Reasons to Watch Videos of New Art Mediums

Today, I want to go off topic just a little bit and share a few reasons why every artist should watch videos of new art mediums once in a while.

As some of you know, I write freelance as well as draw and sometimes paint. I write about colored pencil topics (usually the business side of things) for Ann Kullberg’s COLOR Magazine. I also write about a variety of more general art topics for EmptyEasel and occassionally contribute to Colored Pencil Magazine.

Most often, I come up with my own topics, but I also “write to order” when an editor has a particular topic they want an article about or when a reader asks a question.

That’s how I came to watch painting and drawing videos on different mediums last month.

Reasons to Watch Videos of New Art Mediums

The editor of EmptyEasel suggested some time ago that I write a couple of link articles, one on 50 great painting videos and another on 50 great drawing videos. When I endured a bout of problems with my right wrist and drawing or painting was off limits, it seemed like a good idea to watch videos. (I could not only “work,” I could ice my wrist, too. Win-win!)

I saw a lot of wonderful artists creating wonderful art in a wide range of different mediums; some familiar, some previously unknown. It was such an informative time that I had to share some of what I learned with you!

Why You Should Watch Videos of New Art Mediums

You Discover New Mediums

The best reason to watch videos that are not about colored pencil is that you learn about new art mediums.

You may love your colored pencils and not currently be thinking about trying a different medium, but seeing what else is available is still helpful. If for no other reason, it broadens your horizons. (Did you know there was such a thing as resin painting? Neither did I!)

Those broader horizons may lead you to try something new, or may help you improve your colored pencil work.

Maybe both!

You Learn New Methods

Even if you don’t ever try a new medium, seeing how artists use those mediums can provide keys to using your own medium.

For example, I’ve seen oil painters, gouache painters, and watercolor painters applying paint in what appears to be haphazard strokes. When they zoom in on their brush work, the image doesn’t look like much.

But take a look at the entire painting, and all of a sudden those “random” strokes look very much like trees on a distant hill or variations in color in a wave.

Here’s something else I’ve picked up that applies to colored pencil: Most of those artists make very deliberate strokes. Strokes that are short, purposeful, and often follow long pauses to reload brushes AND consider the next stroke.

How does that affect me (and maybe you, too?) It shows me that my sometimes rushed manner of making marks on paper may actually hinder me in some cases. Yes. There is a time for quick washes of color, but there are also times to slow down and be very deliberate in applying color.

You May Find a Medium You Want to Try

That’s been my experience.

Of course, you have to remember that part of me wants to try every medium I see when I see someone doing wonderful things with it. The day I watched egg tempera painting videos, I wanted to start cracking eggs and making paint.

The day I watched gouache artists, I wanted to try that medium, and so on down the list through acrylics, watercolor, casein and even resin painting.

That may be your experience too.

But there are a few of those mediums that intrigue me beyond mere whim. Mediums like gouache and egg tempera might work as under paintings for colored pencil work. Who wouldn’t enjoy experimenting with that?

Get Inspired!

Even if none of the other reasons to watch videos in other mediums happens to you, what about the sheer inspiration of seeing artists create?

When you find yourself in the creative doldrums, try watching videos of other mediums. They can give you a fresh look at art and, if you watch long enough, a fresh look at your art.

Those are just a few reasons you should watch videos in other mediums.

There are more. In fact, the reasons are as varied as all of you. Each of you will find other reasons after you take the time to explore new mediums by video.

Would you like to see the best videos I watched? Read Learn to Paint with 50+ Free Painting Videos on YouTube! and Learn to Draw with 50+ Free Drawing Videos on YouTube. Both articles include videos for artists at all levels of expertise.

Yes, even you.

I guarantee it.

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What’s Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class?

Every artist has an ideal colored pencil class or workshop in mind. I’d like to know yours.

What Does Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class Look Like?

Sometimes On-Line Art Classes Aren’t Enough

Learning art is one of those things best learned in person.

Whether you’re in a classroom setting with everyone working on the same project, an independent study group with each artist working on his or her own project, or one-on-one in the studio, you have the best chance of learning new skills and improving existing skills when you and your teacher are in the same room.

I’m Thinking about Starting Local Classes

Over the years, people have asked if I did local classes or private lessons. So far, the answer has always been “no.”

I’m thinking about changing that this Fall.

Plans are still in the very early stages, so this is the perfect time for me to get your thoughts on what an ideal colored pencil class looks like.

Possible Classes

A few general ideas are floating around in my thoughts these days. Nothing concrete to be sure, but enough to share basic details on a few possible classes.

Graphite for Beginners

Four or five weeks beginning with basic introduction to the tools and techniques of using graphite. Students would do a different drawing each week.

Colored Pencils for Beginners

Four to six weeks beginning with basic introduction to the tools and techniques of using colored pencil including layering and blending (without solvents or special supplies.) Students would then either do a different subject each week or work on a beginner’s tutorial kit such as one of these for the length of the class.

Colored Pencils for Intermediate to Advanced Artists

Ongoing, weekly. Each student brings a project to work on and I help them. No end date. Come and go as you’re able, pay as you go.

