How to Draw Carpet with Colored Pencil

I have learned so much from you in my learning of art work with colored pencils over the past few months, and I thank you for that. I’ve been searching for something lately and not really finding good answers. I need to figure out how to draw/color carpet with colored pencil for a portrait of a cat lying on carpet.

Thanks again, Carrie. I, and many other beginning artists, are benefiting greatly from your tutorials.


Thank you for your very kind words, Vickie. Thank you also for such a great question. The best way to answer your question is to show you how I’d draw carpet.

But first, a few guidelines that apply to almost every kind of colored pencil drawing.

Colored Pencil Guidelines

Use light pressure as long as possible. Using heavy pressure not only fills the tooth of the paper more quickly; it also presses it down. Both make it more difficult to add layers. In most cases, it’s better to work with light to medium pressure until the very end.

Don’t worry about getting everything exact. For those of us who love detail, it’s a constant struggle to avoid fixating on the details. I know I want everything perfect, but that’s a sure road to frustration. Instead, focus on capturing the character of the background. Color is a primary factor, but so is value. You can also add a few accents that hint at the details without emphasizing them.

Keep the background in the background. This is important. The background must stay in the background, or the drawing becomes too busy. Ways to do this are softening edges, muting colors, and minimizing details. It will matter less in a drawing such as this, where the background is limited to the pattern, color, and texture of the carpet, but it is still important.

Go slow. Every part of the drawing deserves your best work. It’s counter productive to rush through the background, because it is the background. Yes, it needs to be less important than the subject, but that doesn’t mean you skimp on time or effort. The subject and the background should work together. They should look like parts of the same drawing, rather than having a well drawn subject with a slapped together background. I did that in my younger days and it wasn’t helpful!

Let the paper work for you. There are times when the texture of the paper you’re using can help you draw your subject. I discovered that using light pressure with Stonehenge paper allows the texture of the paper to assist in creating the look of carpet. I hadn’t expected that.

Now you have a few basic guidelines for drawing this sort of background. Lets get to the tutorial.

How to Draw Carpet

Here’s a detail of the reference photo Vickie supplied. As you can see, it’s mostly blue, but there are different blues as well as a few bits of oranges and reds.

How to Draw Carpet - Reference Photo

Vickie is working on tan suede mat board. I’m doing the following tutorial on Fawn Stonehenge. The steps will work with any good drawing paper, though the results will vary depending on the tooth and color of paper you draw on.

By the way, I’m using Prismacolor pencils, but am using only colors with the best lightfast rating, so you don’t have to worry about fading if you use the same colors.

Step 1: Establish the Basic Color

Chose a good, middle value color for the carpet you’re drawing. With this dark blue carpet, I chose Mediterranean Blue, which I layered over the carpet with circular strokes and light pressure.

In this illustration, I drew horizontal strips across the sample, then worked my way back across the sample. The area on the left shows a couple of layers, while the area on the right shows one layer.

I also worked in columns, as shown in the lower left corner.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 1

Do three or four layers, and stagger the layers so you don’t cover the entire area with any one layer. The resulting variation in values will begin establishing the look of a fabric. You can follow the pattern of light and dark in your reference photo, or let the layers overlap in a totally random manner.

The following illustration shows my sample after two or three additional layers.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 1b

TIP: If you want to create the look of carpet without adding additional colors, you can work entirely with one or two colors, and continue layering until you have the color saturation you want. You could even do it with just one color, but I strongly recommend against that, since using a single color could result in a flat looking area of color.

Step 2: Add a Second Color to Create Color Depth

Layer a second shade of the blue to the carpet. Use the same layering method. I chose Indigo Blue, which I applied with light pressure in a random pattern. I didn’t want to totally cover up the Mediterranean Blue, but did want darker variations in the carpet.

This illustration shows two or three layers of Indigo Blue. Again, I overlapped layers so that some areas are darker than others.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 2

Step 3: Darken the Values

Next, I darkened the overall values with two layers of Black. The first layer was applied over all of the blue with light pressure and circular strokes. The second layer was applied only in the darker areas, and mostly at the bottom.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 3

Step 4: Add a Complement

To keep the blues from looking too flat or vibrant, I layered Henna over all of the area twice. I used light pressure and circular strokes for both layers.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 4

Step 5: Repeat

If the carpet were a solid, slate gray or blue-gray color, this would be a sufficient treatment for background purposes.

