How to Judge Your Own Work

Every artist wants to see progress. Whether it’s from one drawing to the next, or from the beginning of a drawing to the end, it’s vital to know how to judge your own work if you really want to improve.

No one knows that better than an artist who has been creating for over 40 years!

Today’s post comes in response to a reader question.

How can I judge my work and tell if I am making progress when most artists I know don’t work in this medium? I have been working with pencil crayon for years but don’t know if I am improving. David

How to Judge Your Own Work

What a great question! Thank you to David for asking.

If there’s one thing a lot of artists struggle with, it’s the ability to see improvement in their own work. If you’re anything like me, you tend to see the shortcomings in every drawing or painting, so it never seems like I make any progress.

But if you want to improve—I mean, really improve—you need to know how to measure progress.

So the question becomes: How do you do that?

How to Judge Your Own Work

There are many ways to judge your own work, no matter how long you’ve been drawing or painting. I’m going to describe two methods that have worked for me, but you may need to look for other methods to find the best one for you.

The first, and most obvious (to me anyway) is comparing new work to old work.

Comparing Old and New – Redoing an Old Drawing

If you’ve been drawing long enough to have drawn several pieces, the easiest way to tell if you’re making progress is to compare your latest drawing with your earliest one. If you don’t have your early drawings and didn’t scan or photograph them, then use the earliest drawing you have available. Even if it’s just a few years old, it will help you see where you’ve improved.

Here are three examples from my work.

Below are two drawings of the same subject. I used similar methods, the same type of paper, and the same reference photo for both. The first one was drawn in 2009, the second in 2016.

How to Judge Your Own Work - Compare Old Work to New

One sure way to see how much your drawings have improved is to redo an old drawing, as I did with this one.

TIP: If you don’t already, get into the habit of photographing or scanning finished work, especially if you sell (or hope to sell) your originals. Take the best photographs possible. Not only do they provide a record of your work; they provide an excellent means for comparing old work to new.

Comparing Old and New – Similar Subjects

Comparing similar drawings is also helpful in determining how much progress you’re making. These two landscapes were drawn on different types of paper and of different (though similar) subjects.

How to Judge Your Own Work - Compare Old Work to New - Similar

When I finished The Sentinel in 2013, it was by far the best landscape I’d ever done with colored pencils. It’s still a nice drawing, but it doesn’t hold a candle to August Morning in Kansas from last year.

The fact is, I’m itching to redo The Sentinel, just to see how it turns out a second time!

Comparing Old and New – The Beginning and End of a Series

Sometimes, comparing the first drawing in a series with the final one is sufficient to show progress.

Last year, I did a series of three landscapes on sanded art paper. Below are the first and last drawings in the series. The second one was of about the same quality as the first one.

Then I made a discovery on color selection that took the third drawing to a new level, thanks to Lisa Clough.

How to Judge Your Own Work - Compare Old Work to New - Same Year

Improvement doesn’t always happen like this. Usually, it’s more gradual. That’s why knowing how to judge your own work over a period of time is so important.

But admit it. Those “quantum leaps” in skill level are exciting!

Compare Your Work with Another Artist You Admire

Another way to measure your improvement is to find an artist who works in the same medium, and in a similar style.

I know that a common rule of thumb is that no artist should ever compare themselves to another artist. If all you’re doing is beating yourself up, then that rule of thumb is true.

But if you can objectively compare your work to the work of an artist who draws similar subjects in the same medium, there is no better way to see where you need improvement. If that artist also happens to produce tutorials, so much the better. You can not only see how your work compares to their, but learn what they’re doing that you might try.

That’s an excellent way to get better results no matter how long you’ve been drawing.

To find artists doing videos on colored pencil methods, search for “colored pencil tutorials on YouTube” or something similar, then view enough to find an artist whose work you like. It’s a good idea to select two or three artists, because no two work exactly the same!

Do I do this? Absolutely! In fact, I’ve subscribed to several colored pencil artists (and some who work in other media, too) and I watch their tutorials. I’ve learned a lot. Remember that leap in improvement I mentioned before? That came directly from one of those artists. I wouldn’t have made the discovery on my own for a long, long time.

Continue Learning the Craft

Nothing replaces always learning. Be open to new ideas, new tools, and new methods. Whether you read books, read blog posts and tutorials, watch DVDs or online videos, or take workshops and classes, it’s all important.

Then try some of what you’ve learned. Reading and watching is good, but won’t do you much good unless you implement it.

I add this last suggestion even though it seems out of place because you need to learn what makes good art good before you can accurately judge your own. Learning the importance of value, for example, enables you to decide whether or not you need to improve how you draw values.

And seeing the results another artist is getting gives you a standard against which you can compare your work.


Whatever method you use to measure your progress as an artist, it’s important to be consistent. No method works if you don’t use it consistently.

So find what works best for you, and make it part of your  studio routine!

Want to Learn More?

I recently wrote an article for EmptyEasel on this topic. How to Honestly Evaluate Your Own Work shares additional tips for evaluating your progress from the beginning of a drawing to the end.

You might also be interested in learning how to make a crit sheet to self-evaluate your artwork., also written for EmptyEasel.

Putting the Fun Back into Colored Pencils

Let’s talk about putting the fun back into colored pencils.

If that seems like an odd topic to you, you probably haven’t been using colored pencils very long.

But if you’ve worked with colored pencils any length of time, you know how easy it is to begin thinking of them as tedious tools. Once that happens, the fun soon oozes out of drawing, and days slip past without picking up a pencil.

Once the fun disappears, it seems like things will never change. I know. I’ve been there.

But I can tell you from personal experience that you can put the fun back into colored pencils, and it’s not as hard as you might think.

Putting the Fun Back into Colored Pencils

This article follows up an article from a few weeks ago, and is the result of a question asked by a reader named Kae.

Kae was struggling with many of the same issues most beginning artists face, but let’s allow Kae to ask the question.

I am very new to colored pencils. As I learned my drawing skills, I wanted color to ‘pop’ my drawings. So enter colored pencils. But they seemed to look so amateurish, but being such, I guess that is the only way they might look. To use them seems so laborious and I don’t know how to make them be fun in creating the color. Any suggestions?

I answered Kae’s question about getting past the amateurish look, and also shared a few tips for reducing some of the labor of drawing with colored pencils. So this week, we’ll take a look at ways to make colored pencils fun again.

