1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Is there a sure-fire way to draw realistic landscape greens most of the time?

Short answer, yes.

The question is, what’s the best solution for you?

I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself, but I can share with you the method that helps me draw landscapes that look like landscapes, no matter what shades of green, what time of year, or what the lighting conditions.

1 Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Landscape greens can be the most difficult colors to get right in any medium. Most of us have drawn landscapes in which the greens are too soft and muted or are way too bold and artificial.

My Favorite Way to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Over the years, I’ve used several methods to draw landscapes. My favorite method to draw realistic landscape greens is beginning with an umber under drawing, then glazing color.

The first few layers of color you put on the paper are called the under drawing. An under drawing can be a single color, two or three colors, a limited palette, or lighter shades of the final colors.

When the under drawing is in earth tones, it’s called an umber under drawing. You can use any earth tone, but the best choices are generally medium-value, neutral colors like Prismacolor Light Umber or Polychromos Nougat or Raw Umber. Once I discovered umber under drawing, my landscapes began to look like they were supposed to look.

Learn how the umber under drawing method compares to other colored pencil drawing methods.

Step 1: How to Begin an Umber Under Drawing

The process is simple. Develop your landscape first in all earth tones. Choose one or two browns—three at most—and draw the entire landscape with those colors.

I prefer Prismacolor Light or Dark Umber, usually use just Light Umber. It’s possible to get a nice value range with Light Umber simply by adding layers. The more layers, the darker the value.

You don’t want to get too dark too quickly, and you also want to avoid developing details too quickly, so draw the under drawing with several layers applied with light pressure.

You can also use a tinted paper, as I did with the drawing below. The paper is Rising Stonehenge in a very light tan color. The color of the paper provided the lightest values for the drawing.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 1
Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to begin shading values. Start with the shadows, then gradually darken values and add middle values layer by layer.

Step 2: Develop Detail & Values

Use a variety of strokes to mimic each element of the landscape. Short vertical strokes with a sharp pencil for grass, stippling (dotted) or circular strokes with a sharp to slightly blunt pencil for trees (use a sharper pencil in trees close to the foreground and a blunter pencil for more distant trees), and the sides of the pencil to lay down even color in the distance.

Define the center of interest early by drawing the darkest shapes near the center of interest or in the foreground and keeping other parts of the drawing more subdued.

Draw Realistic Landscape Greens Step 2
Keep the darkest values and sharpest details in and around the center of interest (the tree on the left.)

Step 3: Finishing the Umber Under Drawing

You can make the under drawing as detailed as you like. When I draw horses, I generally draw a more detailed under drawing, because I want the under drawing to look like a finished drawing on its own.

But with landscapes, I develop just enough light and shadow to define the landscape elements and to begin depicting the sense of space (pictorial depth or aerial perspective).

Glaze color over the finished under drawing layer by layer with light pressure. Most colored pencils are translucent by nature, so the umber under drawing tones down the greens you glaze over it. Even if you appear to totally cover all of the under drawing, its influence is still present.

draw realistic landscape greens
Spring 2012, 4×6 Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

Want to See How I Drew Realistic Landscape Greens Step-by-Step?

I drew this landscape as a demonstration piece for EmptyEasel.com. To see the full, step-by-step demonstration on EmptyEasel.

How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Underpainting

Color Glazing a Landscape Painting with Colored Pencils

Choosing Colors that Work Together

Several readers have wanted to know the best methods for choosing colors that work together. Experimenting is a good way to discover those happy color relationships, but it does get old fairly quickly. Isn’t there a better way?

Yes, there is, and I’d like to welcome fellow artist Sarah Renae Clark to tell us about those methods.

Basic Color Theory and Choosing Colors that Work Together

by Sarah Renae Clark

When we hear the words ‘color theory’, most people think back to their early school days and learning about mixing red with blue with yellow. But color theory is about so much more than just basic color mixing.

Let’s run through some basic color theory so that you can have a better understanding of which colors work well together and WHY.

Basic Color Theory

The Color Wheel

Most of us are familiar with the basic color wheel, made up of primary, secondary and tertiary colors. The color wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666 and has been used ever since.

The primary colors are the 3 main colors that make up every other color. These are red, blue and yellow.

When we mix any 2 of the primary colors together, we get the secondary colors. These are orange, green and purple.

