Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Are you ready to experiment with your colored pencils? Maybe you’re looking for something other than paper. How about drawing on wood?

Yes! I’m serious. Drawing on wood is not a far-fetched idea.

Nor is it a new idea.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

The fact is that artists have been painting on wood for centuries. So not draw on it, too?

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

Birch wood has long been an accepted support for oil paintings and other artistic mediums. Many of the Great Masters used hard woods as a supports for their oil paintings. Why? Because it was readily accessible, reasonably easy to prepare, and lasted a long time.

Since much of their artwork was for clients and on pieces of furniture, it was also the logical choice.

For some, it may also have been the only choice, since painting on wood pre-dates canvas.

Why Drawing on Wood May Be Your Best Choice

Should you consider wood for colored pencil work? Absolutely, and here are seven reasons why.

Wood is Rigid

It’s a solid support that’s impossible to tear or puncture. No framing required!

The fact of the matter is that some wood supports are designed with keyholes in the back so you can hang them without adding a hanging device.

Wood Grain Makes a Great Background Treatment

You know how many times you’ve wished for a better way to do backgrounds? I’ll bet you never considered wood grain.

You should. Some hardwoods have beautiful wood grain. Depending on the type of art you do, and the subjects you draw, you might not be able to find a more natural fit for a background treatment.

It’s Readily Available

Believe it or not, wood is still readily available in a variety of locations. When’s the last time you visited a lumberyard?

Yes, that wood is milled for construction uses, but if you choose carefully, you can still get great wood for drawing on. The best part? It’s already kiln dried, so you can draw on it immediately.

Don’t want to use lumberyard wood? That’s okay. It’s also available as an art supply from many locations, including Dick Blick. Primed and unprimed selections are available. You will pay more, but the panels come in a variety of standard and exotic hardwoods, and in a number of standard sizes.

I’ve even used wood from a tree felled in our front yard. I had to let it air dry for a year, but it was beautiful to draw on.

It’s Inexpensive

You  can, of course, pay a lot of money for exotic woods, but you don’t have to. Maples, oaks, and other hardwoods are readily available at reasonable prices in most locations.

Especially if you buy from a lumberyard outlet.

Its Long-Lasting

Some of the best preserved oil paintings from centuries ago were painted on wood. Wood lasts just as long if you use colored pencils on it.

Just make sure to use the best, most lightfast pencils you have, though.

It Smells Great

At least I think it does. I love the smell of milled wood! Sawdust even smells good.

But the thing I like best about drawing on wood is….

It Stands on Its Own

Seriously. I did one small piece on a quarter-inch thick piece of wood, and it stands up by itself! Art like that is a great novelty item for people who love art, but may not be able to afford a full size drawing or painting.

Besides, those little drawings make great gifts.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils

I hope to do a tutorial on this subject in the future, so stayed tuned.

Drawing on Wood with Colored Pencils Miniature Landscape

In the meantime, I wrote a tutorial on drawing on wood for EmptyEasel, showing you how I drew the miniature landscape shown above. You can read Drawing with Colored Pencils on Wood here.

Are You Curious about Drawing on Wood Yet?

I hope so!

Here are a few recommendations on wood panels to try. They’re all from Dick Blick, but you can find similar products elsewhere.

American Easel Maple Panels

Ampersand Value Series Artist Wood Panels

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed Art Boards Natural Maple Panels

Baltic Birch Panels. I’ve painted on these and they’re absolutely gorgeous for oil painting. One unprimed 16×20 begs constantly to be used for colored pencil work.

Blick Studio Wood Panels

Duho Studios Exotic Hardwood Fine Art Panels. These are quite expensive because the woods are all exotic (have you ever heard of Zebra Wood?) But they’re beautiful!


    1. Did you seal the walnut with anything before you drew on it? If you did seal it, what did you use? If the sealer made the wood slick feeling, it’s possible the pencil isn’t sticking to it and if that’s the case, there isn’t much you can do as far as I know.

      Does anyone else have a suggestion?

      1. Erin W.

        No, I didn’t seal it before starting. It was raw wood, sanded smooth. I didn’t cover it with the drawing because the wood is so beautiful. I wanted it to show as background around the drawing. The pencils are Prismacolor. I believe the pigment is sticking fine, just some extra coming off when I touch it. Thanks

        1. Erin W.

          Following up in case it helps someone else, my wood-worker husband recommended I use this product that he happened to have: Premium Quality ZAR Interior ULTRA Max Waterborne Oil Modified Polyurethane in Satin, “an environmentally safe, clear wood finish” made in USA by United Gilsonite Laboratories. It worked beautifully.

    1. I usually just sand my wood. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth, but you will need to sand off all the rough surface texture.

      I have heard other artists say they use clear gesso or white acrylic gesso to prime wood, but I’ve never tried either one.

  1. Cole S

    So I’m tryin to use watercolor pencils on wood (I’ve tried basswood and birch so far). I’ve tried makin a couple night skies, but when I go over the pencil with a watercolor brush, and I can’t get the colors to blend very well. Don’t know if it’s the pencil or the wood, any idea on what I could do to see better results?

    1. Cole,

      Thank you for your question.

      I’ve never tried watercolor pencils on wood so have no specific advice to give you.

      However, part of what makes watercolor media work is an absorbent surface. Wood is not absorbent and I’m not sure how you would make it absorbent enough to work with watercolor other than gluing paper to it. That defeats the purpose of working on wood!

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