Putting the Fun Back into Colored Pencils

This is a topic we all need to think about from time to time, especially if we’re a professional or full-time artist. We’re told that if we want to make a living at art, we need to treat it like a business, not a hobby. Unfortunately, that mindset makes it all too easy to treat the drawing process like work, too

If you’re a busy artist, it’s oh-so-easy to do art only for clients. Portraits take up all your time, and creative energy, so you stop doing fun things. After a while, every time you pick up a pencil, it’s for “work.” For a while, that’s okay. There is a certain thrill in making art that’s already sold or that’s bound for a big show.

But after a while, drawing or painting starts to feel more like an obligation than a pleasure. You still do it because it’s what you do, but the joy of creating starts to fade away.

Trust me. I was there for forty years!

The longer you continue on that path, the more the fun ebbs away. Eventually, if you’re not careful, it becomes just a faded memory.

But it doesn’t have to remain a faded memory. Here are some things I’ve done to put some fun back into making art.

Doodling lets you make art that’s not “serious” and lets you play

Make use of spare time to doodle with colored pencil. It doesn’t matter what you doodle, or with how many colors. What matters is that you’re putting pencil to paper in a manner that’s not “important” or “serious.”

You don’t even need to have top-of-the-line tools. Just carry a pencil or two and a small pad of paper with you and when you find yourself waiting somewhere, start doodling!

Drawing outside or from life gives you an endless selection of subjects

One of the best things I did to force myself to start drawing for a reason other than “for work” was issuing myself a personal challenge the fall of 2016. The challenge was easy. I promised myself to draw outside at least once a week throughout September and October.

Putting the Fun Back into Colored Pencils - Draw From Life

I did that again this past September. When the month was over, I continued the personal challenge. So far, I haven’t missed very many weeks.

But the best part is that I’m doing little sketches and drawings of a variety of subjects in a variety of locations and am learning how to have fun drawing again.

The bonus is that the extra time drawing is improving my ability to draw more serious pieces, too.

You don’t have to draw outside (though I recommend you try it at least once.) If outdoors doesn’t work for you, draw something inside instead. It doesn’t need to be big or complex, either. The leaf on a houseplant, for example.

Putting the Fun Back into Colored Pencils - Draw from Life

Play with your colored pencils to restore the joy of drawing

Playing with colored pencils takes many forms. Adult coloring books. Fantasy drawing. Drawing from imagination.

Putting the Fun Back into Colored Pencils - Play With Your Pencils

I keep some homemade coloring pages beside the bed. When I don’t have a book to read, I spend ten to twenty minutes coloring a few parts of the current page. Right now, I’m working on a geometric design with only six colors—one each of the primary colors and one each of the secondary colors.

There are plenty of coloring books available. If you want to try a few pages without the expense, search for free downloadable pages on Pinterest and you’ll have plenty to choose from.

Or draw something whimsical or imaginary.

Or draw something real in a whimsical manner.

The possibilities are endless, limited only by the subjects you best like to draw.

Find Your Own Ways to Put the Fun Back into Colored Pencil Drawing

Putting the fun back into colored pencils doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. In fact, those are the last things it should be!

But my suggestions are only suggestions. There are a number of other things to try, too. So let your imagination run and see what you come up with!

Choosing Colors for Outdoor Drawing

I’ve been developing  the habit of drawing outside for a couple of years, now. It began with the first Colored Pencil Plain Air Drawing Autumn Challenge in 2016. I talked about a lot of things related to plein air drawing back then, but there is one topic I neglected: Choosing colors for outdoor drawing.

That’s the subject of this week’s reader question.

Hi Carrie,

I like to work in the field sketching, [and] primarily do landscapes but also may do street scenes. I especially like travel sketching. Can you recommend which colors would be helpful to a minimum travel kit? I own so many colored pencils it is daunting to pick which colors to take without overloading.


Stephanie Reitmajer

Stephanie has asked an interesting question, and one most of us don’t think about all that often.

Choosing Colors for Outdoor Drawing

Choosing colors for outdoor drawing can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. As with most things about colored pencils and art, there is no “right way.”

But I can offer the following basic suggestions to get you started.

Choosing Colors for Outdoor Drawing

Try to plan for every conceivable possibility and you’ll soon be frustrating yourself needlessly. It would be better—and easier—to pack all your pencils, and be done with it!

Understanding what you’re most likely to see and what you’re most likely to draw, then planning for those things makes the process infinitely simpler.

The key to choosing colors for outdoor drawing is knowing what you’re most likely to draw

There’s a rule of thumb among writers (fiction and nonfiction) that the key to success is knowing who you’re writing for. When you know who is most likely to read your work, you can write for those people.

Believe it or not, the same rule of thumb applies to this question, and here’s how.

Stephanie mentioned the types of subjects she prefers drawing. Landscapes and street scenes.

Those are two broad categories that can cover a lot of territory, but knowing those categories helps Stephanie—and you and me—decide which colors to take on road trips and drawing outings.


Colors like greens, blues, and earth tones appear in some form in most landscapes.

The range of colors may be broader for street scenes, but the same basic colors might apply.

So the first step in choosing colors for outdoor drawing is knowing yourself well enough to know what types of subjects you’re most likely to draw.

Understand your subject well enough to know what colors are mostly likely to appear in those subjects.

Next, understand those subjects well enough to know what basic colors are most common in those subjects.

Landscapes are relatively easy. Greens, blues, and earth tones. You can narrow those selections even further by knowing in advance what types of landscapes you’ll be seeing on the next trip.

I favor the Flint Hills as a subject, and in the spring, it usually looks like this.

Choosing Colors for Outdoor Drawing - Flint Hills Spring

In the Fall—and sometimes late summer—it looks more like this.

Choosing Colors for Outdoor Drawing - Flint Hills Fall

I would choose different colors in the spring than in the fall.

When choosing colors for outdoor drawing, focus on color families

Next, look at color families, not individual colors.

Red, blue, and yellow are the primary color families. With them, you can make every other color.

For a little more refinement, add the secondary color families of green, purple, and orange.

When it comes time to travel, choose the color families you use most often, and the colors that best suit your most likely subjects.

TIP: Sort your pencils by color families and store them in individual containers for ease of use. I use a lure box for my pencils. Each “well” contains a different color family.

Want just the bare bones colors? Try this selection method.

Two of each of the primary and secondary colors are all you really need. One cool yellow and one warm yellow, and so on. It doesn’t matter all that much which two colors you choose, just as long as you have a cool and warm from each color family.

Or you could try selecting one light value, one medium value, and one dark value from each of the color families.

Black and white are optional colors, especially if you plan to draw on colored paper. You may also want to include a few cool and warm grays.