When we mix a primary color with a secondary color, we get a tertiary color. These are the colors that sit between the primary and secondary colors on the color wheel. These are named after the colors that they are made from, such as red-orange, green-blue, red-purple, and so on.

Choosing Colors that Work Together - Color Wheels

Choosing colors that work together

This is where the color wheel gets interesting. Instead of just randomly choosing two colors and hoping they match, we can use the science behind the color wheel to quickly choose colors that will work well together.

When choosing more than two colors, try to focus on one main dominant color and use the other colors to support it.

Complementary colors – Two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as yellow and purple, or blue and orange.

Analogous colors – Three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, such as red, red-purple and purple or orange, orange-yellow and yellow.

Triadic colors – Three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel (like a triangle).

Choosing Colors that Work Together - Color Combinations

Split-complementary colors – Similar to complementary colors, but instead of choosing one color on the opposite side, choose the two colors adjacent to the complimentary color, such as blue with yellow and orange.

Tetradic colors (A.K.A. Double-complementary) – Four colors, made up from two sets of complementary colors that make a rectangle on the color wheel, such as orange, purple, blue and yellow.

Highlights and Shading

Once you understand the basics of the color wheel, you can create additional colors by adding white or black to create shades (adding black) and tints (adding white).

You can also use monochromatic colors together – Various shades or tints of a single color, such as a range of light and dark blues.

Finding color inspiration

The color wheel isn’t the only source of color inspiration. Nature provides us with some amazing color palettes that work extremely well together.

You can find existing color palettes on my website where I’ve taken pulled the colors from various photos to create different color palettes with warm colors, cool colors, different themes, different moods (bright and fun or dark and moody). Explore the range here.

Adobe also has a fantastic color wheel tool where you can set rules (such as analogous, complementary, or monochromatic) and drag the cursor around the color wheel, which automatically matches the other colors for you.

The opportunities are endless

The color wheel is a great place to start to find colors that work together, but it doesn’t have to create a limit. You can choose colors from everywhere – and sometimes the best color combinations come from experimenting! So get creative and see what you can come up with!

About the author

Sarah Renae Clark is a coloring book artist and blogger at www.sarahrenaeclark.com*. A designer and artist for over 10 years, she loves working with color and regularly creates new color palettes for others to be inspired by. She has a huge selection of color palettes and tutorials available on her website. She works closely with other artists and also has a range of teaching articles on her website to help other creative entrepreneurs to build their own businesses too.

You can follow Sarah at:
Facebook: Facebook.com/sarahrenaeclark
Instagram: Instagram.com/sarahrenaeclark and Instagram.com/dailycolorpalettes
Pinterest: Pinterest.com/sarahrenaeclark
Twitter: Twitter.com/sarahrenaeclark

*Affiliate Link

Color Theory Drawing Exercise

We’ve spent the month talking about color theory and how it affects your art. We have an extra (fifth) Saturday in this month, so I thought I’d share a color theory drawing exercise…. just for fun.

Well, and for learning, too.

Color Theory Drawing Exercise

So are you ready to get started with your color theory drawing exercise?

What You Need

An adult coloring page (or book if you have one). If you need a page, search the internet for free adult coloring pages, and you’ll have thousands of choices. Don’t want to spend all day searching? The site I found and from which I downloaded a couple of pages is www.easypeasyandfun.com. It’s a fairly easy site to navigate and features several collections based on subject and difficulty.

Pixabay is also a great place to get printable and free coloring pages, though their selection is much more limited.

Your favorite colored pencils. Any brand will do, though the better the quality, the more likely you’ll get good results.

That’s it!

How It Works

Choose the adult coloring page you want to use. It can be as simple or complex as you like, but should ideally be on the simple side, with enough shapes for blending colors, but not so many that it takes days to fill in.

Choose the colors you want to use. My suggestion is to start with the primaries—red, yellow, and blue, but you can also do analogous colors, warm colors, or cool colors. To get the most from the exercise, use no more than a dozen colors. Don’t worry! You can do the exercise as many times as you like and with as many color combinations as you can think of.

Color your page and see what happens.

For Best Results

  • Use only one color for some shapes
  • Layer two colors over some shapes
  • Layer three or more colors over some shapes
  • Fill in some areas with layers applied with light pressure and other areas with a single layer applied heavily

This isn’t “serious art”, so don’t worry how things turn out. You’ll learn faster by experimenting than by playing it safe, so be bold. Try things with this exercise that you’d never do while creating a piece of fine art.