But the carpet in the reference is quite a bit darker, so I’ve added more layers of Indigo Blue, Black, and Mediterranean Blue to darken the overall color.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 5

I also drew a cast shadow in the upper right corner, and began establishing the diagonal pattern in the carpet’s weave.

TIP: The carpet in the reference photo shows the weave on the diagonal. If that works all right with the coverall composition, it’s okay to draw the weave on the diagonal. I couldn’t help feeling my sample looked a little off balance with the diagonal detailing. I kept wanting to make it horizontal, but my sample is taken out of context. Do whatever works best with your composition and subject.

SUGGESTION: Save the next two steps until after the drawing is completely finished, then do only as much of each step as you need.

Step 6: Add a Few Details

Finally, add a few details to suggest the surface color and texture. I used Powder Blue, Mineral Orange, and Beige to burnish small circular spots over the blue of the carpet.

You don’t need a lot of these. Cluster them in a random pattern near the cat. As you move away from the cat, reduce the number of accents, and also make their edges softer and more blurry.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 6

Step 7: Add Highlights

This step is optional. If you like the way the carpet looks after step 6, you’re good. If you don’t then consider adding a few overall highlights. Chose a color that’s lighter than the main colors to burnish a few highlights. You can also use a colorless blender if you have one. This will blend the areas you burnish without changing the color.

If you chose to burnish highlights, wait until the drawing is completely finished. It’s quite possible you’ll discover you don’t need to do Step 4 after the rest of the drawing is finished.

DEFINITION: Burnishing is pressing very hard on the paper with your pencil, to “grind” colors together. It works best after you’ve applied all the other colors, usually late in the drawing, or just before you finish an area. Burnishing does press down the paper tooth, and also lays down a lot of wax, so it can be difficult to add more color over an area you’ve burnished.

I went ahead and burnished my sample just so you could see the difference. On the left, I used a colorless blender, the center is unburnished, and on the right, I used Powder Blue. In both cases, I used circular strokes drawn either on the diagonal or horizontally and large enough so that not every inch of the sample was covered.

How to Draw Carpet - Step 7

I’m not sure which option I like best. It really depends on the overall drawing.


And that’s how I’d draw carpet.

If you’ve ever drawn carpet, how what method did you use?

Is Tracing Cheating?

I love getting questions from readers (what blogger doesn’t?) The readers who ask questions also love getting answers. It’s long been my practice to answer each question as I receive it, personally and directly.

But some of the questions are so good, I know other readers are wondering the same thing. Those types of questions deserve a public answer.

Hi Carrie
When drawing a portrait in coloured pencil, be it animal or human, do you start with a tracing or freestyle? What is commonly preferred?

That’s a great question, Jo!

The short answer to the question is “yes.”

Most of the time, I begin portraits by creating a detailed line drawing using the grid method for drawing, a method I’ve used for almost as long as I can remember. For simpler compositions and most landscapes, I freehand a line drawing without using a grid.

And sometimes I start by making a tracing directly from the reference photo.

So, as I said, the answer is yes.

But the question leads naturally into another question that is almost always guaranteed to generate vigorous debate.

Is Tracing Cheating

I used to believe tracing was cheating. I truly did. Since I was charging good money for portraits of horses, I felt duty-bound (not to mention honor bound) to make every pencil and brush mark with my own hand, unguided by anything but what I could see in a reference photo. Somehow, I’d be cheating clients if I drew the line drawing by tracing.

Interestingly enough, I had no qualms about tracing my line drawing onto the canvas or drawing paper. Somehow, that didn’t seem like the same thing. Maybe it was because I was tracing my own work.

So Is Tracing Cheating?

I no longer think of tracing as cheating, and here are a few reasons why.

Tracing Isn’t Easy

Most people think that making a drawing by tracing is easy. A snap. A trained monkey could do it, because it involves no skill whatsoever.


I confess that I used to think this way. But I’ve traced enough different things enough times to know that if I hurry through the process or am careless, the traced line drawing is no better than a carelessly drawn freehand drawing.

Hand control and pencil control are no less important when tracing a drawing as when drawing with the grid method. Either way, I need to be able to get the pencil to do exactly what I want it to do.

