Colored Pencil Art Tips

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    Types of Colored Pencils

    • Colored art pencils differ mainly by binding material. You can mix and layer colors with inexpensive wax-based colored pencils, but overapplication results in a hazy "bloom" that rises to the top of the work over time. Haze isn't a risk for oil-based colored pencils, which also allow for color layering, but oil pencils usually carry a more significant price. You can use turpentine and a paintbrush to intensify or blend oil pencil work. Water-soluble gum-based colored pencils don't blend as well as wax or oil pencils during dry applications, but the water-soluble pencil lines blend together easily with water to create a translucent watercolor effect. You can use the wax and oil pencil types on standard drawing paper, but water-soluble pencils require watercolor paper if you plan to apply water to your work.

    Choosing Quality Pencils and Equipment

    • Before you buy the pencils, open the box and examine both ends of each pencil. A round section of pigment should sit squarely in the center of each end of the pencil. A slightly offset or irregular circle means the pencil will sharpen unevenly, break more often and may even crack and splinter. Roll the pencil on a nearby surface or the floor to ensure its shaft is straight. Small, battery-powered sharpeners make quick work of dull-colored pencil lead and store neatly inside pencil boxes. White erasers, kneaded erasers and tape can remove errant colored pencil marks or pull off and lighten areas of color. You can also use pigment-free oil and wax pencils to blend colors.

    Color Mixing and Layering With Pencils

    • Mix colors in layers. Start with the dominant color as the foundation layer, then add additional colors and highlights and shadows; always add dark shadows and black colors last, since you can't layer over them. When drawing with water-soluble colored pencils, use an extremely light touch with dark pencils. The dark colors can bleed into and overwhelm nearby lighter colors. To familiarize yourself with your pencils' capabilities, create a DIY color and value finder. Using your art pencils, draw and fill in a grid of color mixes as well as darker and lighter values. Make each grid section a few inches tall and wide, and cut each out into cards. Write which pencils you used, in which order, on the back of each card. If you can't get a color quite right, hold up a few similarly colored cards against your subject until you find the color you need.

    Preserving Your Work

    • If you draw with wax colored pencils, you can avoid the hazy bloom effect by spraying your completed work with fixative. Instead of applying a single, heavy coat, go over your drawing several times with even, light applications of fixative. Fixtative can darken your purples and other deep tones, so first test your colored pencils and fixative together on a scrap sheet of paper. Seal works rendered in oil pencil types with a UV-absorbing clear varnish. Hang your work away from direct sunlight. For extra protection, frame your colored pencil drawings under UV-resistant glass.

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