TIP: Some brands of pencils offer special sets designed for specific subjects. Portrait sets or landscape sets, for example. These are ideal for traveling and drawing outside. If you’re not happy with the selection of colors that come in the set, save the tin or box they come in, and fill it with your own choices!

Choosing Colors for Drawing Specific Subjects

So you now have the basics. Want a little more information than that? Here are colors I’d consider for specific subjects.

Choose “earthy” colors for landscape drawing

I do a lot of landscape drawing,  and although I often take all my pencils, I sometimes want to travel light. Especially for short trips.

When I want to travel light, the best colors are “earthy” colors. The earthy blues and greens made by Faber-Castell, are ideal for landscape work. Derwent Drawing  pencils also have great colors for landscape artists.

Similar colors from any brand are most likely to work for landscape drawing.

I also suggest at least two browns one light and one dark (or one warm and one cool.) Browns are ideal for an umber under drawing or for layering with greens to keep the greens from going too bright. They’re also vital if you don’t have any earthy greens in your collection.

Following are my color selections. The colors listed below are the colors I reach for most often when drawing landscapes. Your preferences may differ.

Faber-Castell (any of their lines)

The following earth tones make a good selection of base colors.

Burnt Ochre
Indian Red
Light Chrome Yellow
Light Yellow Ochre

Add these blues and greens to your outdoor colors.

Chrome Oxide Green
Chromium Green Opaque
Earth Green
Earth Green Yellowish
Green Gold
Juniper Green
Light Cobalt Turquoise
Light Phthalo Blue
Light Ultramarine
May Green
Olive Green Yellowish
Sky Blue

Prismacolor Premier

Burnt Ochre, Chartreuse, Chocolate, Dark Brown or Dark Umber, Dark Green, Goldenrod, Jade Green, Lemon Yellow, Light Umber, Mineral Orange, Sepia, Sienna Brown, Terra Cotta, Yellow Chartreuse. Any of the French Greys are excellent additions to an outdoor drawing palette.

Koh-I-Nor Progresso

Brown, Dark Blue, Dark Green, Hooker’s Green, Light Green, Light Ochre,  Sap Green, and Sky Blue. Light Grey is also a good color to have along.

I probably wouldn’t take all of these pencils unless I was planning a long trip. In that case, I’d pack everything.

The season also plays a role. For winter scenes, take fewer greens. For autumn, more bright colors and earth tones.

And of course adjust your palette appropriately for wooded scenes, seascapes, and so on.

Earth tones, a few blues, greens, reds, and yellows provide a good color base for drawing most kinds of animals

My landscape palette is heavy on greens, with a lot of earth tones.

For drawing animals, I reverse that balance so there are more earth tones. Those colors include all the browns from the lightest cream or ivory to the darkest brown.

Colors I’d add are colors like Prismacolor’s Black Grape, Black Cherry, Indigo Blue, Pumpkin Orange, or Mineral Orange or similar colors.

If you’re going to be drawing horses, cattle, or most wildlife, those colors (added to the lists above) provide all the colors you’re likely to need.

If birds, butterflies, or other such creatures are your subjects, you’ll need to add brighter blues, greens, yellow, and reds to your palette.

When choosing colors for street scenes, add a few brighter colors

This subject category is a little outside my area of expertise. However, if I were thinking about trying a street scene, I’d start with the list above. In many cases, the street scenes reflect the landscape around them.

In the southwest, streets are more likely to be earthy, warm colors, while streets in the Pacific Northwest will reflect more cool blues, greens, and grays.

There are also artificial things like street signs and vehicles to consider, so add brighter colors to your palette.

My Best Suggestion for Choosing Colors for Outdoor Drawing

A lot more could be said on color selection. After all, I haven’t said anything about still life, or floral drawing.

The best advice I can give you is to look at all of your pencils. If you have a relatively new set, which pencils are the shortest?

Those are the colors you use most often in the studio.

Chances are, they’re the colors you’re most likely to use while drawing outside.

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods - Colored Pencils 2

This week’s question comes from Denise, who wants to know my favorite colored pencil blending methods. Here’s Denise’s question.

Carrie, what product/techniques do YOU use to blend? My Prismacolor blending markers dry up within a few months. I have been tempted to soak the dry ones in 90% isoprophyl alcohol overnight.

Thank you for your question, Denise. Every colored pencil artist wants to learn more about blending methods!

But you’ve also opened the door to discussing the subject from a slightly different point of view.

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods

Before I share my favorite blending methods let me address the question of blending markers.

Just How Good are Blending Markers?

I tried a Prismacolor blending marker years ago. The marker had a wide, wedge-shaped tip on one end, and a narrow, pen-shaped tip on the other.

In all fairness, I have to say the marker did blend the colored pencil. The marker dissolved the wax binder enough to move the color around and made blending easier.

But I seem to recall the blended color dried streaky. It’s entirely possible I should have added more color after the paper was dry, but this happened in the early days, before I knew I could layer over blended color. I used the marker on a few drawings then stopped.

Another reason I stopped blending with the marker was that I had trouble remembering to clean the tips after every use. Color-stained tips made the marker useless for blending after a while.

I haven’t used a blending marker since. (Maybe it’s time to change that.)

In researching this article, I discovered that the only places the Prismacolor blender markers are still available is sites like Amazon and eBay. The official Prismacolor website makes no mention of colorless blending markers for colored pencils.

I also learned Prismacolor designed blender markers specifically for use with Prismacolor pencils, so the markers perform poorly with oil-based colored pencils.

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods - Art Markers

Are other colorless markers available?

Yes. Blick, Chartpak, Copic, Tombow, Touch Twin, and Winsor & Newton all include a colorless marker in their line of art markers. Even Prismacolor has a colorless art marker.

Can you blend colored pencils with them?

I don’t know.

TIP: If you decide to soak dried out blending markers with rubbing alcohol, check the markers first, and see what medium they’re using as the solvent. Make sure it’s compatible with regular rubbing alcohol.

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods - Colored Pencils

So What are My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods?

My favorite blending methods fall into three basic categories: Visual blending, dry blending, and solvent blending.

Visual blending is the most organic and automatic of all the blending methods available.

And you do visual blending without thinking about it. How? Just by the way you put color on the paper.

I generally draw with light pressure and build up color through several layers and different colors.

Light passes through all the layers, strikes the paper, and bounces back. My eye sees the colors and blends them visually. But when I’m careful in layering colors, I don’t need to blend in any other way.

Dry blending doesn’t have fumes and I don’t need to wait for the paper to dry.