Need a Little Inspiration?

Here’s my finished color theory drawing exercise. The page is from  www.easypeasyandfun.com and is one of the leaf coloring pages.

Color Theory Drawing Exercise Sample

I included complementary color combinations, a couple of different analogous color combinations, cool colors, warm colors, and a few complementary color pairings.

Some of the leaves were shaded with one or two burnished layers, and others with multiple layers applied with lighter pressure.

I even included some leaves that show varying value ranges.

So start there, and see what else you can come up with.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right with Colored Pencils

Is color the most important thing to get right in your colored pencil drawings?

A lot of beginning artists believe color is the most important part of drawing. Or painting, for that matter. Just look at all those gorgeous Classical paintings or brightly colored contemporary art. The color is often enough to make your mouth water, isn’t it. It has to be important.

Color is important.

But it’s not the most important thing to get right.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right Is…


The range of lights and darks in your drawing will make or break it, no matter how accurate your colors. Especially if you draw in anything like a realistic style. Get the colors spot on, but do nothing with values, and your drawing is flat.

Get the values correct, however, and even if you don’t use any color at all, your drawing will look like what it’s supposed to look like.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right with Colored Pencils

Let me show you with a simple illustration.

One Color Without Value

Here’s a ball. Drawn all with one color. I’ve layered the green as evenly as possible over the paper. It’s a nice shade of green, and pretty. But is it a ball?

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 01

No. It’s a circle, because every part of it is the same darkness of green. There are no shadows, and there are no highlights. In other words, it’s all the same value.

Maybe it’s just not dark enough. Let’s make it a little darker and see what happens.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 02


It is darker. More of the paper holes are filled in and the green is richer, but…

…it’s still all the same value. It’s still a circle, not a ball.

Here it is as dark as I could make it. Now it has a nice dark value, doesn’t it? I’ve done as much with the color as I can.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 03

But it’s still all the same value. It’s just darker. And it’s still not a ball. Not even close.

One Color With Value

Okay, back to square (circle) one. Same color, same single value. Same result.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 01

This time, however, instead of darkening the whole thing, I’m going to darken just a part of it: The part that will be in shadow. A couple more layers and a little more pressure, and we’re getting somewhere! Finally!

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 05

Let’s make that shadow a little darker. Even better.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 06

But it’s not quite there yet. I’ve gone as dark as I can with the color I’m using. What am I missing? Back to the drawing board.

One Color With Full Value

For this illustration, I lifted a little bit of color to create a highlight on the opposite side of the shape from the shadows. You can also work around highlights to get brighter highlight areas.

I used the same green as for the other circles, but also added a slightly darker green to darken the shadow a little bit more.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 07

Now, finally, we have something that looks like a ball! All it needs is a cast shadow and it’s good.

But can it be made to look even more like a ball?

Two Colors and Value

Now I’ve added a shade of blue that’s a little darker still to the shadows on the ball. It’s not a big difference, but it is a difference.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 08

Good Even Without Color

Now to show you that it really is the value, not the color, that turned this circle into a ball, here’s the illustration above converted to gray scale. No color, just shades of gray.

The Most Important Thing to Get Right - Illustration 09

So the Most Important Thing to Get Right Really is Value

Adding value to the color is what makes a circle (or any other shape) look three dimensional. The color is like the skin. The value is the body.

Value is, beyond all doubt, the most important thing to get right in any form of drawing or painting if you’re doing realism. That’s why I often recommend to artists new to colored pencil that they start with just a few high-quality colored pencils and learn to use them well.

Learn to draw value with just a few colors, and you’ll be able to draw anything with as many–or as few—colors as you wish.

How Color Theory Influences Art

Last week, we talked a little bit about basic color theory. This week, we’ll take a look at how color theory influences art in general and how it can help you with your art in particular.

How Color Theory Influences Art

Blending Two or More Colors to Make New Colors

You don’t need a lot of pencils and every color in the rainbow to make top notch colored pencil drawings. It is easier and faster if you have a lot of colors, but it’s not necessary.

In fact, if you have one or two shades of each of the primary colors, plus black, white, and maybe a few earth tones, you can blend any color you want by layering one color over another.

