Carrie L. Lewis, Artist

Teaching Drawing and Painting One Student at a Time

2 Ways to Use Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil

Draw with bath tissue and colored pencils? Are you crazy?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When most people think of art supplies, they naturally think of things like paper, pencils, erasers, easels, brushes, paints, and the like.

They don’t think of everyday, around-the-house things that make perfectly good art tools.

Some time ago, I wrote an article on six ways to turn old clothes into art tools for EmptyEasel.com. That article was geared toward oil painters, but some of the tips apply to colored pencil artists, too.

It’s almost ridiculously easy to convert castoff and everyday items into oil painting tools. If nothing else, most fabrics can be turned into painting rags.

But we’re not talking about oil painting here. We’re talking about colored pencils. Are there everyday items that can be used with colored pencils?

You bet there are!

Cotton balls and swabs, paper towel, and pieces of cloth, just to name a few.
Today, I want to share a few ways I use one of the least likely items to improve my colored pencil work: bath tissue.

Drawing with Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil

Draw with Bath Tissue

Yes. That’s right. You can draw with bath tissue. Not on bath tissue, with bath tissue.

I recently wrote a post demonstrating step-by-step how to draw with bath tissue. If you’re interested in learning more, read How to Draw with Bath Tissue.

The beauty of drawing with bath tissue is that you can lay down soft tints and you can cover larger areas quickly and without pencil strokes. You also don’t need to blend color because it blends naturally.

In the following illustration, for example, I glazed the pink color onto fresh paper then glazed blue. In the middle, I overlapped the two colors to create a third color.

Glazes Applied Using Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil

Imagine drawing a morning or evening sky with such subtle gradations in color. It is possible with bath tissue!

TIP: Adding color with tissue paper works best if you do it first, even before making or transferring a line drawing. You can add color with tissue later, but it will blend with whatever is already on the paper unless you seal the previous colors.

Blending with Bath Tissue

I’ve used bath tissue to create soft blends for many years. I don’t remember how I came to use it for that purpose, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it.

When you blend with tissue paper, you’re using what’s known as mechanical blending. That is, you’re physically “grinding” the pigment into the paper. If you’re blending more than one color, you’re also grinding the colors together. They don’t actually combine, but the particles of pigment get mixed together in a way that’s either impossible or very difficult using a pencil in the traditional way—that is, drawing with it, and then blending the color with heavier pressure or with a colorless blender or solvent.

But the effects are soft. I refer to blending with bath tissue as a “gentle blend” and I use it most often when I need to create soft gradations with the color already on the paper.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to use heavy pressure when blending with bath tissue. Fold the tissue into a small square so you have something to hold easily and you don’t have to worry about putting your fingers through it or tearing your paper while you blend. Fold the bath tissue around your finger (as shown below) to blend a small area.

So if you’re looking for a way to draw very soft color or very light values, give bath tissue a try. Or facial tissue (without lotion or other additives!).

Just beware, it is a slow process!

Slow but well worth the effort!

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2 Comments

  1. Melinda BC

    Thanks for this — it works so well! I really like using it for backgrounds

    • Melinda,

      Yes, using bath tissue is especially good for doing backgrounds. If all you need is a hint of color in the background, bath tissue is perfect!

      Carrie

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