Sometimes, I think it takes more skill to accurately follow a pattern than to draw freehand (maybe that’s why I never picked up the sewing habit.)

Tracing is Not a Silver Bullet

Tracing your subject to create a line drawing doesn’t guarantee a successful piece of art. You still have to layer and glaze color, you still have to know enough about color theory to know which colors to use, and you still need to know how to shade in order to make that line drawing look realistic. In other words, you still need to know how to draw.

Tracing is a Good Way to Improve Drawing Skills

Tracing something repeatedly—horses or cats for example—is a good way to teach yourself to draw so long as you’re using good photographs. Photos that don’t have a lot of distortion in them. Especially if you’re learning how to draw a new subject, you can benefit by tracing the subject several times, then drawing it freehand.

I’ve always been an equine portrait artist. Horse people paid me for portraits of their horses.

But horse portraits don’t always mean just horses are in the portrait. Sometimes tack is involved, and sometimes mechanical equipment is also involved.

For this oil portrait, I drew everything by hand using the grid method. Everything. But the racing bike never satisfied me, and I had special problems getting the wheels right. So after several attempts to get the curves right freehand, I made a couple of tracings of that part of the reference photo.

Is Tracing Cheating - Learning to Draw Something New

You can see the wheels still aren’t as rounded and balanced as they should be in the finished painting, but tracing them a few times did improve my ability to draw the curves with a brush when it came time to paint them.

Tracing is a Good Way to Get Accurate Drawings

If you’re doing portrait work in which the subject you draw must look like the subject you’re drawing, tracing can be a life-saver.

Take this line drawing, for example. I can draw a horse in almost any imaginable position or posture, but technical drawing of any kind is a major struggle. So I drew the horse in both views, the bridles and equipment on the head study, and the landscape elements. Then I traced the racing bike and the driver to make sure they were accurate.

I’d learned my lesson from the oil portrait, you see!

hbIs Tracing Cheating - Line Drawing

So what I recommend now is to trace something a couple of times to get a feel for the shapes, then try drawing it freehand.

If that doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with tracing that part of the composition as part of the line drawing.

Tracing a Reference Photo Simplifies It

Let’s face it. Sometimes, a reference photo shows too many things.

Or maybe the edges get lost because colors or values are too similar.

You can clean up the composition by making a careful tracing first. You can, of course, use that tracing as your final line drawing, or you can use it as a reference from which to make a line drawing.

Even if you chose to create your line drawing directly from the reference photo, a carefully drawn tracing can be a good benchmark against which to compare your final drawing. I have used tracings in this way on quite a few more complex compositions.

Tracing is a Time Saver

I spent two or three weeks on each of the line drawings for the portraits above. Tracing the original line drawing could have saved a considerable amount of time on both, not to mention personal frustration, and having to rush things at the end of the process to meet deadlines.

So is tracing cheating?

Not in my book. At least no longer.

But I also understand that it’s as much a personal preference as anything. If tracing violates your conscience, don’t do it.

Otherwise, make use of it just as you would any other tool in your artists’ toolbox.

What Are the Best Colored Pencils for Fine Art?

i want to learn the techniques used in color pencil art and want to know what are the best colored pencils for fine art

This post begins Q&A month, and I couldn’t think of a better question to begin with, so thank you for asking!

It doesn’t matter what style you work in, what method you use, or what level of artist you are, you want the best tools available. That begins with colored pencils.

But there are a lot of different types and brands of colored pencils out there. How do you decide which one (or ones) are the best for fine art?

What Are the Best Colored Pencils for Fine Art

There is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer for this question, since much depends on the methods you use and the type of art you want to draw.

Much also depends on where in the world you are. Different brands are available in different parts of the world. What’s easy to find here in the US may not be available at all in Europe or Down Under.

But we can begin the discussion with a few basics that apply across the board.

Basic Tips for Choosing Colored Pencils

Buy open stock. Sets are great for getting started if you already know what type of pencil you want to use. Before that, get three or four pencils from a variety of manufacturers. Test them. See which you like best, then consider buying a set.

Buy the best pencils you can afford. It’s far better to buy a few high-quality pencils and learn to use them well, than to buy a lot of pencils that are lower in quality. It’s much easier to make an informed decision about the medium when you test it at its best.

Read Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils.

Sample different brands. Draw your favorite subjects on your favorite papers with a number of different kinds of pencils to get a true feel for which pencils are best suited to you. (Another great reason to buy a few pencils in open stock.)