But I’m not always careful. I become tired or rush things, and end up drawing uneven color layers. When that happens, I need to blend using a different method.

My preference is dry blending, because I can dry blend while drawing, and I don’t have to wait for the paper to dry.

If I need a light blend or just want to smooth out the color a little, I blend with a piece of paper towel or bath tissue. This method doesn’t do well with multiple layers, but if you just need to smooth one layer before adding the next, it’s ideal.

Another method of dry blending is burnishing. When I burnish, I press very hard on the paper, and grind the color deep into the tooth of the paper. You can use a colorless blender for this if you don’t want to change the colors you’ve already used.

My Favorite Colored Pencil Blending Methods - Colorless Blenders

But you can also burnish with other colored pencils. Lighter colors tint whatever is already on the paper. Darker colors make it darker, but may also nearly completely hide it.

Since burnishing presses down the tooth of the paper as well as “grinding the colors together,” it’s best not to burnish until near the end of the drawing.

For deep blending, my favorite blending method is painting mediums.

When nothing else works or when it’s not practical to blend with the methods I’ve already described, I blend with a solvent.

Read Blending Colored Pencil with Painting Solvents.

Any kind of odorless mineral spirits can be used for blending colored pencils, if it’s tested for art uses. All solvents may perform the same, but may not be archival, and that’s especially important if you’re doing fine art that you want to sell to buyers.

I use turpentine right now, because that’s what I have, but I have to blend outside and leave drawings outside to air before continuing work. So I’ll be getting an odorless solvent for indoor use.

WARNING: Just because a solvent is odorless does NOT mean it has no fumes. You still need to use it wisely. Keep it capped when you’re not blending, and work in a well-ventilated area.

I have used rubbing alcohol in the past, because it breaks down the wax binder in colored pencils, so you can blend with it. It doesn’t blend as completely as odorless mineral spirits, but it can be effective.

However, it is not recommended because it’s untested for permanence in fine art applications.  I haven’t tested it, either, so I no longer recommend it wholeheartedly.


Those are not only my favorite colored pencil blending methods; they’re the only blending methods I use right now.

And I generally use them in the order listed above.

My goal with every drawing is to blend by layering colors as much as possible, and dry blend when necessary. I use solvents when I need to speed up the process, or when I’ve made a mistake nothing else will fix.

What about you? What’s your favorite blending method and how do you use it?

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils

Welcome back to our year-end question and answer month. Today’s question comes from Penny, who wants to know how to draw crisp edges with colored pencil.

Hello, Carrie.

I find keeping a really crisp edge, tricky. I do use a well sharpened pencil but find shading spoils the line of the edge.

Thank you.


A great question, Penny. Crisp edges can be difficult to draw and maintain through the drawing process. But there are solutions!

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils

It doesn’t seem like drawing crisp edges should be a concern for the colored pencil artist. I mean, pencils are made for drawing lines, right?

But it takes so many layers of color to create deep, smooth color for most methods, that it can be frightfully easy to blur lines or lose them altogether.

A Word about Crisp Edges

Before I share tips for drawing crisp edges, let me say a word about when and how they should be used.

In most cases, you don’t want absolutely sharp edges on every part of your composition. That’s especially true if you draw in a realistic style, draw animals, or draw landscapes, but it also applies to other styles and subjects.

Crisp edges throughout a drawing make it look flat. Nothing looks further away than anything else.

In this drawing, the trees in the foreground have much crisper edges than the trees in the background. This helps them stand out in the composition.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Distance

Crisp edges also help emphasize the center of interest in your drawing. Notice in this drawing how much sharper the edges are on the large group of trees, than on the smaller trees in the background.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Center of Interest

So use the crispest edges on or around the center of interest and/or in the foreground.

You also want to avoid drawing crisp edges with some kinds of art. For example, drawings depicting rainy, snowy, or misty scenes work best with very few crisp edges. Take a look at this foggy morning scene.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Fog

The crispest edges are on the grass in the foreground, and those edges aren’t as sharp as they could be.

Read How to Draw a Foggy Morning.

But when you need to draw crisp edges, there are a few things you can do to draw them as crisply and clearly as possible.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils

Consider Using a Smoother Paper if You Need to Draw Really Crisp Lines

The smoother the paper, the more easily you can draw crisp lines and keep them crisp. The color fills the tooth of the paper more easily and quickly, and that produces crisper color.

Bristol papers are the smoothest papers I recommend. They’re great for drawing detail, and allow you to draw very crisp edges.

But they don’t take a lot of layers, so you may want to consider something like Stonehenge. Stonehenge paper also produces crisp lines, and can take a lot of layers. It also accepts a certain amount of water if you use water soluble colored pencils.

You can draw crisp edges on rougher paper, but it takes more effort. This drawing is on the smooth side (aka the back) of Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper. There are some very sharp edges, as well as softer edges.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Smoother Paper

Mark the Edge by Outlining Before You Start Shading

Before you begin shading, lightly outline the edges of the shape with the same color. Use a very sharp pencil and light pressure. Carefully draw around the shapes you want to shade, then shade within those shapes. Work slowly and carefully so you don’t shade over the outline.

If it helps you preserve the sharpness of the edge, draw a light outline with every color you use on that area.

In this example, I outlined all of the horse, but I also outlined some of the brightest highlights and darkest shadows. The shadows are shaded, but you can still see the outlines of the highlights on the shoulder.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Outlining

Outlining is a great way to preserve highlights and lighter values as well as drawing crisp edges.

Careful Stroking on Each Side of the Edge is Important in Drawing Crisp Edges

Nothing blurs an edge faster than shading over it. Whether you outline or not, shade carefully along the edges. I frequently create a “buffer-zone” along an edge I want to remain crisp by adding a narrow band of color against the edge before I shade the entire shape. Mot of the time, I stroke along the edge so I don’t stroke over it, but use whatever stroke works best for you.

Whatever stroke you use, work slowly and with caution. Nothing softens an edge faster than reckless drawing and going over the edge.

Keep Your Pencils Sharp to Draw Crisper Lines and More Even Color Layers

Keep your pencils absolutely, positively as sharp as you can.

Sharp pencils fill the tooth of the paper better, and edges are sharper with less paper showing through.

In most cases, you should always use sharp pencils because they produce the most even, best saturated color layers. But they are a must when drawing edges.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Sharp Pencils

Penny draws with sharp pencils, as do I, but we’re all capable of getting so lost in the drawing process that we forgot to sharpen. Train yourself to sharpen every minute or so when drawing sharp edges is important.