Got a Better Idea?

I’m open to suggestions. As I said at the beginning, planning is still in the very early stages, so if you have an idea or suggestion or something you’d love to work on but haven’t seen anywhere else, let me know.

And if you don’t live close enough to make the trip to Newton on a regular basis, but would be interested in a two- or three-day workshop, I’d be thrilled to hear your ideas for that, too.

So What Does Your Ideal Colored Pencil Class Look Like?

To make it easy to share your thoughts, ideas, comments, suggestions, or anything else I’ve set up a survey. It’s easy to do and will take only two minutes to describe your ideal colored pencil class.

Ready? Just click this link to take the survey.

Alternatives to Drawing Paper for Colored Pencil

Are there alternatives to drawing paper for use with colored pencil?

The short answer is yes. There are times when choosing the best support for your next drawing involves choosing something other than drawing paper.

Alternatives to Drawing Paper for Colored Pencil

Why You Might Want Alternatives to Drawing Paper

First, lets take a look at a couple of reasons why you might be looking for drawing paper alternatives. (There are more than you might expect.)

You Need to Frame Without Glass

It is possible to frame colored pencil art without glass, but you need to make preparation from the beginning. Since the primary reason for framing colored pencil drawings under glass is to protect the drawing paper, the only way to safely frame without glass is to draw on a rigid support—something that cannot be easily torn or punctured.

Some drawing papers are available with rigid backing, but not all. So if you need (or want) a rigid support, you need an alternative to traditional paper.

You Want Your Colored Pencil Drawings to Look More Like Paintings

There is a perception that artwork on paper is less valuable than artwork on supports such as canvas, canvas panel, or hardwood. The bias isn’t usually accurate—most mediums suitable for paper are just as archival as other mediums if used and displayed correctly—but the bias does exist.

Colored pencils can be used on all of the rigid supports above and many others. I’ve tried it on canvas and have drawn on wood supports and liked the results.

You Want Your Colored Pencil Drawings to be More “Approachable”

A lot of colored pencil artists perceive glass to be an obstacle between their work and the audience. To avoid that, they frame colored pencil art without glass.

You and Traditional Drawing Paper Just Don’t Get Along

It may be that traditional drawing papers just don’t work with your method of drawing. That’s perfectly all right! Nothing works all of the time for everyone. Even those of us who like drawing paper often have several favorites. I know I do.

But sometimes, an artist needs something totally different. Watercolor paper for watercolor pencils or mixed media. Sanded paper for lots of layering. The list is endless.

That’s when you need a alternative to drawing paper.

You Want to Experiment

Lets face it, some of us just like to try new things! There’s nothing wrong with that! Alternatives to drawing paper are only one way to experiment, but they are often the least expensive way to experiment.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to draw on something besides paper, what are your choices?

4 Alternatives to Drawing Paper

In a previous article, I described some of the non-paper supports I’ve drawn on. You can read about mat board, sanded art papers, and wood in 3 Excellent Drawing Paper Alternatives, so I won’t do more than just mention them here. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the other types of drawing paper alternatives.

Let’s begin with something I mentioned earlier: drawing paper boards.

Bristol Paper Boards

These papers are all mounted on rigid supports that are archival and acid-free. Most of them can withstand heavy use, and some are even capable of holding up under light washes of water soluble color.

There only two disadvantages:

First, they are probably not the type of support you’d want to frame without glass. They are more durable than drawing paper, but because they are drawing paper mounted to a rigid support, they are still susceptible to damage.

Second, they are available in only two surfaces: Vellum and plate. Plate is very smooth and are therefore not reliable for drawing methods that require lots of layering. Vellum is better for layering, but may still be too smooth. As I mentioned in our discussion of paper tooth, neither may be suitable if you do a lot of layering.

I’ve included Rising Museum Board in the list below, but it is actually not intended as a drawing surface. It’s not a surface I’ve drawn on before, but I do like Rising Stonehenge paper, so wouldn’t be afraid to give this a try. I’ve also used mat board effectively, so wouldn’t be afraid to try this.

The links below are to the Dick Blick website, where more information is available on each support.

Suede Board

Gemma Gylling has been using suede board for years and creates the most phenomenal pet and wildlife artwork.

I’ll be honest. I was biased against suede mat board because of past experiences with velvet paint-by-numbers. I tried one or two of those and absolutely, positively did not like them. So whenever someone asked if I’d tried colored pencil on suede board, I said I hadn’t. I didn’t intend to, either.

But colored pencil works much more nicely on suede mat board than oil paints work on velvet. All I had to do was draw one eye from imagination on a sample of blue suede board to decide I wanted to try it for a larger drawing (stay tuned for a work-in-progress demonstration on that).

Although its surface is best described as “plushy”, it can take a lot of color. You can also render a lot of detail on it. You will have to adjust color application methods somewhat and you’ll need to build up three or four layers before the colors begin to pop, at least on the darker color I was using.

But it produces a type of drawing that I’ve not been able to duplicate on any other paper. It’s definitely worth a try.