When looking for recommendations from other artists, look for artists who are producing the type of art you want to draw. Study their methods and the tools they use. If they offer product reviews, watch or read those. The honest opinions of people who have used or are using a pencil you want to try is always a good place to start.

And that brings me to the point of this post.

The Best Colored Pencils for Fine Art

This article is not meant to be an in-depth review of every brand of pencil on the market. There are just too many pencils to make that possible in a single post.

So I’m going to briefly review the pencils that work well for my methods and the papers I use. Your experiences may be different, but I hope this list gives you a place to begin your search for the best colored pencils for your art.

The list is arranged alphabetically, rather than in order of preference.

Faber-Castell Polychromos

Faber-Castell Polychromos are an excellent pencil for most methods of drawing. They sharpen well, lay down color very nicely, and produce exquisite detail. Artists who use them include Lisa Clough and Wendy Layne.

Polychromos pencils are oil-based with a harder pigment core than most wax-based pencils, so they handle differently. In my admittedly limited experience, I can feel more resistance between pencil and paper. But I can do more coloring with them than with Prismacolor, even on rougher papers like Canson Mi-Teintes.

The two brands work well together, though I suggest putting down Prismacolor pencils for the initial layers, then coming back with Polychromos for detail work.

The initial cost is higher per pencil for Polychromos than Prismacolor, but you get higher quality, more lightfast colors, and pencils that go further than the softer Prismacolor pencils.

The range of earth tones is also a treat for an artist like me, who prefers drawing horses and landscapes.

Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils

Koh-I-Nor makes a solid colored pencil. I have a set of the Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless oil-based pencils that I like quite well. The biggest problem with them is that they are available in only twenty-four colors.

Using them is a pleasure. They lay down color well and are ideal for color sketches, plein air drawing, and covering lots of paper quickly. I used them quite a bit for the Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge a few months back.

I have yet to use them for a more “finished” piece, but have no doubts they will perform just as well.

The best thing about them is that they have no wood casing. It’s 100% pigment, with a lacquer finish to keep your fingers clean.

They are also well-rated for lightfastness. Only four of the twenty-four colors are rated good or satisfactory, with the remaining twenty colors rated excellent or very good.

Get a free Koh-I-Nor Progresso Color Chart Download.

Prismacolor Premier & Verithin

I still use Prismacolor Premier and Verithin pencils for the bulk of my work, because they’re what I have.

Both pencils are wax-based. Prismacolor Premier (aka Soft Core), is a softer pencil with a thicker pigment core. You can lay down rich color more easily with these than with the Verithin pencils, but you will also find yourself sharpening more often, and filling up paper tooth more quickly.

The Verithin pencils have a smaller pigment core that holds a point much longer and is ideal for first color layers and drawing details. It’s not impossible to get deep, rich color with them, but it is quite a bit more difficult. Thirty-six colors are available.

Both lay down color very well, and you can get a high degree of detail on a variety of papers, but quality issues makes buying them a risk most of the time. Purchase open stock in person, and check each pencil for centered pigment cores, and straightness.

Read Four Ways to Know You’re Buying High Quality Colored Pencils on EmptyEasel.

Artists who use Prismacolor include myself, Morgan Davidson, and Cecile Baird.

A Few Words of Caution

When I first began using colored pencils, Prismacolor pencils were state-of-the-art. But the company has changed hands several times and is no longer an industry standard, in my opinion.

I do still recommend Prismacolor pencils, but with caveats. If you get a good batch of pencils, they are a delight to use. Otherwise, be prepared for the inconveniences of broken pigment cores, split wood casings, and possible grit. My experiences have been mostly positive, but I do still have a large number of older Prismas in my collection.

Prismacolor pencils are not all lightfast, so if you’re concerned about producing artwork that will last a long time without fading, you need to be selective in the colors you buy. I no longer use colors rated III, IV, or  V. That’s roughly half the colors in a full set, so it’s best to buy open stock and buy only colors rated I or II.

Crafters can be comfortable using all the colors without worry.

For all you fine artists, chose colors with discretion, or advise art buyers to use conservation glazing.

Colored Pencils On My Wish List

The next few pencils are not pencils with which I have personal experience, but they are pencils I want to try. The reasons vary from simple curiosity to favorable reviews from artists whose work I admire and whose opinions I respect.