TIP: Turn your pencil in your fingers as you draw. This keeps the tip from getting blunt, and allows you draw longer between sharpenings.

Pencils with Harder Pigment Cores Naturally Create Sharper Edges than Soft Pencils

Soft pencils are great for laying down a lot of color fast. If you look at colored pencil reviews, words you see a lot are “creamy,” “buttery,” and  “smooth.” Those terms mean the pencils put color on the paper very easily.

Those pencils also dull quickly and are usually also not suited for drawing fine detail.

Harder pencils generally have thinner pigment cores and hold a point longer. That makes them ideal for drawing edges, as well as details.

I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils on this umber under drawing, and was able to draw crisp edges on and within the horse.

How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils - Hard Pencils

Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils are similar to Prismacolor Verithin pencils, and most oil-based pencils are harder than most wax-based pencils. If you need to draw fine detail or want really fine, crisp lines, try oil-based pencils.

Try Using a Straight Edge or Template to Protect Edges

For fine-tuning or drawing difficult edges, there’s nothing wrong with using drafting templates. I know I’m no good at technical drawings, so I use templates such as these to draw circles, ovals, and other shapes. French curves, and straight edges are also acceptable ways to create crisp edges.

How to Draw Crispt Edges with Colored Pencil - Drawing Templates

Lay the appropriate template along the edge, draw carefully along it, then remove the template and shade the rest of the shape. This is definitely the time to check position two or three times, then draw! Otherwise, you may end up with a very sharp edge in the wrong place.

If you don’t have any of these drafting tools available and need to draw a straight edge, lay a piece of card stock on you drawing and use that as a straight edge. Masking tape works well, too, as long as you use it before putting color in the place where the tape needs to go, and you don’t use extremely sticky tape. Your best bet is painter’s tape or artist’s masking tape.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Touching Up Edges After Finishing the Drawing

If you’ve tried everything else and you’re still unhappy with edges after the drawing is finished, go over some of those edges again. Use the same colors you used to draw the edges to sharpen them if necessary.

In fact, a good time to use a template is often after a drawing is finished or nearly finished.

How to Set Art Prices (And Stick to Them)

If there’s one thing most artists have trouble with, it’s knowing how to set art prices. As if that’s not bad enough, we then have trouble sticking to them.

What if our prices are too high?

What if they’re too low?

I wrestled with prices for years, so when I received the following email, it resonated!

Hi Carrie,

This may be too long, but I’m going to be detailed so you see I’ve been reading on this quite a bit.

The big question is: How do you determine what to charge for your work, and stick to it?  At first everything I did was laid-claim-to by well-meaning family, so it was given away. ​Then I made a tentative effort to set a price, but WAY under-valued my work, so much so, that had the item been purchased and shipped, I would have paid out of my own pocket!

I decided to up the price by a little, but my heart knew it was too little. My work and time and the use of top-grade supplies had to be worth more.  Keep in mind, I had NO personal attachment to anything I’d created, so it wasn’t about a reluctance to let  go.  I read recently that “if you don’t feel just a little guilty about your pricing, then you are probably under-valuing yourself”.  OK, that sounds reasonable to me, and quite true.

Recently I got my 1st commission. Yay, right?!  It was from my sister, buying something for her boss for Christmas. (She had already received a special piece from me as a gift, and she loves it).  I advised her of the price with a discount that brought it to $70.00. She had no problem with that, immediately agreeing.  But you know what I did? I started feeling guilty! So I texted to let her know I decided to bring the price to $50. Another couple of days passed, and now I’m doing 2 versions for her boss!  She didn’t ask for, nor expect, any of these perks.

So the struggle continues. Each family member will get one free piece of art, so I feel it’s absolutely fair to stick to my pricing decision, allowing them a reasonable discount on future orders. How can I overcome this personal feeling of guilt, and be firm with the pricing?



How to Set Art Prices and Stick to Them

Change some of the personal details and this was my story! (Who am I kidding? I still struggle with guilt over prices!) What about you? Do you have a similar story?

How to Set Art Prices (And Stick to Them)

As difficult as it seems when you’re in the process of setting prices, it can be simplified immensely if you’ll do a little bit of thinking before tackling prices.

How to Set Art Prices 1

Change Your Mindset to Answer Most Questions About Setting Prices

I spent years thinking my art wasn’t all that good and that I wasn’t good enough to charge a lot (ironically, I’m going through the same thing now with knowing how to price classes, etc.)

Most artists are their own worst critics, and I would also go so far as to say most artists are their own worst enemies. We simply do not value our skills and artwork properly.

So you need to get past that idea if you find yourself devaluing your work, your skill, or your time. You may need to remind yourself frequently, but it is well worth the effort.

Once you get beyond that, there are some basic methods for figuring out how to price your work.

No Formula to Set Art Prices Works For Every Artist

You need to find the formula that best suits your business plan and personality.

Let me describe the three most basic—and most frequently used—pricing formulas.

How to Set Art Prices 2

Option 1: Supplies + Time + Margin = Price

This is basic. You should be selling your work for no less than supplies cost you. Otherwise, it’s costing you to make and sell art.

Step 1: Cost of Supplies

Some of that is easy. The cost of the paper is easy enough.

But how many colored pencils? How do you include the cost of erasers, and other tools?

One way to deal with this is to look at the price for open stock pencils, then add up all the colors you think you’ll need. The cost of buying those colors is the cost of supplies for each drawing.

Another method is to look back over the last two to five years. How much did you spend on supplies each year? How many drawings did you do? Divide the total cost of supplies by the number of drawings and that’s your average cost per drawing.

For example, you spent $1,000 on paper, pencils, and all the accessories. You produced 100 drawings. 1,000 divided by 100 equals 10, so you averaged $10 worth of supplies per drawing.

The equation looks like this:

$1000 divided by 100 drawings = $10 of cost per drawing.

If you produced 20 drawings, you spent an average of $50 in non-canvas supplies for each painting.

$1000 divided by 20 drawings = $50 of cost per drawing.

The average cost per drawing is the absolute least you should charge.

It’s a good idea to know how much you spend on average per drawing because it gives you a place to begin calculating prices. But unless you multiply that figure by 20 or 30 (or more), you’ll still not be charging a reasonable amount for each painting.

Step 2: Cost of Time

The time you spend painting is also something to consider. It should be factored into the price of your work, too, and is probably the first thing I started considering when I got serious about pricing. I decided my time was worth $10 per hour, then began tracking the amount of time it took to complete each artwork.