Pastel Boards

Pastel boards are designed to be drawn on with pastels. They generally have more tooth because pastels require more tooth to stick to the drawing surface. Some are actually sanded art papers, while others are just a toothier form of drawing paper. There are so many that I can list only a few here.

But you may recognize many of the brand names: Names like UArt, Art Spectrum, Canson Mi-Teintes.

Most of these surfaces are listed as “multi-media”. I’ve seen the most luscious oil paintings on Ampersand Pastelbord, for example.

Some of these supports are on my wish list. All of them sound intriguing. If one of your primary reasons for wanting to draw on something other than drawing paper is framing without glass, give one of these a try.

Canvas

The last surface I’ll look at today is canvas. Plain and simple oil or acrylic painting canvas. Granted, this is not a support I’ve ever considered, though John Ursillo’s work on canvas does make the prospect more inviting. Canvas is so toothy that about the only way to use it successfully with colored pencil is to use solvents to melt the color down into the weave.

Master that method, though, and you can produce any level of detail you desire AND have a surface that never needs glass in the framing process.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the more common alternatives to drawing paper. There are many others, so if you really want to experiment, you have lots of options.

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Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

I’ve long been an advocate of drawing miniature art and small format art. Colored pencils are ideal for both, but I’ve also used oils, acrylics, and graphite—even a ball point pen—to make miniature art.

We all know colored pencil is a slow medium. You don’t have finish dozens of drawings to figure that out. The fact of the matter is that you have to do only one piece!

It not seem to make sense, but drawing tiny is one way to improve your ability to render details in artwork of all sizes.

First, though, lets think about reasons why you might want to draw miniature art.

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

Reasons to Draw Miniature Art

Faster to Finish

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, colored pencil is a naturally slow medium. It takes a long time to finish a detailed drawing no matter what size it is.

Of course, the bigger the drawing the longer it takes to complete.

For a lot of us who work jobs or have families or other obligations, drawing time is limited. That means it may take months to finish a piece that takes only 24 hours of actual drawing time. That’s a long time to work on the same piece.

The answer?

Miniatures!

Even if you do a lot of detail, you can still finish a miniature in just a few hours. If you have an hour a day to draw, you can probably finish one miniature a week. I drew these eight ACEOs in less than two months for a card swap, while I had a part-time job.

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art - Field of Eight

And we all know that finishing a piece is very motivating!

Forces You to Focus on the Important Details

When you draw small, you don’t have room to draw every detail, so you have to choose the most important details. That’s good exercise no matter how large you usually draw.

Unless you’re going for hyper-realism, when you really do draw every single hair.

Drawing Miniature Art is Perfect for Quick Sketches

Trying to figure out a difficult part of a larger drawing?

Working out compositions?

Just doodling?

Draw miniature sketches. They’re quick. They’re easy. And they’re extremely portable. You can keep a small sketch book or art journal in your purse, briefcase or a field kit.

Miniature Drawings are a Great Way to Experiment

We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? To see if a pencil, type of paper, or drawing method works for us, the best thing to do is experiment.

But those supplies are so expensive, we hesitate to “waste” them on experiments.

Why not experiment with miniature art? You can learn just as much about new supplies, tools, or methods by drawing small as you can by drawing large.

Miniature Drawings are a Great Way to Use Paper Scraps

Speaking of expensive, don’t you hate throwing away those scraps of paper left over when you trim a sheet to size? Don’t throw them away; turn them into miniature art!

You don’t even have to cut them to any specific size. Use them in whatever size or shape they happen. I have a box of scraps cut down to ACEO size because I did a lot of those one year.

But I also save every scrap of paper that’s more than an inch wide on the short side, no matter what shape it is. When I’m stuck for something to draw, I sometimes go through those scraps and see if one of them sparks an idea. Even if the result isn’t a masterpiece, I did draw something. Some days, that’s a huge win!

Tips for Drawing Miniature Art

Keep Your Pencils Sharp

Sharp pencils are always important, but unless you want a broad accent (which doesn’t need to be very broad for a miniature,) sharp pencils are doubly important to drawing the important details in miniature art.

The sharper your pencil, the smoother your color layers, too.

Keep the Background Simple

Unless you’re doing a miniature landscape, it’s best to keep the background simple with miniature art. Especially with human or animal subjects.

Work Slowly and Carefully

Of course this is important with all sizes of colored pencil art, but it’s especially important with miniature art. You don’t have a lot of room to correct errors or cover mistakes when you’re working small.

So Are You Ready to Try Drawing Miniature Art?

I’ve written a tutorial showing how I drew this miniature portrait for a client.

So if you have new supplies to try, a new method to check out, or you just want to have a little fun doing something new, may I suggest drawing miniature art?

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It Doesn’t Have to be Difficult to Draw Landscapes

If landscape art has always appealed to you but you’ve not known where to begin, then let me encourage you. It’s not as difficult (or scary) to draw landscapes as you might think.

In fact, when mastering landscape drawing eluded me, I was dong it the hard way.

Maybe you are, too.