Remember that color wheel from the previous post? Here’s a possibly more practical illustration of the color wheel and color theory. I used only three colors on this: Red, blue, and yellow.

How Color Theory Influences Art - Blending Colors

But I made two other colors in the process. Green resulted from layering blue over yellow and orange resulted from layering red over yellow.

You will notice that the orange is barely discernible from the red and you might wonder why. It’s because red is both darker in value and more dominant than yellow. Had I used lighter pressure with the red, but still burnished with the yellow (instead of burnishing both colors), there would have been a more distinct orange.

TIP: Some colors are more dominant than others. Even lightly applied, they appear bold. When combining them with less dominant or lighter value colors such as yellow, use light pressure with the dominant color and multiple layers of the less dominant color.

Changing the Brightness of Colors

One way color theory helps you create better art—especially if you do representational or realistic art—is in drawing more natural colors.

Lets say you want to draw a lush, spring landscape. Trees. Grass. Maybe a river or some flowers.

The natural inclination is to choose green pencils to draw green grass. I mean, that only makes sense, right? You don’t want the grass to be a solid block of a single shade of green, though, so you select a few shades of green from yellow-green to blue-green, and light to dark. That should do it. Right?

Except after you’ve layered all those lovely greens together, your grass looks fake. It’s, well, it’s simply too green. As though it was painted. It may even look like it might glow in the dark!

It really needs to be toned down, but how do you do that?

Cue the color wheel and color theory.

The complement of any color naturally tones down the color. In the color wheel below, orange is opposite the color wheel from blue; it is the complementary color to blue. Shade a little blue over an orange object and the orange will be less vibrant, less bright.

Shade a little orange over blue and the blue becomes less vibrant.

How Color Theory Influences Art - The Color Wheel

Green has a complement, too. Red is the complementary color to green. So to tone down the bright greens in your landscape, lightly shade a little red over it.

In this illustration, I drew the grass with three different colors of green and two or three layers of each. Then I shaded Orange over the right half, followed by one more layer each of the two lightest greens.

How Color Theory Influences Art - Using Complementary Colors

Why did I use orange instead of red, which is the true complement? Because red is too dark a color. The values of the greens I drew are so light that red, even applied lightly, would have dominated the greens. Orange is a near complement and is also a lighter value, so it works just as well.

The left third of the illustration has a glaze of red over it. Can you see the difference?

TIP: This technique works best if you incorporate the complementary color into normal layering process, rather than do a flat glaze like I did. Also use very light pressure. I used a flat glaze and a little heavier pressure so you could easily see the difference.

This method works with everything. Every color has a complementary color, and you can use complementary colors to alter the brightness or boldness of any color with any subject you might want to draw.

I have used red as a complementary under drawing for landscapes and it works perfectly for that. But for glazing greens after they’re on the paper, consider a lighter value, less dominant near complement.

Creating an Emotional Response

Sometimes, an artist wants to create a certain mood or emotional response in the people who see a particular drawing or painting. Maybe they want to convey a scene that’s lighthearted and happy. Or maybe they want to emphasize the gloom of a scene.

In this drawing, my subject was the gray light of a rainy day more than the landscape itself. To depict that grayness and wetness, I chose colors that were visually cool. Even the greens, earth tones in the telephone poles, and the red in the stop sign are cool versions of those colors.

How Color Theory Influences Art - Using Cool Colors

If I were to draw the same scene, and even the same gray day, with warm colors, it would have a different look and feel.

Those are just three ways understanding color theory and help you use color to its full potential in your artwork. Master these tools, and your well on your way to producing artwork you can be proud to display.

Understanding the Basics of Color Theory

If you’re like me, the very thought of color theory evokes all kinds of complicated definitions, higher levels of learning, and intimidation. But every artist needs to understand the basics of color theory, and how it affects their art. Fortunately, it’s not really all that complicated.

In short, color theory is a fancy phrase that describes how colors relate to and influence one another. All an artist really needs to know is which colors to mix to get the desired result, and how colors react to each other when placed side by side.

That’s what this post is all about.

Understanding the Basics of Color Theory

The Color Wheel

This is a color wheel. Every artist has seen these. Many have made them. This is one I made with colored pencils but you can make them with oils, acrylics, watercolors, and many other mediums.


The color wheel divides the spectrum of color into categories. The three primary colors are the colors that cannot be mixed.

