EBSQ Live Studio- Colored Pencils

This demonstration was originally presented by Alma Lee on 10 August 2009

Color Pencils rock my world! Just when I had relegated my color pencil collection to the sketch supply pile, opening them only for an occasional a quick draft. The color pencil world was incorporating to new technology, experimental techniques, and new formulations revolutionizing the color pencil status as a medium.

These new configurations, allow for better color saturation, intensity, and light-fastness. It is now possible to accomplish highly detailed, richly textured  and brilliant colored finished paintings without ever picking up a brush. If you have not tried Color pencils lately, you have never tried Color pencils. These aren’t your Mama’s Color pencils!

Tonight I am going to take you step by step to the creation of the following painting.

For this demonstration, I will be using Pentel Brush pens water based markers, Prismacolor color pencils (CP) (water based) and Walnut Hallow colored pencils for Wood (oil based) (WHCP).

For the benefit of any media purists this project could be completed in 100% Prismacolor. But in the interest of time I will be using markers and brush pens to block in my color starting base.

When working with color pencil on wood or MDF panel the most important step will also be the first. Step one: adding gesso to the panel. You can put CP directly on to wood without gesso, and you will end up with a very transparent, pastel finish, much like watercolor.

If you are looking to for the more saturated color of acrylic or oil you are going to want to apply gesso. What makes this step so crucial is CP water oil base will not adhere well to acrylic and gesso contains acrylic. We want the thinnest coat possible for this step.

So when you apply your gesso, you will want to use a thinner bodied formula. Don’t water down a thicker gesso. I used Liquitex Gesso Surface Prep artist acrylic grade.

In very thin lines (about 1/3 the width of a pencil) I apply the gesso directly out of the bottle and onto the surface wrapping my fingers around the 2” foam brush head, using hard pressure to rub.

I “force” the gesso into the grains of the surface. Your prepped panel will be quite streaked. No worry, this is a good thing!

When dry you can either draw your image directly on the surface with graphite or transfer it with transfer paper. Keep in mind if you decide to use transfer paper, that you cannot erase the transfer paper marks and you are going to be working with transparent and translucent substances.

I generally will draw my idea out on paper and copy it to size on the computer, then with a graphite pencil fill in the back of the copy, tape it on the board and trace as a transfer.

You can now fill in your image with markers – or if using all color pencil, you will build up your base in several “light” layers of color.

Few quick tips:

-Leave only the harshest highlights white.

-Black (CP) is extremely flat and lifeless looking. Instead I determine whether to use a hot black (red base) or cool black (blue base)

-Shadows are only hinted at during this stage. It is easier to define those as you get into the (CP)

-Shadowing is best achieved by using contrasting colors on the color wheel.  THE EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE IN COLOR PENCIL IS YELLOW AND PURPLE. On those I will pick a brown, gray or black. pencil

-Add Color pencil to the large white areas only towards the end. This helps preserve your white areas as (CP) acts as a magnet to stray color specs.

After you have blocked it all in you can take a Q-tip dipped in alcohol and squeezed to wash out some of the hard edges where you don’t want them and also to blend in some of the stronger colors making the image look a little more integrated.

Notice also how I have begun to introduce some light yellow to the white diamonds to warm them up a bit. I am also now building up the shadow areas in the piece with contrasting colors using a light pressure on the pencil.

Now with light/medium pressure, I fill in the overall red in the shoes.

During the second coat on the shoes, I will make the pencil strokes in the opposite direction of the 1st coat.

I will begin to increase (slightly) the pencil pressure, as I am getting a nice “waxiness“ to adhere to.

In real life, I tend to skip around the page to all areas of the piece.

While I am for organizational purposes talking about only one area, bear in mind that you must be thinking about reflections and shadows in the surrounding objects and background and pulling in the color of such right along.  Otherwise, you may forget what colors were used and not be able to get a true representation.

As I get into the 3rd coat again I will change the stroke direction still using no more than medium pressure. I also start looking at introducing some enhancing mid-tones of magenta and orange.

I want to do it at this stage because we are fast approaching saturation in some of the shadows areas and too much build up of wax will make it difficult to add color without marring or “lifting” up the waxy surface.

This is going to be one of my last chance to really saturate the surface, so  I am concerned with 2 things:

  1. Finishing my shadow intensity
  2. Dragging in the very lightest mid-tones color into the highlight.  I will leave only the brightest and sharpest highlights untouched.

Now I am hardening the edges bringing up the gold in the buckles and apply gold to the reflections.

I will add with medium pressure  to the white on the shoes. First an over all layer on the highlights. Then a heavier hard line at the center of the highlight. I will then blend out the outer edges of the highlights with a light pink.

This is followed up by medium heavy pressure of the hard white lines, and medium pressure on white to the bottom of the shoe catch light.

I am adding black to the background using a very light all over coating at first, then lightly shadowing in the darker areas to give it some grounding.  The third coat is done by lightly blending the two.

At the same time with medium pressure, I will lay in the darkest black on the floor and the like.

Note: don’t apply heavy pressure until you can feel the little nubs of wax building up, rather uniformly on the surface. You will know this is happening when you notice less and less color saturation occurring while using lighter pressure and it will start to feel a bit like you are lightly coloring on a bumpy back of an old cast iron pan.

This is also the point to draw you finer lines as on the floor.

