Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors

Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors

When it comes to colored pencils, do fading colors still fade under non-fading colors?

A reader recently asked if fading colors would fade if used under non-fading colors. Since I sometimes wonder that myself—it’s such a shame not to be able to use all those lovely colors that are also fading—the question struck a chord.

That kind of information may be available online, but I couldn’t find it, so I decided to find out for myself.

I’m already in the middle of a couple of color swatch tests. One of them just happens to include testing a background which I drew with fading and non-fading colors. Both tests are being conducted in my usual manner: making color swatches and exposing them to unfiltered sunlight for an extended period of time.

Read An Easy Way to Test Colored Pencil Lightfastness.

Color Swatch Test

One of the tests is a basic personal test of some of my favorite Prismacolor colors that rate poorly according to Prismacolor. I wanted to find out if they really were as fugitive as they’re reported to be. It’s a straight forward test of color swatches and won’t help us much in answering today’s question.

I made the swatches, then covered half of the page with opaque paper and put it in south-facing window.

The first test began January 5, 2018, and is scheduled for review March 30.

March 30, 2018 Update: Of the seven colors on this test, three are visibly faded. Orange is the most faded. Light Cerulean Blue and Limepeel are clearly faded, but not as much as the orange.

Sky Blue Light faded, as well, but it’s not as obvious as the others. Perhaps because it’s such a light color to begin with.

The other colors—True Blue, Non Photo Blue, and Canary Yellow—show very little fading.

I’m particularly disappointed in the Limepeel. That used to be one of my favorite greens!

It’s been twelve weeks since this test began and I could have considered it finished. But I decided to continue for another few weeks. Just to see what happens.

Partially Finished Painting

The second test is a bokeh background I drew last year before pulling some of those favorite colors out of my toolbox. I mixed fading and non-fading colors to draw the background. This test will help us find an answer to the reader’s question.

Colors used on this painting are listed below, along with their lightfast rating.

Dark BrownICreamII
Dark GreenIIndigo BlueII
SepiaIOlive GreenII
Sienna BrownIPumpkin OrangeII
Marine GreenIIISandII
LimepeelVPumpkin OrangeII

Only two colors are suspect (much to my surprise!). Marine Green and Limepeel. Since both are sandwiched between more lightfast colors, this will be a good test, and should provide some insight into the reader’s question.

This test began January 25, 2018. The first review (4 weeks) was March 22, 2018, and I saw no visible fading. That was very encouraging!

2018.04.19—Checked the drawing. Again, I saw no clear evidence of fading. Hopes are starting to rise. Maybe I can finish this one after all.

Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors–The Tests

Good as those tests might be, I decided it was best to create new tests designed for this purpose. The tests were conducted on Bristol Vellum. I tested three colors of each of the primaries, and used Prismacolor Soft Core pencils because they’re among the most popular pencils (and they’re what I had available.)

Prismacolor rates their colors by five categories as follows:

I – Excellent

II – Very Good

III – Good

IV – Fair

V – Poor

Last year, I removed all the colors with a III rating or lower because that was easier than keeping all the colors together and trying remember which were fading and which weren’t. But I still have some of those fugitive colors.

For the purposes of these tests, I selected a I, III, and V from each of the three primary color categories. In one test, I layered the two lower rated colors first, then layered the top-rated color over them. For the second test, the top-rated color was beneath the other two.

Each color was put on the paper with medium pressure or higher. I was more interested in getting a good amount of color on the paper than with beautiful layering.

Color Testing – Greens

Limepeel is rated at V by Prismacolor. That’s a poor rating and means the color fades fairly quickly. The top bar below is Limepeel.

The second color is Spring Green, which is rated III (good) by Prismacolor.

I shaded both colors onto the sample paper.

Then I shaded a block of Dark Green (rated I – excellent) over both.

For the second phase, I shaded a bar of Dark Green onto the paper, then layered Limepeel (left) and Spring Green over the Dark Green with heavier pressure. Not quite burnishing, but pretty close.

Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors - Green Color Test 2

Color Testing – Blues

I did the same thing with three shades of blue. I chose Powder Blue (I), Non-Photo Blue (III), and Ultramarine Blue (V).

First, the fading colors under the non-fading color.

Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors - Blue Color Test 1

Then the fading colors over the non-fading color.

Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors - Blue Color Test 2

Color Testing – Reds

And finally, the red colors; Crimson Lake (I), Pale Vermilion (III), and Poppy Red (V).

Fading colors under non-fading color.

Fading colors over non-fading color.

Do Fading Colors Still Fade Under Non-Fading Colors - Red Color Test 2

All three were put into the test window, which faces south and gets full sun all day. It will continue to get full sun until the trees leaf out, so the test samples should be properly exposed.

The test began on March 1.

March 29, 2018 Update: I examined the color test and the good news is that I saw no visible fading. The bad news is that we’ve had a lot of cloudy weather this March, so the results are inconclusive. I put the samples back into the window, and will give them another four weeks!

April 28, 2018 Update: I examined the color test and could see no visible fading after eight weeks. We did have some cloudy weather, but more sunshine than the first four weeks.

Do Fading Colors Still Fade When Layered Under Non-Fading Colors?

I don’t yet know.

I seriously hope for positive results, especially from that bokeh background test.

But whatever happens, I will update this post each time I check the tests, including images for comparison. So stay tuned!


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