Every other color is a combination of two or three of these primary colors. Green is a mixture of blue and yellow. Purple is a mixture of blue and red, and orange is a mixture of red and yellow. Green, purple, and orange are secondary colors.

There are three primary colors and three secondary colors. Beyond that, the possible combinations increase rapidly. For example, the color wheel above includes primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Three primaries, three secondaries, six tertiaries.

You make a tertiary color by mixing one primary and one secondary color. Yellow-green, for example is a combination of yellow (primary) and green (secondary.)

Of course, you can break down a color wheel even further. There is no limit to the number of “slices” in a color wheel. But for artistic use, most color wheels go no further than tertiary colors.

A color wheel is a must-have tool, and can save you a lot of time making color choices.

Get a free blank color wheel and instructions for completing it.

Color Categories

Analogous colors are side-by-side on the color wheel. Blue, green, and yellow are analogous.

Analogous Colors Blue Green Yellow

So are purple, red, and orange.

Analogous Colors Purple Red Orange

As a rule, analogous colors are either two primaries and the secondary they make (first example) or the two secondaries made from the same primary (second example).

Analogous color groups can be warm (reds, oranges, yellows, some violets, and some greens) or cool (blues, some greens, and some violets).

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. One color is always warm and one is always cool. The difference diminishes as you get away from primary (red, yellow, blue) colors and secondary colors (orange, purple, and green), but there will always be a difference.

Red and green are complementary colors.

Complementary Colors Green Red

Blue and orange are also complements.

Complementary Colors Blue Orange

Unless you break down the color wheel into more subtle gradations, most complementary colors include one primary color and one secondary color.

Conversely, if one color is a tertiary color, it’s complement will also be a tertiary color.

Reds and yellows are warm colors, as are their secondaries and some of the tertiary colors. Here’s a sampling of warm colors. Reds, oranges, yellows, and earth tones are warm colors. Some of the greens that tend toward yellow are also warm.

Warm Colors

Cool colors are predominantly blue or green. Here are a few cool colors. Any color that leans heavily toward blue is likely to be cool. Most greens and purples are also cool.

Cool Colors

Color Context

Colors can appear to “change sides” in some contexts. A naturally warm color such as yellow-green would appear to be a cool color if it appeared in a composition with predominantly warmer colors. A yellow-green umbrella on a sun-drenched day in the desert, for example.

In this collection of pencils, six of the colors are cool. The green in the center is warm in comparison to the blues and cooler greens around it.

Color Context Warm Accent

Use the very same color in a composition that’s predominantly warm colors and it becomes the cool color accent.

Here’s the same green pencil with warm colors. It’s still a warm green, but now it’s cool in comparison to the colors around it.

Color Context Cool Accent

The context in which such colors appear is what determines whether they’re warm or cool in your drawing or painting.

The examples I just used are examples of color context: the way one color affects the color next to it. While some colors are more easily affected by contextual changes, all colors are subject to the context in which they appear.

Using the Basics of Color Theory to Make Better Drawings

Knowing how to combine these three aspects of color theory helps you create drawings or paintings that do more than just depict a scene. You’ll be able to capture the many moods of any subject through the colors you use and how you combine them.

For one thing, it will greatly simplify color selection. You’ll know which colors work best for depicting rainy days and what colors to use for accents.

If you want a drawing to create a sense of warmth, you now know to use warm colors.

Want More Than Just the Basics of Color Theory?

Color Matters is one website you should take a look at. I refreshed my understanding of color theory and, yes, learned a few things, there. It’s well worth your time. Their article, Basic Color Theory, is especially helpful in more fully understanding the basics of color theory.

Canva also has a very good primer on color theory. If you happen to use Canvas to create internet images (as I do), their Design Wiki on Colors teaches you everything you need to know about colors, their meanings and the color combinations that will hopefully give inspiration to your next design! Just type a color into the search box at the top of the page or click on a color to learn everything about it.

Remember I mentioned creating atmosphere in a drawing or painting? The design wiki at Canva help you do that by showing what each color means. Imagine that!

You can also learn more about color theory and it’s applications with two podcasts from The Sharpened Artist.

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time? How to Know and What to Do

Do colored pencils fade over time? The short answer is that yes, some of them do. Some colors are notorious for fading. Pinks and purples, for example. It doesn’t seem to matter the brand or type of pencil, these colors are subject to fading.