Again, the list is in alphabetical order, not necessarily the order in which I rate each brand.

Blick Studio Artist’s Colored Pencils intrigue me because they are a high quality product at a good price (under $1 each open stock.) Dick Blick negotiated an agreement with the makers of Utrecht Premium Colored Pencils to produce the pencil under the Blick Studio brand for sale in the US. Utrecht Premium Colored Pencils in a Dick Blick wrapper. What’s not to like?

Caran d’Ache Luminance wax-based colored pencils. Very expensive, but also opaque, so you can draw light over dark.

Caran d’Ache Pablo Pencils are to Luminance what Verithin pencils are to Prismacolor Soft Core. I like the combination of hard and soft with Prsimacolor products, so why not with Caran d’Ache.

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Oil-Based Colored Pencils are on my Wish List for the very simple reason that I once had a Lyra Rembrandt Splendor Blender and lovedit.


There you have it. My recommendations as to the best colored pencils for fine art. As I said, it’s nowhere near an exhaustive list, but hopefully it gives you a place to begin your own search for the ideal colored pencil.

Before you buy any pencil, do a little research. Look for honest and open reviews either on the product pages where you normally buy art supplies, or video reviews.

Then make your selections based on that information.

Want to know what I’d buy if I were just starting out? Dream Colored Pencil Shopping List.




How Can I Make a Colored Pencil Drawing Look Like an Oil Painting?

What are the best ways to make a colored pencil drawing look like an oil painting?

Whenever anyone asks me this question, it’s almost certain they want to know about color application, method, and so on. That is, after all, what we usually think about when it comes to colored pencil: Method.

There are a couple of ways to get an oil painting-like result with colored pencils that involve method, but that’s not where the process begins if you truly want your colored pencil drawing to look like an oil painting.

How to Make a Colored Pencil Drawing Look Like an Oil Painting

Choosing a Support

The process begins at the beginning, with the support you use. You can, of course, use the paper you usually use and the methods I’ll describe in a moment will work. But you’ll still have to frame the drawing under glass. No matter how painterly your drawing, it will still clearly be a drawing.

So the first thing you need to consider is drawing on a rigid support. Something like Pastelbord, or a gessoed panel that doesn’t need to be framed under glass.

There are plenty of options from which to choose, so pick one or two (or three or four), and try them. Find one that works well with your drawing methods and suits your needs, and you’re ready!

Choosing a Method

Almost any method of drawing is capable of producing “painterly” colored pencil work. Why? Because styles of painting range from very loose and minimal to very detailed and complex. I usually think of realistic styles when I want to make a colored pencil drawing look like an oil painting, but that’s not your only option.

Two Options for Saturated Color

I’m going to make a huge assumption here, and say that most of the readers who ask how to make their colored pencil drawings look like oil paintings want to know how to draw rich, saturated color, with no paper holes. I have two suggestions for you!

(If you want to make your drawings look like oil paintings, but not with saturated color, let me know!)

Option 1: Layer, Layer, Layer

The method I prefer is multiple layering. Not five or six layers or even a dozen, but twenty or thirty.

Start with light pressure and careful color application, then gradually increase the pressure with successive layers. Burnish toward the end and alternate burnishing with additional layers of color.

My preferred paper for this kind of work is Stonehenge. It’s a relatively soft paper, but it can take a lot of color. If you use a heavier weight such as 120 lb. (320 gsm), it can also take some abuse. It is a printmaking paper, though, so it is rather susceptible to impression. You can very easily make a mark in it accidentally.

NOTE: Using this method on Stonehenge will produce wonderful color saturation and no paper holes—just like an oil painting—but you will still need to frame it under glass to protect the paper.

Option 2: Solvents

The second method—which I have used but don’t prefer—is the use of solvents.

Turpentine or rubber cement thinner are what I usually use, but only sparingly. You can usually get a couple of good blends with either. I used rubber cement thinner to blend the background on this drawing.

Make a Colored Pencil Drawing Look Like an Oil Painting - Background

I choose this sample, because the blended background looks like a background painted with oils, but the unblended horse is clearly colored pencil. You can clearly see the difference a solvent blend makes in color saturation. In order to make this drawing really look like an oil painting, I’d need to add more layers on the horse, and then possibly blend with solvent.

