People come to colored pencil from many different situations. Some artists begin with colored pencils at the beginning. Others add colored pencils to their repertoire after learning other mediums. And sometimes, artists leave a medium they’ve been working with for years and switch to colored pencil. I struggled with transitioning from oil painting to colored pencil drawing, so I could sympathize with the reader who asked the following question.
[I] have always been a painter using oils and acrylic on canvas for murals; however, I’m bored with it and have been wanting to expand my artistic talent into working with colored pencils. I had no idea pictures could look so real and blend so nicely! I just signed up for your emails and tutorials.
To get started, what mediums work well with colored pencils? What is the best paper to use?
I’m looking forward to this new venture and especially to gaining a contact/friend to assist me along the way. 🙂
Transitioning from Oil Painting to Colored Pencil Drawing
Thank you for joining us, and welcome to colored pencils.
Thank you also for your question. I’ll address it in two parts.
What Mediums Work Well with Colored Pencils
Oil Painting Mediums
If you mean painting mediums (and that’s what I think you mean,) then you can do colored pencils without any painting mediums at all. Most colored pencils are naturally translucent on paper, so they blend beautifully simply by layering one color over another. It takes a lot of layers and time, especially if you’re blending several colors, but the results can be stunning.
When I use solvents, I have a variety of choices. I use rubbing alcohol for a mild blend, turpentine for a more thorough blend, and rubber cement thinner for a deep blend.
Odorless mineral spirits—or any other odorless paint thinner—also work, and performs much like turpentine. Many people recommend either Gamsol (by Gamblin) or Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner, though I’ve used neither.
Try one of these unless you already have a favorite paint thinner. When my current supply of turpentine runs out, I will be getting some Mona Lisa to try.
Other Art Mediums
Maybe you want to know what other art mediums work with colored pencil. If that’s the case, then the answer is pretty much any water-based medium. I’ve used watercolor, water soluble colored pencils, and India ink to create an under drawing.
I’ve even tried using colored pencil over oil painting in order to add fine details. About the only thing I can tell you about that is that it didn’t work the way I tried it! Maybe over thin glazes of oil paint—something I may have to try this summer.
I believe (but have never tried it myself) that acrylics would also work. They have a more plastic surface texture, though, so colored pencil might not stick to acrylics as well as to watercolor.
If you do combine different mediums, make sure to follow the fat over lean rule. Colored pencils will stick to water-based media, but trying to put water-based media over colored pencils will not work.
The Best Papers for Colored Pencil Art
Any high quality, archival drawing paper works with colored pencil. Try several different types and see which ones work the best for you and your drawing style, and which produce the results you want.
If you chose to try wet media, use a heavy paper like watercolor paper.
The papers I use most often are Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Tientes pastel paper (the back of the sheet.) Upon occasion, I also use Strathmore Artagain art paper. I’ve also used UArt Sanded Pastel paper and enjoyed that quite a bit.
But there are literally hundreds of good drawing papers available for use with colored pencil. Your best bet is to try different papers until you find two or three that fit your drawing methods.
I’ve written quite a bit about some of these topics and have assembled the most helpful articles here.