This calculation gives you a clear and easy-to-determine number that is directly affected by the size of the work. If it takes ten hours to finish an 8×10 and 25 hours to finish an 11×14, you can easily calculate prices for each size. At $10 an hour, the 8×10 “costs” $100 and the 11×14 “costs” $250.

$10 multiplied by 10 hours = $100 for an 8×10 drawing

$10 multiplied by 25 hours = $250 for an 11×14  drawing

As you can see, you need to charge more than $10 per hour to get what I would consider a reasonable price for your work.

Step 3: Setting Up a Margin

The margin is the profit. It’s what you make over the cost of supplies and time. It’s known as the mark-up in retail. For a lot of retail businesses, mark-up is around 50% of the total cost. In other words, the retail price is double the cost of buying the item wholesale.

For the artist working on that kind of margin, the cost of the drawing is double the cost of supplies plus the cost of time. My 8×10 is now $220 to $300 and my 11×14 is now $520 to $620.

If that all sounds too complicated—and it can be very complicated-=-there are a couple of easier ways.

Cost of Supplies + Cost of Time = Price for the Drawing

Pricing by the Square Inch is a Simple Way to Set Art Prices

When you set prices by the square inch, you determine the area of each drawing by multiplying the length by the width.

Multiply the area by a dollar amount. If you charge $5 per square inch, the price for an 8×10 is $400. Charge $10 per square inch and the price is $800.

Ideally, you should charge enough per square inch to pay for the cost of supplies and the cost of time.

I used this method for years because it was easy to calculate. I needed only a calculator to make a quote for any size.

The problem with pricing by the square inch is that your price list will include some price jumps that look extreme. While the prices for small pieces look reasonable, the prices for larger pieces quickly climb. Remember that 8×10 that we charged $5 per square inch for? It cost $400. A reasonable price.

A 16×20 at the same rate is $1,260. Over triple the price.

If you stop and think about it, that’s not really an unreasonable jump. The 16×20 has four times the surface area as the 8×10. But most people don’t think that way. They see the 16×20 as double the size of the 8×10, so the price jump looks pretty big.

Even though I understand why the numbers jump as they do, I eventually gave up on the Square Inch Method some time ago. Here’s the method I now use.

Pricing by the Unified Inch Produces More Consistent Art Prices

With the unified inch method, add the length to the width. The sum of those two numbers is the number on which you base the price.

Instead of getting 80 square inches for an 8×10, you have 18 unified inches. An 11×14 has 25 unified inches, and a 16×20 is 36 unified inches.

The unified inch sum is multiplied by the cost per inch.

You’ll have to charge more per unified inch to get a reasonable price. $5 per unified inch is going to put your 8×10 at $90. At $10 per unified inch, the price is $180 and at $20 per unified inch, it jumps to $360.

Overall prices with this method appear to be more logical, too. The jumps from one size to the next aren’t as dramatic. At $20 per unified inch, an 8×10 is $360, a 16×20 is $720, and so on. The increase looks more logical, and is less of a shock to potential clients.

And once you get accustomed to calculating this way, you can still quickly quote any sized artwork with nothing more than a calculator. You don’t need complicated price charts to know what a drawing will cost, no matter what size it is.

So I’ve Set Art Prices; How Do I Stick to Them?

No matter what method you use to calculate prices, sticking to those prices is where the rubber meets the road. If you don’t follow your own rules, you may just as well not have rules.

If you have trouble sticking to your prices because they feel too high for you, reconsider how you’ve set them. Believe it or not, it’s better to start out with your prices a little bit too low than too high. If you set prices low, you have room to increase them, and customers feel they’ve made a good investment.

If you set prices too high to start with, then reduce them later, customers who bought high may feel cheated.

Or you may simply need to re-evaluate how you view your art. It’s entirely possible that the problem is internal. In that case, go back to the mindset section and review that.

What Should I Do If I Like to Reward Customers with Discounts?

Rewarding clients who buy more than one thing is a great idea. It shows them you appreciate repeat business for one thing. It also gives them a reason to buy from you again instead of going to another artist.

There are a couple of ways to reward clients.

A discount if they pay the full price up front is perfectly acceptable. I give portrait clients who pay in full up front a 10% discount. That gives them a price break, eliminates billing problems, and leaves both of us feeling like we got a good deal.

Also consider a discount if a client purchases more than one piece at the same time. 10% is a good starting place, but it could be more. Just don’t make such deep cuts that you end up giving too much away.

My favorite discount is the “collector” discount. A portrait client who orders a second commission gets an automatic discount. After they’ve purchased two portraits, they get a significant discount for any subsequent portraits. Think of this in the same way you think of frequent flyer miles—only better! This discount should be more than the other discounts you might offer, since you’re dealing with someone who is giving you more of their business.

I Want to Reward Clients Who Refer Others

Great! This is a wonderful way to encourage satisfied customers to bring others to you.

Let current or new clients know that for every paying client they refer to you, you’ll thank them with a reward. It could be a set dollar amount to be applied to their next purchase, a size upgrade, or something else that works for your work and the people who buy it.

The advantage to offering discounts is that it gives you a legitimate reason to give people discounts, but also sets guidelines for you, so you’re not giving away too much.

But you must decide in advance what discounts you’ll offer, when you’ll offer them, and how clients earn them. Having these details written in stone (so to speak) makes it easier to stick to the prices you set for your art.


Whatever method you use to price your art, make sure you add the price of framing to that. That’s a must. You can include shipping in your cost if you wish, but framing should always be extra. Why?

Because the price of frames varies so widely from simple and inexpensive to very expensive. Making framing extra also gives your client the option to choose the type of frame they want.

Vickie’s experience with her sister reminds me so much of myself. I ended up giving a lot of stuff away because I could never settle on a price and stick to it. Even now, after over forty years as an artist, it’s difficult not to feel guilty.

So the best pricing advice I can give you is this: You have a product someone is willing to get in exchange for money. Whatever pricing method you use, set your prices so they are fair to both your clients and to you. Both of you should go away from the sale satisfied.

Getting Past the Amateurish Look

One of the biggest problems facing beginning artists is getting past the amateurish look. I wrestled with that for some time, and even gave up on colored pencil for a while because of it.

So I was glad to see the following question from Kae.

I am very new to colored pencils. As I learned my drawing skills, I wanted color to ‘pop’ my drawings. So enter colored pencils. But they seemed to look so amateurish, but being such, I guess that is the only way they might look. To use them seems so laborious and I don’t know how to make them be fun in creating the color. Any suggestions?