Other artists use odorless paint thinner or a powder blender, but I don’t personally recommend those, since I have no experience with either.

Tips for Using Solvent to Blend

If you use a solvent to blend, you need to have a lot of color on the paper first, so multiple layers are still important.

You also need a heavier paper. Paper mounted to a rigid support is best, because it will stand up to the fluid solvent better.

Keep gradations in value and color smooth and subtle. Consider the way you put color on the paper, too. Careful strokes, usually following the contours of the subject, but also using other strokes to cover the paper.

NOTE: Using this method on a rigid support will allow you to frame the finished work without glass, which will enhance the similarity to an oil painting.


Those are the best suggestions I can make. It is possible to do a portrait in colored pencil that looks like an oil painting. Though my portraits are usually horses or dogs, I have been able to do some that are difficult to distinguish from an oil painting, even when hanging next to an oil painting.

Except for the glass, of course. The glass is a dead giveaway. Most artists just don’t frame oils under glass!

3 Ways of Mixing Water Color Colored Pencils and Regular Colored Pencils

What is the best way of mixing water color colored pencils and regular colored pencils?

I don’t use watercolors and colored pencils very often, but I have used water soluble colored pencils. When I do, I use a couple of different methods, depending on the requirements of each drawing.

One of those methods also works with watercolor, so in this post, I’ll describe two ways to use water soluble colored pencils in your drawings and followup with a suggestion for using watercolor with regular colored pencils.


Mixing Water Color Colored Pencils and Regular Colored Pencils

There are two basic ways for mixing water color colored pencils and regular colored pencils. (Actually, there are three, but one of them involves drawing with them just like traditional colored pencils and not using water. That’s what I did for my plein air challenge drawing from week seven.)

2016-10-14 Plein Air Drawing Week 7, Step 2

It’s perfectly fine to use water soluble pencils this way, so don’t think you have to add water in order to draw with water soluble colored pencils.

But since this article is all about adding water, here are the other two ways you can use water soluble colored pencils.

Draw First, Then Add Water

Most of the time, I draw with them just like I do with traditional colored pencils, then use a damp brush to activate the color. When the color dries, it can be drawn over again.

This is usually best done at the beginning of the drawing process. This method as a great way to do a quick under drawing or to create even areas of color for skies or similar areas.

Below is a sample. I drew with water soluble colored pencil first, then brushed part of it with a wet brush.


Of course, you may continue drawing with water soluble colored pencils and you can also continue activating them with water, layer after layer. Every time you dampen the paper, however, you will blend all of the colors; not just the ones you added most recently. If you do more than one wash with water, keep in mind how the different colors will affect each other (if you used more than one color).

You can also go over water soluble colored pencils with traditional pencils.

Add Water First, Then Draw

Another way of mixing water color colored pencils with regular colored pencils is by dampening the pencil point, then drawing. This is very easy. Simply dip the tip of a water soluble colored pencil in clear water, then draw with it. You will get a very bold mark that way, but you’ll have to dip the pencil frequently.

In this illustration, I dipped a pencil in clean water, then began drawing. The first marks (on the left) are nice and dark with no paper showing through. As I continued to draw, the pencil dried and the marks became lighter and less sharp. The marks on the right are with the dry pencil. I didn’t lift the pencil at all in drawing from left to right.


This is especially good for adding accents where you want vibrant or dark color. It works best in very small areas or for details. It’s not very efficient for drawing large areas of color.

Again, mixing water color colored pencils and regular colored pencils with this method is possible. Just make sure to test any new method on a piece of scrap paper first.

Watercolor And Colored Pencils

Watercolors and colored pencils do mix, but you’re likely to find the watercolor a little more limited in usefulness. Water soluble colored pencils are made to work with traditional colored pencils. Watercolor is not.

Even so, you have one proven method and one method that may or may not work.

Watercolor Under Painting

The best way to use watercolors with colored pencils is to tone papers with washes of color first. If you’re going to draw a landscape, for example, use watercolor to block in the major elements. Sky. Grass. Buildings. You’re not looking for a lot of detail here. Indeed, you probably won’t be looking for any detail at all.

If you’re using a standard drawing paper (one not made for watercolor), you will have to be careful not to get the paper or board too wet or it may buckle or warp.


