Drawing With Pencils: How To Choose the Right Materials

From the first time I picked up a colored pencil in my local art league class, I have been intrigued by the medium. More than two decades have passed since that course, and I have embraced the growth of colored pencil as a fine art medium with great enthusiasm.

Since my first book – Drawing and Painting with Colored Pencil – was published, there have been many product and technique developments.

With a spirit of fun and adventure, I have incorporated new pencils, wax pastels, tools, and approaches into my own art. Whether I drew, brushed, grated, spattered, or even blew pigment through a screen, it has been an enjoyable and satisfying experience.

In recent years, many new varieties and types of colored pencils have emerged, each with their own merits and characteristics—and sometimes inspiring new techniques. The varieties of pencils and the palette of colors in which they’re available have grown beyond wax- or oil-based “permanent” traditional pencils.

Water-soluble drawing products now include new types of watercolor pencils, including ink-like pencils and even tinted aquarelle graphite pencils. Pigments are rich and dense, and more emphasis has been placed on lightfastness for the permanence of one’s art.

The emergence of water-soluble wax pastels—which may look like crayons but which offer much more in terms of quality, speed, and versatility—has been perhaps the most surprising development in the world of color drawing and painting.

Aquarelle wax pastels swiftly cover large areas with rich pigment that dissolves instantly with the sweep of a damp brush. The wax pastel can also be sharpened to a point, or the pigment can be stroked from the tip with a wet brush. This type of aquarelle wax pastel can yield a highly pigmented liquefied wash which can then be applied with a brush.

New and diverse drawing and painting surfaces that are colored pencil–compatible have emerged, too.

Longtime favorite lines of paper have expanded to include more colors. New brands of papers have appeared with a variety of textures, to appeal to artists’ wide-ranging tastes. Versatile illustration board ideally designed and textured for wet media as well as dry is now on the market.

Translucent film–like vellum, acid-free and of high quality, offers speedy, rich laydown of colors. From fine-toothed silky paper to sandy-textured boards, dazzling pure white or toned to a range of colors, such supports offer an aspiring array of textures, hues, and unique traits—the potential unfolds with great possibilities.

Colored pencil is ever-blossoming as a fine art medium, bringing with it new materials and surfaces, even an expanded concept of what “drawing a painting in color” means. This book presents many possibilities and techniques for widening those colored pencil boundaries.

new colored pencil tulip drawing

This floral art combines two familiar materials, museum board and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. The easy laydown of the Polychormos pencils combines well with the velvety, almost cushioned feeling of the Rising Museum Board. Since the pencils are highly pigmented and the board accepts color so readily, they were a natural blend.

Buttery, “Wet” Pencils

Faber-Castell includes vegetable oil (soybean oil) in its Polychromos pencils, lending a characteristic smoothness and glide. Caran d’Ache Pablo and Luminance do not contain vegetable oil but due to the types of waxes they contain, they still lend a buttery glide sensation in the laydown process. Other creamy, “wet” pencils include the 72 Derwent Coloursoft and the 150 Sanford Prismacolor pencils.

Crisp, “Dry” Pencils

Derwent Studio pencils and Artist pencils, on the other hand, lend a drier, sharper sensation, something which appeals to artists who like to keep fine lines and precision in their work.

Excerpted from The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch. Copyright © 2014 by Kristy Ann Kutch. Excerpted by permission of Watson-Guptill, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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