Carrie L. Lewis, Artist

Teaching Drawing and Painting One Student at a Time

How to Remove Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing

I’m working on a colored pencil drawing and have too much color over an area. How do I remove color? Can it be fixed or do I need to start over?

My first response to any question like this is to tell the artist to take heart. In most cases, there is no need to start a drawing over, particularly if it’s nearly finished. There are ways to lighten or remove color and make corrections, even over heavy applications of color.

First, let’s take a look at a couple of ways to lift color. Then I’ll show you how to layer fresh color over the damaged area.

How to Remove Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing

How to Lift Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing

Removing Color With Scotch Tape

Scotch tape is an ideal tool for removing color from a colored pencil drawing. You won’t be able to remove all of the color—some staining will remain—but you can remove a surprising amount if you’re careful and diligent.

Here’s how.

Take a piece of Scotch tape a little longer than the area you want to work with.

Lay the tape sticky side down on the paper

Press it VERY LIGHTLY into place. If you press the tape too firmly, you run the risk of pulling up paper fibers in addition to color, so be careful.

Lift carefully.

Repeat.

Most tape is sticky enough to lift color if the color hasn’t been too heavily burnished. Even if it has been heavily burnished, you will be able to lift a lot of color. If you need to, use a couple pieces of tape.

The one thing you don’t want to do is tear the paper, so work slowly and carefully.

Removing Color With An Eraser

After you’ve done everything you can do with the tape, use a hard eraser (like a click eraser). A click eraser can be sharpened to a fairly sharp point that allows you to do more detailed color removal. Used in tandem with a color guard, you can remove color and create shapes or edges.

When I’m making corrections of this type, I usually use the tape on all of the area, then use the click eraser in more specific areas. This method creates a surface with gradating values and color and that makes it easier to seamlessly blend new color into old.

Remember, be careful. If you’re not confident enough to try the process on a drawing, lay down color on a piece of scrap paper and practice with that.

Adding New Color

Once you’ve lifted all the color you want to lift or can lift from your drawing, it’s time to add new color. Use the same methods you used to put down the original color. You will have to be more diligent in keeping your pencils sharp because you’ll be working over a “used” surface.

You may also have to use slightly more pressure than you originally used. But work slowly, use several layers of color, and carefully blend old and new.

A Demonstration

I used several layers of medium to heavy pressure to lay down the color quickly over this circle. The darkest areas are quite thick and waxy. The middle values are less so. The highlight has very little color on it.

First step in removing colored from a colored pencil drawing.

Now that the ball is finished, I’ve decided the highlight is too small. To make it larger, I need to remove some of the color.

I began lifting color with tape by pressing short pieces of tape over the highlight and gently lifting the tape. Because I put so much color on the paper and used such heavy pressure, I used more than one piece of tape.

Second step in removing colored from a colored pencil drawing.

Next, I used a click eraser and worked lightly over all of the highlight. I held the eraser like a pencil and moved it in circular strokes over the area I wanted to erase.

The first time, I started with the lightest area and worked outward into the middle values.

Then I cleaned the eraser by rubbing it on a scrap piece of paper until there was no color left on it. The second time, I worked only on the brightest area. Again, I used circular strokes and went over the highlight a couple times.

Third step in removing colored from a colored pencil drawing.

Here’s another ball. It was drawn in the same way the first one was. Lots of color applied with lots of pressure. Rather than lift color, I want to add color.

I layered indigo blue over the right three-quarters of the highlight using medium pressure. I also worked out into the black around the edges.

Second step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

Next was Non Photo Blue. Again, I used medium pressure to add color to the right part of the highlight. I covered all of the area I colored with indigo blue. I also worked into most of the left part of the highlight.

Third step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

Then I layered Powder Blue over the left half of the highlight with medium heavy pressure. As I moved into the darker part of the highlight, I decreased pressure and gradually blended the blue into the black surrounding the middle values.

Fourth step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

Next was a layer of white, burnished over the brightest part of the highlight.

Fifth step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

If I wanted to, I could layer blue over the rest of the ball, too, including adding reflected light to the bottom curves. It would be more difficult to add color to the areas with a lot of color, but it could be done.

Conclusion

The next time you find you’ve put too much color on part of a drawing, try this method to lift color, then make corrections. You’ll be surprised what you can do with a little bit of tape, an eraser, and some patience. Give it a try and let me know how that works.

Do you have a question? Leave a comment below.

Learn more tips and tricks to improve your colored pencil drawing by taking an online colored pencil course with me. One-on-one, I answer your questions and help you finish one or two projects.

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2 Comments

  1. Pam

    I’m an novice artist with a disability with degenerative disability, resulting in paralysis, double vision, poor hand-eye coordination, seizures, creating chronic pain, loss of speech and hearing difficulties. Art therapy allows me to speak with color, regain movement and independence. Although I’m taking multiple art classes online and working with a local instructor, the syllabi have only covered erasers and solvents. Will you please provide links to the products discussed in your post so I research them?

    I’m also interested in your courses. Are you willing to work with students disabilities? Thank you for your time and attention!

    • Pam,

      Thank you for your comment and your work with colored pencil. I’m glad doing art has been helpful for you. Art therapy has been beneficial to a good many people over the years.

      Scotch Tape—Other names for this are magic tape or transparent tape. “Scotch” is actually the brand name and other brands are available. You can buy it at any grocery store, office supply store, or art store, as well as discount stores and many other locations. It’s so widely available that I was quite surprised to find it at Dick Blick (here’s the link). It’s not actually made for lifting colored pencil from a drawing, but it works very well.

      Click Erasers—Also known as retractable erasers. They are made by many different manufacturers of writing tools, but are also good for art uses. You can buy them almost anywhere writing tools are sold. Here’s a link to the Pentel eraser at Dick Blick, but Dick Blick also carries several other brands.

      I welcome you to sign up for an art course. If you don’t find a course that suits your needs, contact me directly and we’ll work out private lessons. Just use the “Send Me An Email” box at the bottom of this page and I’ll get back to you.

      Thank you so much for reading this post and for your comment. Best wishes to you.

      Carrie

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