Kae asks some great questions, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to answer them.

But she’s actually asked three questions, so I’ll break my answers up into three different posts. Today, we’ll talk about getting past the amateurish look with your colored pencil drawings. In the weeks to come, I’ll address each of the other two questions.

Getting Past the Amateurish Look

We all want our art to look more professional. Even if we’re not professional artists—or don’t consider ourselves professional artists—we want to make art we can be proud of.

Getting past the cartoony stage is the first big hurdle we face, isn’t it.

The Best Way to Get Past the Amateurish Look is Practice

Colored pencils are slow by nature. Making art with colored pencils is sort of like mowing the lawn with a pair of scissors. You can get a fantastic look, but it takes a long time! There are methods for speeding up the drawing process like working on colored papers, blending with solvents, and using other mediums for under drawings.

But little as we want to hear it, the best way is simply to keep drawing. The more drawings you do, the better your drawings get.

Watching videos, studying books about drawing, and reading blogs about drawing (yes, even this one) are all good ways to learn about new techniques. But in the end, if you don’t draw, you don’t improve.

Most of us begin with drawings that look amateurish (my early drawings certainly prove that point!) If you don’t give up, you will get better. And so will your drawings!

So how do you do more drawings (so you can get better faster) when colored pencil takes so long?

Work Small to Finish More Drawings Faster

Consider working small. Small drawings take less time, so you can do more drawings. You improve your skills much faster by completing a lot of small drawings, than if you work for a long time on one large drawing. (I wish I’d known this when I started!)

The great thing about colored pencils is that you can do really fantastic drawings that are no bigger than 4×6 or 5×7. This drawing is 3-1/2 by 5 inches.

Getting Past the Amateurish Look

Art trading cards are 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inches in size. They’re great for finishing drawings quickly.

A Few More Tips For Getting Past the Amateurish Look

Other than finishing as many drawings as you can, you can do a few other things to get you started properly.

You Learn More From Mistakes than Drawings that Go Well

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Yes, you’ll find a lot of things that don’t work, but you will also find things that do work. I know I learn more from my mistakes, than from the drawings that go well. So try things and learn from the mistakes!

Remember those little drawings I mentioned above? They’re ideal for trying out new pencils, new drawing methods, and otherwise just experimenting.

Use the best pencils and paper you can afford.

When you buy pencils, the very least you should look for is student-grade pencils. Artist-grade pencils are best, but can be expensive. Scholastic-grade pencils are made for grade school kids. They still color, but they have more filler than student- or artist-grade pencils, so they don’t cover the paper as well.

If you want artist-grade pencils, but money is tight, take a look at the Dick Blick colored pencils. They’re an artist-grade pencil, but are very competitively priced.

The same goes for paper. You can draw on newsprint or ordinary sketchbook paper. The fact is, I do a lot of plein air drawing in my sketchbook. But the better papers handle more layers of color, and some work with water media.

Getting Past the Amateurish Look - Use Good Paper

You can get good pencils and papers at places like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s. If you shop at Hobby Lobby, print a 40% off coupon before you go, and you can get 40% off the highest priced item you buy. That’s always a good deal!

Don’t leave outlines in your drawings

Outlines are what makes most beginners’ drawings look amateurish.

You can outline before you shade (I do that all the time,) but the outline should disappear as you add layers of color.

I’ve outlined part of this drawing before shading the shapes, but I used the same color on the outline that I’ll use to shade the shapes. When I finish, there will be no outline; just the edge between the dark and light shapes.

Take your time with each layer of color

If your color is splotchy when you finish—if some areas are lighter than others and you don’t want them that way—it may that you’re rushing through the drawing.

It doesn’t have to take hours to do each layer, but you should work carefully enough to fill in each part of the drawing with even color. Usually, the best way to do that is to draw with circular strokes. Circular strokes don’t leave start-and-stop marks like back-and-forth strokes do, and you can overlap them to create darker values.

The type of stroke you use matters less than taking the time to cover the paper, though. So just slow down a little. When you find yourself hurrying, take a break.

This is a difficult thing to train yourself to do, so that’s why I usually recommend that artists new to colored pencil do small drawings first.


There’s a lot more to getting your drawings past the amateurish look, but these things give you a place to begin

If you do nothing else, do this: Don’t expect your first drawings to look great. They probably won’t.

But they can if you keep drawing.

So keep drawing!

4 General Colored Pencil Tips

Today, I want to share four general colored pencil tips resulting from reader questions. Topics include tips for drawing water, drawing fur, drawing on colored paper, and a question about color theory.

4 General Colored Pencil Tips

Four General Colored Pencil Tips

1.  What Tips Do You Suggest for Drawing Water?

The best tip I can give for drawing water is to view it like an abstract. Look at the colors, edges, and shapes in the reference, then draw them as best you can.

Water is highly reflective; it picks up colors from the surroundings. So the colors you use to draw water depend entirely on the setting. Draw water in a marina using the colors of boats, bouys, sails, and docks. Draw water in a wooded setting with the colors of trees, rocks, grass, and sky.

There are also sharp edges between colors and values. The sharper the edges, the wetter the water will look.

Finally, observe the shapes that appear in the water. They may not make any sense while you’re drawing them, but if you draw them true to the reference, they will make sense when viewed all together.

4 General Colored Pencil Tips - Drawing Water

Don’t be discouraged if drawing water doesn’t work out the first time. Water is one of the most difficult things to draw accurately. It takes a lot of practice and skill, but you can do it.

Read Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water for more information.

2. What Tips Do You Suggest for Drawing Fur?

With hair and most textures like it (grass, for example), stroke in the direction of hair growth and match your strokes to the type of hair. Short, straight strokes for short, straight hair. Long strokes for long hair.

Don’t worry about drawing every hair, but concentrate on drawing the hair masses that occur naturally.

Mix colors to create color. If you’re drawing black, don’t use just a black pencil. When I draw a black horse, I use everything thing from dark green and dark blue to light violets and other colors.

The same rule of thumb applies to any color of hair. It’s always best to use at least three colors: one light value, one dark value, and one value in between.

4 General Colored Pencil Tips - Drawing Fur

Read Tips for Drawing Hair in Colored Pencil for more suggestions and examples.

3. What Tips Do You Suggest for Drawing on Toned Paper?

The color of the paper directly affects the way colors appear. A color that looks bright on white paper, will look duller on dark paper.

The darker the paper, the darker colors appear. Some of the darker colors will disappear altogether. Dark browns, dark blues, and dark greens will barely make a mark on dark paper.