It Doesn't Have to be Difficult to Draw Landscapes

I know what you’re thinking! All those trees and hills. A sky. Maybe water. It’s impossible to master! That’s what I used to think.

Then I made a couple of discoveries that made landscapes one of my favorite things to draw.

And one of the easiest!

Here’s why.

Three Basic Tips to Draw Landscapes

There are a lot of complex sounding things to remember when drawing landscapes. Most of them only look complex, but I’ll save them for another post. Instead, let me share three tips that will help you draw better landscapes almost immediately.

You Don’t Have to Draw Everything

Just looking at a beautiful landscape can be intimidating. Especially if you’re in a wide open place like the desert or the Flint Hills. There’s so much to take in.

There’s also a lot to draw.

But you don’t need to draw everything to draw a believable landscape. Focus on one thing in the landscape.

Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s the reference on which August Morning in Kansas is based.

It looks simple enough, but there are several possible smaller compositions within the scene.

The group of trees on the left are one possibility. It’s simple and straight forward, but there’s also good light and “space.”

Draw Landscapes - Composition 1

The group of trees at center right are another possibility. It’s not quite as simple, but it also shows good detail in the main trees.

Draw Landscapes - Composition 2

Finally, a composition that focuses on space rather than trees. There’s a tree in the foreground (far right,) more trees in the middle ground (left,) and trees in the background.

Draw Landscapes - Composition 3

August Morning in Kansas was based on the second crop, but I like the third one, too. It’s worth trying to capture on paper at some point.

Draw Landscapes - August Morning in Kansas

Simplify Wherever Possible

You don’t have to draw every leaf or every blade of grass everywhere in the drawing. If you do, you’ll not only frustrate yourself to no end, you’ll end up with a drawing that’s highly detailed, but flat.

Details should always be saved for the center of interest in any art piece, but especially in landscapes.

Here’s a closeup look at the distant trees on the left side of August Morning. Although they look detailed when you see the entire composition, there isn’t much detail. Just splotches of color with a lot of paper showing through.

They look like you’d expect trees to look if they were far away on a hazy day.

Here’s a look at the space between the main trees and the trees on the right side of the composition. The dark green trees are closer than the trees on the far left, but they’re also deep in shadow, so there’s next to no detail. I used more intense color to make the shapes look closer, and suggested detail with subtle variations in value.

Finally, here’s a look at the grassy meadow in the foreground. I reduced the detail here to nothing but changes in color and value to keep the attention on the center of interest.

Interestingly enough, this was the easiest part! I layered colors, then used a stiff bristle brush to blend the pigment dust into the grit of the paper. The result was smooth transitions and a blurred foreground.

Use Pencil Strokes to Create Detail

It really does matter how you put color on paper. The more your pencil strokes blend together, the less detailed they look.

Look at these light green strokes. They’re short, they follow the direction of foliage growth and some of them are sort of squiggly.

Most of them also are hard-edged. They’re not blurry. Maybe they don’t look like much in this up close view of the drawing but when you look at the entire drawing, they look like branches and leaves catching the light.

I used a blunted pencil and short, quick strokes to make these marks.

Here’s those distant trees again. To draw these, I moved a blunt pencil back and forth across the paper with medium pressure or lighter. You can’t see individual strokes, only shaded color.

The transitions from one color to another and from one value to another are also soft and blurry. Smooth color and soft transitions in color and value all convey the look of distance.

Finally, here’s a look at part of the sky. Since the drawing is on sanded art paper, it was difficult to completely fill in the tooth of the paper. But that’s okay. The scene was supposed to look hazy, and the paper holes contributed to that look.

But I drew smooth color in the sky by using very dull pencils and the sides of pencils to lay down lots of color without leaving visible pencil strokes. The resultimg color looks very smooth compared to the slightly more details distant trees and the more detailed trees at the center of interest.

Have I whetted your appetite to draw landscapes?

Does all this sound good, but you need a little more convincing? How about a book of tutorials featuring nothing but landscapes?

DRAW Landscapes Book

DRAW Landscapes in Colored Pencil is a collection of 26 landscape tutorials by 26 different artists.

My contribution to this wonderful new landscape drawing book is based on the drawing I used for this post, August Morning in Kansas.

DRAW Landscapes is available from Ann Kullberg*in print, as a PDF download, and in digital format.

It’s the perfect motivation to try your hand at landscape drawing.

*Affiliate link.

Choosing Colors that Work Together

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

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

Basic Color Theory and Choosing Colors that Work Together

by Sarah Renae Clark

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

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

Basic Color Theory

The Color Wheel

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

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

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

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

Choosing Colors that Work Together - Color Wheels

Choosing colors that work together

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing Colors that Work Together - Color Combinations

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

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

Highlights and Shading

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

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

Finding color inspiration

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

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

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

The opportunities are endless

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

About the author

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

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

*Affiliate Link

Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Prismacolor has been around for decades. For years, they were the only brand available, so a lot of us have old Prismacolor pencils still in our pencil boxes (or tins, tubs, cups, or whatever.)