You can use watercolor papers, but you will have a more difficult time drawing detail with colored pencil due to the tooth of the paper. The drawing shown here was drawn on watercolor paper. The watercolor under painting is shown above. Below is the finished drawing.

Watercolor as Under Painting for Colored Pencil Finished

Once the under painting was dry, I used normal drawing methods to build color and value, add details, and finish the drawing. For this drawing, the watercolor under painting saved a lot of time and filled the tooth of the paper better than I could have done using colored pencils alone.

Watercolor Over Colored Pencil

I have used watercolor over wax pencil, but with mixed results. The watercolor did stick to the layers of colored pencils (a big surprise!), but I couldn’t add more colored pencil over the watercolor.

The following drawing made use of watercolor over colored pencil and while the drawing itself turned out fairly well, I don’t recommend this method without a trial run. Test it first for yourself, then decide whether it suits you or not.

Read Can You Add Watercolor Over Wax-Based Colored Pencil?

Green Landscape 33

One Disclaimer

All of the methods I’ve described here involve using wax-based colored pencils. I have no reason to think oil-based colored pencils would respond any differently, but I don’t know for sure. So if you want to use oil-based pencils with these methods, do a small test drawing first.

If you use oil-based colored pencils with water soluble colored pencils or watercolors, let us know what has worked for you.

Additional Reading

Want more information on mixing water media and colored pencils? I’ve written some articles for EmptyEasel that might be helpful.

How to Draw a Sunrise Landscape with Water Soluble Colored Pencils – Part 1

Drawing a Sunrise with Water Soluble Colored Pencils – Part 2

How to Start a Drawing with Water Soluble Colored Pencils

Using Dry Colored Pencils over a Water-Soluble Colored Pencil Drawing

Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could remove color from a colored pencil drawing? You’re not alone, as the following reader question reveals:

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

My first response to any question like this is to tell the artist to take heart. In most cases, you don’t need to start a drawing over, particularly if it’s nearly finished. There are ways to lighten or remove color and make corrections, even over heavy applications of color.

How to Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

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

How to Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

There are several ways to remove color from a colored pencil drawing without damaging the drawing or the paper. Following are the methods that have given me the best success.

Transparent Tape

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

How to remove color with Transparent Tape

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

Lay the tape sticky side down on the paper

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

Lift carefully.


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

The one thing you don’t want to do is tear the paper, so work slowly and carefully. Evaluate the drawing each time and stop when you’ve removed enough color to continue drawing.

There is one other warning I need to share. Transparent tape does tend to leave the surface of the paper a bit slick feeling. The smoother the paper to begin with, the more likely using tape will leave the paper slick. That’s why it’s important not to overuse transparent tape in lifting color.

Removing Additional Color With An Eraser

After you’ve done everything you can do with the tape, use a hard eraser (like a click eraser).

A click eraser can be sharpened to a fairly sharp point that allows you to do more detailed color removal. Used in tandem with a color guard, you can remove color and create shapes or edges.

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

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

Adding New Color

Once you’ve lifted all the color you want to lift or can lift from your drawing, it’s time to add new color. Use the same methods you used to put down the original color.

You will have to be more diligent in keeping your pencils sharp because you’ll be working over a “used” surface.

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

A Demonstration

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

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - First step in removing color from a colored pencil drawing.

Once I finished drawing the ball, the highlight seemed too small. To make it larger, I need to remove some of the color.

Using tape to lift color

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

Removing more color with a click eraser.

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

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

Then I cleaned the eraser by rubbing it on a scrap piece of paper until there was no color left on the eraser.

Next, I worked only on the brightest area. Again, I used circular strokes and went over the highlight a couple times.

I continued to remove color from this drawing until it looked the way I wanted it to look.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - Third step in removing color from a colored pencil drawing.

Another Demonstration

Here’s another ball. I drew this one the same way. Lots of color applied with lots of pressure. But rather than lift color, I want to add color.

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

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

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - Third step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

Then I layered Powder Blue over the left half of the highlight with medium heavy pressure.

As I moved into the darker part of the highlight, I decreased pressure and gradually blended the blue into the surrounding middle values.

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

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

That’s How I Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

It isn’t the only ways to remove or lighten color, but it works for me and will work for you, too. The key is to work slowly and carefully.

There are other ways to lighten colors, which I write about in How to Make Colors Lighter.

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

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