Colored pencils are fun as crayons

When we were very young, we drew and colored with absolute confidence and joy.  As adults, we’d like to return to that level of enjoyment.  Many people have chosen colored pencils as their medium for that very reason.  Without the bother of mixing paints, setting up a palette, or dealing with tubes and brushes, we can express ourselves through vibrantly colorful art by just picking up our pencils.  You can sit in front of the TV and color just like a little kid, but with more artistic results!

To avoid frustration, buy the best fine art pencils you can afford (Prismacolor is a good brand) and get the largest set you can afford.  Cheap pencils are more wax than color and should be avoided.  With cheapies, you have to work like a dog to get color on the paper, and your picture will look muted compared to one done with Prismacolors.

To sharpen pencils, you can use the little hand sharpeners sold at art supply stores, or you can go whole hog and get a good electric or battery-powered sharpener.  After you sharpen your pencils for a while, you will end up with a stub.  Colored pencil artists can’t squeeze the last bit of paint from a tube, so you can get a pencil extender — a little doohickey into which you insert the stub to give you better leverage and a little more mileage.  Another solution to pencil stubs is to take a stub and a new pencil that both have flat ends and use super glue to glue the stub to the new pencil.  You can sharpen right through the stub and into the new pencil.

     Where there are pencils, there must be erasers.  The kneaded eraser is soft, funky, green and pliable.  After softening it in your hand so you can shape it, press it against the area of color to be removed and pull it away quickly.  You can also rub it on the penciled area for interesting effects.  (It’s great for erasing graphite pencil lines as well.)  You can use a kneaded eraser until it is overloaded with color or graphite.

A colorless blender is something you might want to keep on hand.  It looks like a pencil and lets you blend or burnish an area without changing the color.  (Burnishing means to go over an area of colored pencil with a blender or a white colored pencil to blend and intensify the color.)

Fixative is used to prevent wax bloom (a white coating that can appear when colored pencil is used heavily).  Wax bloom can be wiped off with a rag, but fixative will prevent it.    Personally, I use good old clear Krylon spray, available at hardware stores.

Colored pencils will work on a lot of surfaces, including wood.  They won’t work on slick surfaces, so you’ll need something with a little “tooth” to grab the color.  Most sketchbook paper works well. Bristol paper is excellent, especially if you like to burnish.   Colored pastel papers and mat board can give you interesting effects if you like having a background color already in place.  Experiment!

As you use your colored pencils, a slip sheet protects your work from the heat and moisture of your hand as you draw.  An old photo, glossy side down, makes a good slip sheet.  So does the plastic cover, slippery side down, from a lined-paper notebook.  Just about anything that won’t stick to the paper or pick up color will work.

The way you apply pencil helps identify your personal style.  A smooth even application is important for realism. Keep your pencil sharp so it will fill in the “tooth” of the paper.  A circular or linear stroke may be used; the strokes should not be visible in the finished drawing.  To “mix” colors, do them in layers.  If you’re not a patient person, a more spontaneous, vigorous application suits many artists.  For this style, colors can be “mixed” using a rough cross-hatch or scribble, putting one color over another.

Some artists use colored pencil very lightly, building up tones gradually; others prefer the brute-force method, laying down color as heavily as possible without actually breaking the pencil.  Some artists get their picture entirely colored and then burnish the entire thing to get the effect they want.  The possibilities are pretty much unlimited.

Published by on October 2016. Filed under Archives, HowDoit PB dept. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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