Are those old pencils still good to use?

That’s what one reader wrote to ask.

Carrie,

I was reading “Are Prismacolors Right for You?” and have a question.

I have an enormous stash of Prismas, all purchased prior to 2017, probably mostly 2005 thru 2010.  Though I do know there are questions of lightfast issues with specific colors (smugly pointed out to me by a somewhat accomplished oil painter,) do the issues you discussed in this article apply to the early pencils also?

I assume they mostly do not.  I had not experienced a problem with them during the time I was using them.

Recently, I bought a large set of Pablos and Derwents on recommendation which I like but the Prismas lay down beautifully and have a much different feel to them which I am used to and like.

I am not sure what to begin to replace them with.  Any suggestions?

I’ll continue to use the Prismas as your article suggest but for resale or commissions I will need something different.  I really hate to give them up. Thanks for your reply.

Cassandra Farris
Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Cassandra,

Thank you for your question!

What a fortunate artist you are! All those vintage Prismacolor pencils! Wow!

Giving Up on Prismacolor

Let me address Cassandra’s last comment first. There’s no reason for any fine artist to give up on Prismacolor Colored Pencils, even when doing work for resale. I, too, have purchased better pencils such as Faber-Castell Polychromos, and Derwent Watercolor Pencils, but still also use Prismacolor. The simple fact is that there is no pencil better at doing what Prismacolor does best.

A lot of artists do tire of issues such as cracking wood casing, breaking pigment cores, and gritty pigment cores and they choose not to use Prismacolor. But that’s a personal choice. I can completely understand giving up on a tool that causes such constant irritation!

Not all artists have experienced those kinds of problems on a regular basis, though. I didn’t think I’d ever had a problem with cracking wood casings until I saw the photo below, but that’s only one instance. It happened so long ago that I don’t remember the circumstances.

Old Prismacolor Pencils - Cracked Wood Casing

I don’t use the fugitive Prismacolor colors, but I don’t use fugitive colors in any brand if I’m planning to sell the art. For sketching, class work, or other “non-permanent work,” I use every color in every set!

So no, Cassandra, you don’t have to give up your Prismacolor pencils.

Now to the remaining questions.

Old Prismacolor Pencils vs New Prismacolor Pencils

Lets look at this question on two levels. First, the lightfast issue that Cassandra asked about. Then I’ll follow up with comments on general quality control issues.

Are Old Prismacolor Pencils Lightfast?

I don’t know whether the older colors are more lightfast or not. My gut reaction would be that some of the colors are probably less lightfast because of advances in the pigments used.

However, I don’t know that colored pencils were even being tested for lightfast issues back in those days because colored pencils weren’t then considered fine art materials. That happened more recently, with the “boom” in colored pencil popularity.

I also point to the fact that Caran d’Ache developed the Luminance line of pencils at the urging of the Colored Pencil Society of America. That group was calling for lightfast colored pencils. Luminance was the first response. Since Prismacolor existed at that time, it’s reasonable to conclude that they were not lightfast.

If you happen to have any of the old tins, you might look to see if there are color charts in them. You’re most likely to find the best information on the color charts.

You might also contact the Colored Pencil Society of America directly. I’m sure someone there would be able to either help you or point you in the right direction.

Are Old Prismacolor Pencils Higher Quality?

Prismacolors have declined in quality with every sale from one parent company to another.

They were first introduced as Eagle, then under the Berol name, then Sanford Prismacolor. In their earliest incarnations, I believe they were a high quality pencil. At least I don’t remember ever having unusually high instances of breaking pigment cores or any of the other problems associated with the pencils of today.

It does seem to me (based on personal experience) that every time the brand changed hands, there were sacrifices to quality. That seems to happen with a lot of products.

The issues I mentioned in my previous post don’t even apply across the board with Prismacolor pencils these days. A lot depends on the batch from which your pencils come, and perhaps where they were made. The distance they travel in shipping also may have a bearing on “quality control issues” because the pencils are made in more than one location.

About Replacement Colors

As far as finding replacement colors goes, you might try replacing individual colors with a sample of different brands. If you want to stick with the smooth lay down you get with Prismacolor, try Luminance, Blick studio, or most other wax-based artist grade pencils.

If color is your main concern, look for brands that have more lightfast versions of those colors.

Thanks again for your question, Cassandra! I know you’re not the only colored pencil artist in search of this information.


Do you have a question about colored pencils or anything related to them? Raise your hand and ask a question by clicking the button below. I will answer your question directly (even if I have to tell you I don’t know.)

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Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils?

A short time ago, I wrote a post about the best colored pencil papers. Jana Botkin read that post and had a question.

Will you expand on the paper in the basic list? I use Strathmore 400 series Bristol smooth for graphite, but prefer the vellum for cp. Which surface and weight were you thinking of? The Michael’s in my county only carries 300 series, which has inconsistent grain, so I order from Blick. –Jana Botkin

Thank you for your question, Jana. I’d be glad to share my thoughts on drawing paper. There are a lot of choices available so I’m confident many of your fellow readers have the same question.