If you use a medium value paper, you can draw highlights as well as shadows, and that can be a great time saver.

Colored paper sets the mood for the drawing. Yellow paper gives a drawing a bright, sunny feel, and gray paper creates a more subdued mood.

Do a few studies on the color of paper you want to try before starting a piece you hope to finish. Experiment with various color combinations. See what works and what doesn’t work.

4 General Colored Pencil Tips - Drawing Paper

Read Colored Drawing Papers for additional tips and suggestions for making the best use of colored paper.

4. How Does Color Theory Affect My Drawing?

Color theory affects every drawing just like gravity affects all of life. You don’t have to understand it in order for it to work. It just works.

But understanding how color theory works at even the most basic level helps you make better decisions about the colors you choose.

For example, complementary colors create “zing.” Cool colors generally recede into the distance, while warm colors generally move forward.

Adding accents in a warm color emphasizes an object that’s drawn in a setting filled with cool colors and vice versa.

I devoted one month to a discussion of color theory with articles that included the basics of color theory, how color theory affects art (including examples,) and a color theory drawing exercise.

4 General Colored Pencil Tips - Color Wheel

I also recommend a two-part podcast series on color theory for colored pencil by Sharpened Artist. Both episodes are excellent for a brief description of color theory and why it’s important to the artist, no matter the medium.

Listen to Color Theory Part 1, and Listen to Color Theory Part 2.

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained

If you’re a portrait artist, or any artist working in realism, an accurate line drawing is essential. There are many ways to produce accurate line drawings, including the method I’ve used for most of my artistic life. The grid method of drawing.

The plain and simple fact is that I’ve grown so familiar with this method that I assume everyone knows what it is and how to use it. Reality was revealed by the following reader question.

Would you please explain your grid method for this beginner?

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained

Since I’m wrapping up a piece of artwork this week and haven’t a new piece for a tutorial, I want to explain the grid method of drawing for this week’s Tuesday Tutorial.

(Don’t worry! This isn’t a technical article, but a quick overview. There are links to more detailed articles if you’re interested.)

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained

With the grid method of drawing, you draw or superimpose a grid on your reference photo, then draw the same grid on drawing paper. The subject is drawn square by square. When you finish drawing what appears in each square, you end up with a complete drawing.

A grid can be drawn directly on a print photo, on a digital photo, or on a sheet of clear plastic that you mount over a print photo. If you use a print photo, use an enlargement whenever possible. This will make the details easier to see.

Draw horizontal and vertical lines to create the drawing grid. The lines produce a series of squares. The squares can be any size. Thirds (three squares across and three squares down.)

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained Thirds

Four squares across and four squares down.

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained Quarters

The Golden Ratio.

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained Golden Ratio

Or a fixed pattern.

The Grid Method of Drawing Explained Fixed

In other words, the grid can be set up any way you wish. I usually set grids up with 1-inch squares because it’s easier to reduce or enlarge a 1″ grid.

TIP: The more complex your subject, the more squares your grid should have.

Read Putting a Drawing Grid on a Digital Photo.

Drawing with the Grid Method

Once you’ve decided on the type of grid you want to put on the photo, draw or print the same type of grid on a sheet of paper. You can use good drawing paper if you wish, but that’s not essential, since this first drawing is unlikely to be the finished line drawing.

There are a couple of way to make this drawing. Printing it is the easiest way. The article I linked above describes how to print an identical grid every time.

You can also draw a grid by hand. Just make sure your measurements are exact, and that the squares you draw are proportional to the squares on your reference photo. This is the best way to make a grid on drawing paper if you want the final drawing to be larger than what you can print.

Read a full-length tutorial that begins with a printed grid.

Read a full-length tutorial that begins with a hand-drawn grid.

Why You Might Use the Grid Method

Reproducing a reference photo with the grid method of drawing is a great way to break a complex subject down into bite-size sections. Make a finished drawing square by square, or rough in the entire composition, then refine it, square-by-square.

It’s a good way to create line drawings of unfamiliar subjects.

You can easily and accurately produce original line drawings that are smaller or larger than the original reference photo.

It can help you learn to see your subject better and draw more accurately, especially if you don’t trust yourself to freehand draw accurately.


Whether or not you use the grid method of drawing is entirely up to you. Some artists find it restricting and confusing, while others use it exclusively to produce line drawings.

It has worked for me for years, even with very complex subjects.

The best thing I can suggest is to try it a couple of times. If it suits you great! If not, look for a better drawing method.

After all, there is no right way to draw!


Can You Make Colored Pencil Permanent on Fabric

I’ve gotten a few questions from readers asking how to make colored pencil permanent on fabric. Almost to the person, the problem has been colors that either fade with use or wash out when laundered.

This isn’t a typical topic for this blog, but it’s a holiday day (happy Labor Day!) and the questions did arouse my curiosity, so here we are!

How to Make Colored Pencil on Fabric Permanent

Can You Make Colored Pencil Permanent on Fabric

Let’s first take a look at whether it’s even possible to make colored pencil art permanent if you’re drawing on fabric.

I’ve drawn on a lot of things over the years—mostly just to see what happens. But I’ve never tried colored pencils on fabric, so have no personal advice to offer.

So my first thought was that colored pencil doesn’t work on fabric at all.

Then I recalled a local quilt show that included a beautiful quilt enhanced with colored pencil drawings. The quilt would have been wonderful without the drawings, but the drawings definitely added to its appeal.

The quilters were avid in their craft, so I had to conclude that colored pencil does work on fabric.

Since these ladies were serious quilters and many of the quilts were made as heirlooms, I had to conclude there is a way to make colored pencil permanent on fabric.

The question then is: How?

How Do You Make Colored Pencil Permanent on Fabric?

I did a little research and came up with this tutorial from Sandra Leichner, who does make fabric art.

She suggests the use of something called a colorless extender. The brand she uses is Jacquard and, guess what? It’s available through Dick Blick!

What you do is make your drawing on the fabric, then lightly paint over it with this color extender. Let it air dry, then set it with a iron. Easy, right?

Sandra included a step-by-step tutorial with her post, and she included some handy tips. So  If you’re interested in doing colored pencil on fabric and want to make it permanent, then you may find Colored Pencil on Fabric helpful.

I certainly hope so, at any rate.


I don’t know about you, but this article sparked a few ideas. Fine art wall hangings anyone?

Whether you quilt or do fabric art or not, I hope you enjoyed this fun little article.

And if you do try drawing on fabric, let us know how it turns out! I, for one, am curious to know more.