Some brands also seem vulnerable to fading, perhaps due to manufacturing procedures or the quality of the raw materials.

In many case, the lower quality pencils can also be subject to fading.

The difficulty is that there is no rule of thumb that’s always true. You simply cannot make a one-size-fits-all statement about fugitive colors (colors that fade).

S0 how do you know the difference between colors (or brands) that fade and those that don’t?

And maybe more importantly, what should you do about it?

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time

Fading and Colored Pencils

Lightfastness is a measurement of a pigment’s ability to resist fading or discoloration under normal circumstances. A lightfast pigment doesn’t fade. A fugitive color does.

The American Standard Test Measure (ASTM) rates pigments from one to five and is generally displayed in Roman Numerals (I, II, et cetera). The lower the number, the more lightfast a color is. Prismacolor uses this method of rating their colors.

Other countries use other rating methods. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Blue Wool Test is used and pigments are rated from 1 to 8, with the higher numbers being the most permanent.

The general rule of thumb is that the higher quality pencil, the more lightfast. That’s not universal, however. You’re likely to have a lower percentage of fugitive colors if you buy a higher quality pencil, but that’s not always a given.

But even the highest quality pencils will have some pencils that may fade under normal circumstances. That’s just the nature of those pigments.

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time Stock Pencils

How Do You Know Which Colors May Fade?

Many manufacturers provide color charts that indicate the lightfastness of each color they produce. Many others provide that information online, though you may have to search long and hard to find it. I was able to locate color charts for Faber-Castell and Prismacolor easily.

Others were more difficult and some were impossible.

If you want a color chart for your favorite brand, check the company’s website or search for the brand name with the words color chart. Faber-Castell color chart, for example.

NOTE: Just because a color is currently a fugitive color doesn’t mean it always will be. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their products and that does include lightfastness.

I have a 1999 color chart from Prismacolor that shows Spanish Orange with a IV rating (poor). The current color chart shows Spanish Orange with a III (good) rating. I won’t be using my old Spanish Orange pencils, but I would buy new Spanish Orange and use them.

A Recent Experience

I’ve been aware of issues of lightfastness and art supplies for quite some time. I’ve also known that some colors of colored pencils have serious problems with fading.

But it wasn’t until recently that I actually compared my stock of pencils with the ratings on the chart with the intent of removing all the fugitive colors. You can imagine my dismay when I discovered that nearly half of all the pencils I owned were fugitive. Some of them favorite colors.

Admittedly, I’ve always used Prismacolor pencils. That’s what I started with and what I’ve stayed with. They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to find in the US. Why change?

But seeing my pencils divided into two nearly equal piles was disheartening. It was clear I’d have start doing a lot more blending or settle for art that was less than permanent.

I wasn’t thrilled with either option.

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time

What to Do

I am determined to produce the best, most permanent possible colored pencil work, so my choice is easy. I’ll replace fugitive colors with similar colors that have a better rating. For example, no more limepeel (IV). Instead, I’ll use chartreuse (II).

And instead of light cerulean blue (IV), I’ll use true blue (I), non-photo blue (II), or cloud blue (II), depending on what I’m drawing.

So it’s far from a hopeless case.

But you could also switch brands. A lot of artists have stopped using Prismacolor altogether in favor of some other brand. I have a full set of Faber-Castell Polychromos on the way. Not only do they have a luscious collection of earthy colors; most of their colors have good or excellent lightfast ratings.

Before switching, though, it’s worth your time to research lightfast issues. It’s pointless to replace one brand with another that’s more expensive, but rates no better.

You can also buy open stock from a variety of brands, choosing colors that are highly rated for permanence.

Or you can simply continue drawing with your current pencils, but make sure to notify buyers that some colors may fade if not properly framed with UV protective glass.


What you do with this information depends in large part on you. It’s perfectly okay to use fugitive colors in your artwork if you’re not planning on selling it or if you let buyers know. I may keep some of my favorite colors for doodling or other uses.

But I won’t be using them in portraits, gallery work, or anything I intend to sell. Fine art buyers spend a lot of money on art and deserve to know that whatever they buy from me will stand the test of time.

Additional Reading

Not sure whether or not your pencils are lightfast and can’t find a manufacturer’s color chart? Here’s an easy way to test your pencils for lightfastness.