Best Colored Pencil Papers

Best Papers for Colored Pencils

The truth is, choosing paper for colored pencil work is as much a personal preference as anything else. So many things factor into those decisions. Jana mentioned the surface and weight of the paper and those are two important things to consider.

But they aren’t the only things, so before I get to my recommendations, lets take a look at a few “paper basics”.

Paper Basics

There are six things to consider when considering which paper to buy. Fiber, weight, surface texture, sizing, longevity, and color.

Fiber

Paper is made from plant fibers. The most common plants for paper making are cotton, linen, flax, jute, hemp, bamboo, rice straw or rattan. The size and shape of these fibers determine the type and sturdiness of the paper.

Cotton papers are made from cotton fibers, the longest fibers of all the plant types. It’s generally considered the highest quality paper and is referred to as 100% cotton rag. 100% cotton rag paper can withstand heavy erasing and drawing. The highest quality 100% cotton paper can last over 100 years, but not all cotton papers are the same. The shorter the fibers, the more the paper may tend to get “fuzzy” with use. Check the specifications on cotton paper to know what you’re buying.

Cellulose papers are made from wood pulp. Wood pulp papers are usually less expensive, but they’re also usually less archival (long lasting). That’s because wood pulp contains a natural acid that breaks down the fibers over time. Buffers can be added during the manufacturing process to neutralize the acids. Look for the words “buffer”, “buffered”, or “neutral” when deciding which cellulose paper to buy.

Weight

Paper weight is a measurement of the thickness—or heaviness—of paper. Traditionally, it’s been measured by weighing 500 sheets (a ream) at a standard size. The more a ream of paper weighs, the thicker each sheet is.

The thicker a sheet of paper is, the more color it can accept without buckling (if you’re using wet media), tearing, or falling apart.

Tracing paper is a light-weight paper. Strathmore 300 series papers are heavier. Card stock papers are still heavier.

Papers used to always be measured in pounds. 300-pound watercolor paper, for example.

But many art paper manufacturers have converted to a grams per square inch (gsm) measurement. A 50-pound paper is the same as an 81gsm paper. Many art retailers show both forms of measurement.

Surface Texture

Surface texture is properly known as “finish” when discussing art papers. How the paper is dried during manufacture determines the finish.

Paper with a rough finish is allowed to air dry without being smoothed or pressed. The resulting finish is very textured and is best suited for water media and pastel.

Cold press paper has been pressed before it dries. Handmade papers and machine made papers are pressed in different ways, but the result is the same. The surface fibers are “pressed down” somewhat. Since the pressing is done without heat, the paper isn’t completely smooth. Cold-press paper is the most popular and versatile and is suitable for most media, depending on its weight.

Hot press paper is made by pressing newly made paper through heated metal rollers or plates. All texture left after manufacture is pressed out of the paper. This paper is excellent for highly-detailed illustrations, printmaking, etching, drafting, sketching, and drawing.

Sizing

Sizing is added to make paper more water-resistant. The paper doesn’t absorb as much moisture or pigment, so watercolors and inks stay brighter and lines stay crisper.  It’s less important for papers used for dry media. Sizing also can affect a paper’s archival qualities.

Internal sizing is added while the paper pulp is still in a liquid state. It becomes part of the paper.

External, Surface or Tub sizing is applied to the surface of the paper after the sheet is formed and dried. Some paper is both internally and surface-sized.

Longevity

Also known as being archival. Archival papers have a proven history of stability over time. They don’t yellow or fade. They’re also more likely to be acid-free, which means they contain little or no cellulose acid natural to wood pulp papers.

Many sketching papers are wood-pulp based papers and are not archival. They’re perfectly suited for sketching, but if you want your drawings to last a long, long time, use higher quality papers.

Color

Some drawing papers come in only one color. White.

But many others are available in a range of colors. Working on colored paper can be both fun and frustrating. Paper color does affect the way colored pencil looks, but it can also provide a good foundation for your drawing and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a colored pencil drawing.

What I Use & Why

I buy the best-quality papers possible for colored pencil work because many of my drawings are portraits. Portraits or not, I want all of my best drawings to  look fresh and new for years.

My favorite papers are Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and Bristol Vellum pretty much in that order.

Stonehenge

I’ve used Stonehenge for years. It’s a cotton-based paper suitable for watercolor (in limited amounts), drawing, and printmaking. It has enough tooth to take a lot of color, but is smooth enough for drawing details. It’s available in several sheet sizes, in pads, and rolls, and comes in white and a selection of light colors and black. It has no sizing (that I’m aware of) so the surface is relatively soft, almost velvety.

It’s my go-to paper for large and small drawings. For smaller drawings, the 90-lb (250 gsm) is very good, but I prefer the heavier 120-lb (320 gsm) paper. It’s also available as a rigid support, which I haven’t yet tried.

The biggest disadvantage to Stonehenge is that it can be difficult to find locally. I order mine from Dick Blick.

It also should be handled with care, since the surface can be easily impressed. Flat storage for sheets is recommended.