Note: if you can’t get a fine enough line you may try either a VERITHIN CP – taking care not to mar the surface of the panel substrate, or the image.

Add highlights to the black floors with red, blue and white to build up to the appropriate levels of visual contrast. Then add about 10-20% more contrast than you will want to see in your final piece, as this will be blended and toned down during burnishing.

Choose at least two shades of each prominent color to build up contrast within their respective objects.  I used both Camille red, Magenta, Hot Pink and a touch of Vermilion for the Red areas and Aquamarine, Non-Photo Blue and Indigo in the Blue area.

I filled in all the white areas left in the floor with either Camille/Aquamarine. I then used the lighter shade of each in order to feather blend it into the black, taking time now to really concentrate on filling in any white specks still lurking in the dark areas.

Note: you will not be able to fill them all in at this time, and you must never use hard pressure at this stage.

I am now addressing the “white” diamonds in the background.  Like black, I feel white lacks a certain depth.

I also feel that the warm red tones, of the shoes would result in a catch light, not as a color reflection on the matte wall finish, but certainly present itself in a change in gradient tone.

I added light green to the polka dots overall, and then layered white on top of that.

In the white diamonds I added that same green to just the peaks of the diamond – again 10-20% more than I desired on final piece.

I also added a beige color to the base of the diamonds and colored it all with white at medium pressure.  I continued to do this until I received the desired shade.

Now I pay careful attention to the surface of the piece

Note: absolutely every bit of the surface should be covered with at least 80% of CP color, even the whites!

This is important because you are about to burnish and if you try to burnish over empty or lightly coated areas you are going to drag in a color that you don’t want.

We are now ready to burnish starting with the prismacolor colorless blender. Burnish over the entire image with med-med hard pressure, doing the lightest areas first and working your way to the dark areas.

You will want a thin yet workable layer of the colorless wax.  In the dark areas you are also trying to fill in with more earnest now, any remaining “snowy” specks.

Note: don’t worry, you absolutely will never get them all out, but like in pointillism, the eye of the viewer tends to blend the small specks in for you.

Our surface will be smoother but not completed.

It is time to break out your Walnut Hollow oil pencils.  The oil pencils will help you lay down some serious color after burnishing, and provide more of a translucent, rather that transparent color finish. They also tend to “flake” a little more, so I keep an old make-up brush handy to whisk away crumbs.

Note: you can continue to use the Prismacolor and can use them after you use the Walnut Hallow pencils. However, they are a harder pencil and you have to be careful not to mar the surface with them.

Bring up your colors a little more with light pressure (notice the oranges deepening along sole of the shoe as it picks up a slight reflection from the floor.)

With hard pressure you are now going to add your strong white highlights.

Note: hard pressure is best defined as the same amount of pressure you would use to color in a solid color on a chalkboard.

Burnish one more time with the colorless blender, working in the opposite direction where possible. I chose not to burnish the white diamonds, as I was happy with the texture as is.

Note never be afraid to stop, let it sit for a day, live with it. If you are happy, walk away. (Once you have overworked a piece at this point  it  is nearly impossible to correct.)

Complete the project using a paper smudge stick with a medium light pressure. Burnish any areas that need smoothing. At this point I generally avoid all white highlights. Again I “live” with it a couple of days and then sign it.

Once the signature is dried, use your makeup removal pad to bluff  out any excess wax build up. Working the light areas first then proceeding to the darker shades using a light to medium light pressure.

Note: sign before spraying on the finish. The surface is very difficult to sign once it has been fixed.

Once you are satisfied with your piece you are ready to spray it with spray fixative. I use Prismacolor Premier Matte Fixative.

Unlike many CP artists, I like to leave it unfinished for a couple of months if I have that time available to me. This allows the wax bloom to come up. I then buff it out with a makeup removal pad and fix it. That way I know that the wax bloom issue has been put to rest.  Then I spray with fixative and wait an hour and spray it with Krylon UV-Resistant Clear.

To see a clip of the entire visual process in a 1 min video:

Materials Used For This Demonstration:

MDF Panel (Home Depot)

Pentel Brush Marker (Dick Blick)

Prismacolor Pencil (Michaels Craft Store, Dick Blick

Walnut Hollow Oil Pencils (Michaels Craft store in the wood project section, DickBlick)

Prismacolor colorless blender (Michaels Craft Store, Dick Blick)

Liquitex Gesso (Michaels Craft Store, Dick Blick)

Paper smudge stick (Michaels Craft Store, Dick Blick)

Prismacolor Matte Fixative (Michaels Craft Store, Dick Blick)

Uv-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating (Michaels Craft Store, Dick Blick)

Foam Brush (Home DePo)

Make up Brush (Walmart)

Q-tips (Walmart)

Makeup removal pads (Walmart)

Alcohol (Walmart)

Research Materials List – Materials and further reading:

Masterful Color , Vibrant Colored Pencil Painting Layer by Layer by Arlene Steinberg Northlight books ISBN 13-978-1-58180-957-2

Creative Colored Pencil workshop, 52 Exercises for Combining Colored Pencils with your favorite Mediums. Carlynne Hershberger & Kelli Money Huff


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3 thoughts on “EBSQ Live Studio- Colored Pencils

  1. Hello hunnie, sweet blog! I really treasure this post.. I was curious about this for a while now. This cleared a lot up for me! Do you have a rss feed that I can add?

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