With colored pencil, the control of color application is handled with pencil pressure and paper texture.

Depending on the techniques used, colored pencil work can reflect the character of a drawing or it can look more like painting, and it can resemble either one without the use ol solvent. In yet another difference from graphite— in which pencil pressure is varied to modify the width and value of line degrees of pressure are used in colored pencil work to modily the texture of the paper itself. Colored pencil pressure also influences the intensity of hue: light pressure yields a sparseness of color; heavy pressure produces color density.

Pencil pressure is related to the degree of "tooth" on a paper's surface. Paper is composed of interwoven fibers that up close resemble a tiny maze of "hills" and "valleys." When a colored pencil travel lightly across a paper surface, the pigment material becomes deposited only with the hills. Flecks of unpigmented paper in the lower valley areas appear as an overall granular texture; this is the look associated with much of drawing.

By contrast, when colored pencil is applied to the same paper surface with heavier pressure, the pigment begins not only to build up on the hills, but is also pushed down into the paper's valleys. As flecks of clear paper in these valleys become less visible, the work takes on a less granular look. The fluid look ol densely massed color closely resembles Ihe look of color in painting.


One of the extra benefits of working with colored pencils is that, like oil paints, they are forgiving in use. Whatever techniques of line or tone are attempted, there is plenty of room for error and recovery. As in painting, a color can be laid down, then adjusted and readjusted as a sought-after value or hue is gradually developed. II is not a "do-or-die" medium.


When heavy pressure techniques are used or when many layers of colored pencil are superimposed, a condition called "wax bloom" sometimes occurs within a week or two that looks like fogging or fading. This is caused by an exuding or excess wax on the paper's surface. And although it is not a serious condition, it may seem startling when seen for the first time.

Fortunately, wax bloom is easily corrected or avoided altogether. On a completed drawing, wax bloom can be removed from affected areas by lightly rubbing the surface with a soft cloth. Because colored pencils do not smudge easily, this rubbing should not disturb the drawing. As a follow-up, one or two lighl coats of fixative can then be applied, if you are sure that it will not alter the color.

To prevent wax bloom from occurring in ihe first place, a drawing can be sprayed immediately following its completion with a good quality fixative.

The effects of pencil pressure on a paper's surface can be seen in this close-up view. The dark area at top is dense pigment material deposited on the paper with heavy pressure. Few visible flecks of white remain of the paper's valleys. The granular area al bottom represents the same dark pigment material applied with light pressure—deposited only on the paper's hills.

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Easy Step-By-Step Lessons How Would You Like To Teach Yourself Some Of The Powerful Basic Techniques Of Pencil Drawing With Our Step-by-Step Tutorial. Learn the ABC of Pencil Drawing From the Experts.

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