Canson Mi-Teintes

Canson makes Mi-Teintes paper for pastel artists, so it has quite a bit of surface texture (tooth) on the front. The texture is also mechanical in nature. Lay a little color over the paper and you see a pattern of hexagon shapes.

But the back is less textured and the texture is less dramatic. It still has more texture than Stonehenge, but it’s great for colored pencil work of all types.

What makes Canson Mi-Teintes one of my favorite papers is that it handles solvent blending and a moderate amount of water media work with ease. Make sure it’s taped securely to a rigid support and you can do several solvent blends in a single drawing.

Bristol Vellum

Bristol paper is a more economical paper. Usually acid-free and generally heavier than other papers, it’s often referred to as “Bristol board”; usually 100-lb (270 gsm).

It comes in two surfaces. The smooth (or regular) surface is very smooth and somewhat slick.

Vellum finish has a little more tooth and is ideal for drawing. I have a pad of it in my paper drawer and use it for article illustrations, but layering a lot of color can be difficult without the use of solvents or workable fixative.

Bristol comes only in white and is available from a variety of manufacturers. I currently am using Beinfang Bristol Vellum because it’s available in 146 pounds.

Colored Pencil Basics for Beginners

A few weeks ago, I talked about what you needed to buy if you want to get started drawing with colored pencils. This week, let’s take a look at a few colored pencil basics.

Colored Pencil Basics for Beginners

There’s so much to learn with any art medium that it can quickly get confusing. Confusing isn’t what I want to accomplish, so let’s stick with just a few of the essentials. Papers, pencils, pressure, and more.

Let’s begin with paper.

Colored Pencil Basics for Beginners

Colored Papers

If you’re thinking of using a colored paper, choose a color that works well with all parts of your artwork. The color of the paper should ideally provide a base color for the artwork.

For example, for a landscape on a rainy day, light gray or a light gray-green paper is ideal. Gray paper provides an excellent base for a gray sky or misty air with very little work. Gray-green paper provides a good base for the greens in the landscape but might be more problematic for the sky if the sky is light.

For this little landscape, I used light gray paper. All I had to do was add the colors for the sky (white and light gray) and the landscape.

West of Bazaar
West of Bazaar 5×7 on Gray Mat Board

This is not to say no other paper color would work. I drew a more recent “gray day” landscape on very light tan paper for a slightly different look.

White paper is also a good choice for both landscapes, but would have taken longer to draw.

The color of the paper affects the drawing, so choose a color that adds to the atmosphere or tone you want to set for the drawing.

Hard Lead Pencils

Using a pencil with a harder lead can be helpful for beginning a new drawing. Prismacolor Verithin pencils are much harder than Prismacolor Soft Core pencils. The two red pencils are Prismacolor Soft Core. They’re what people usually think of when they think of Prismacolor pencils.

Prismacolor makes a soft, thick lead pencil (top) and a thinner, harder leader pencil (bottom.) Combine hard and soft leads for best results.

The two pencils on the bottom are also Prismacolor pencils, but they’re Prismacolor Verithin. The leads are thinner and harder because they contain less wax binder.

They hold a point longer, and lay down less color even with heavy pressure. They are subsequently easier to lift or erase if you need to lighten an area or remove color altogether.

Oil-based colored pencils are generally harder than wax-based pencils so they’re also a good choice if you want to lay down a lot of layers, but don’t want to fill up the paper’s tooth too quickly.

Use light pressure in the early stages no matter what type of pencil you use.

Applying Pressure

It takes pressure to put color onto paper. Pressure is usually measured on a 10-point scale, with “0” being no pressure at all and “10” being burnishing pressure. Normal hand-writing pressure is generally considered to be “5” on the 10-point scale.

In most cases, it’s best to begin with light pressure and gradually increase pressure as you add more layers. It’s easier to correct or conceal mistakes drawn with light pressure.

It’s also easier to avoid getting too dark too quickly if you add layers and colors little by little.

Sharp Pencils

It’s important to keep your pencils well sharpened. The surface of most papers is made up of tiny hills and valleys. The difference between the tops of the “hills” and the bottoms of the “valleys” is what is called the paper’s tooth. The rougher a paper, the bigger the difference between the hills and valleys.

The deeper the tooth of the paper, the more layers or pressure it takes to fill in the “valleys.”

The sharper you keep your pencils, the better they reach all of the parts of the paper and the better they cover the paper.

You can also combine sharp pencils with heavier pressures to get good coverage on papers. Just don’t do this too early in the drawing because it flattens the tooth of the paper. That makes it more difficult to add more layers.

Sharp pencils are also ideal for drawing detail.

Blunt Can be Useful, Too

Blunt pencils are not always a bad thing. More paper shows through when you use blunt pencils, so color will appear more grainy.

Glazing color (applying a very think layer of color to tint color already on the paper) is best done with blunt or dull pencils in my experience. That’s because so much of the previous colors show through.

Top to Bottom: Very Blunt, Blunt, Dull. All three points can be useful in colored pencil art.

Using heavier pressure takes care of those paper holes (if you don’t want them.)

This method works best if you don’t plan to use a lot of color layers, since heavy pressure adds more wax binder as well as more color (assuming you’re using wax-based colored pencils.)

Getting Dark Without Getting Too Dark

Values are the most important tool you have to use. It’s more important to get the values right, than to get the color right.

It’s also important NOT to get too dark too early. Every layer of color darkens the shadows and middle tones.

It’s always better to stop short of what you think is the proper darkness. It’s much easier to darken shadows later than it is to lighten them.

Working On Everything At Once

Working the entire drawing at once (as opposed to finishing each area before moving on to the next) allows you to make adjustments throughout the process and keep the composition unified.

It’s not necessary to work in this fashion, but it can be helpful in establishing the initial layers of color.

One of my problems in my early drawings was avoiding seams. I always worked one section at a time and even when I used the same colors from one section to another, I could often tell where the two sections met—especially if I was working in an area of uniform color, like a grassy field. The best way I found to avoid this was to work over the entire area, one color at a time.

To Turn Your Paper or Not to Turn Your Paper

Turn the drawing if necessary to make it easier to apply color. Orient the drawing in a fashion that is most comfortable for the area you’re working on.  When doing large amounts of grass, for example, turn the drawing upside down so you can stroke toward yourself (which is more natural for most artists than stroking away). This will also reduce hand stress and give you a fresh perspective on the composition.

Reviewing Your Work

It can be productive and helpful to give your artwork a periodic check throughout the process.

Also try viewing it in a way other than normal. Ways to do this are:

  • Viewing it in a mirror
  • Looking at it upside down
  • Viewing it from a distance
  • Setting it aside and looking at it after a couple of days

Imbalances in drawing, values or colors can more easily be seen when you look at your artwork in a way other than the normal.

Photographing or scanning your artwork and viewing it on your computer screen can also reveal problem areas or areas that are not quite complete.

There’s a lot more to creating beautiful colored pencil art, but these colored pencil basics are enough to get you started. Master these and you’re well on your way!

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art

If you create art for income, and especially if you sell your original work, it’s key to know the best colors and brands to use. Not all colored pencils are created equal, and you do not want to produce art that fades with time.

That’s certainly one of my primary concerns. It also happens to be Joan Marie’s concern too.

OH Carrie!

I have used colored pencils for years, but mostly licensing my art, so the originals were not purchased.

NOW I am beginning to sell my originals and you have really helped me to face the facts that most bright colors fade! OH MY!

Could you please help us who sell our art for professional prices to know which brands and colors are the best and OH MY…

I guess there is no hope of art using bright colors to last with any colored pencil brand. SO SAD! Is this true…??

Thank you SO MUCH for all you are doing for us passionate for colored pencils!! (:

Joan Marie

To see what Joan is doing with colored pencils, visit her website.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art

Sadly, Joan’s conclusion that most bright colors fade—some of them very quickly—is true. Even among the better, more lightfast brands of colored pencils, there are some colors that fade.

Because that is such a universal thing, I’m going to answer Joan’s question in two parts. In Part 1, I’ll discuss the root cause for fading colors. The second part will list some of the brands of pencils that have the best selection of bright colors.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art

Basic Information about Pigments

After getting Joan’s email, I researched pigments. I had in my mind the idea that the problem was not with the manufacturing of art supplies, but with the pigments used in making various colors.

Turns out, I was right.

Paints, colored pencils, pastels, fabric dyes, and other “colorants” are all developed from the same basic pigments. These powdered pigments come from a variety of sources, and can be used individually or combined to create the colors that go into colored pencils, oil paints, watercolors, and other media.

Pigments come from two basic sources: Organic and inorganic.

Some pigments are lightfast by nature and some are not.

Inorganic Pigments

Metals are a common source of pigments. Colors with the words cadmium, chromium, cobalt, iron oxide, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, titanium, zinc or aluminum in their names come from metals.

Other inorganic sources of pigment are carbons (carbon black, ivory black, charcoal,) clay earth (yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber,) and ultramarine pigments (ultramarine, ultramarine green shade.)

These colors are usually “earthy” in appearance.

They are also among the most lightfast colors available. Although there is a range of blues, greens, yellows, and reds among these pigments, none of them are very bright.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art - Dry Pigment

Biological and organic pigments

Biological pigments are derived from plant and animal sources. Certain snails, for example, produce rich purples while Indian Yellow was said to be either plant sourced, or animal (there is debate over which is true.)

Other organic pigments produce such colors as Alizarin Crimson, gamboge, rose madder, and indigo.

As a rule, these pigments are brighter, but also less permanent than inorganic pigments.

Synthetic Pigments

With the advance of technology and industry, many naturally occurring pigments have been replaced in part or entirely by synthetic pigments. These pigments are often have very bright, intense shades and were developed by or for industry. They are generally very lightfast.

The Best Colors for Artists Who Want to Sell Their Work

If you want to create colored pencil work that maintains original appearance for a long time, the best colors to use made from inorganic or synthetic sources.

So how do you know which pigments went into each color?

Most manufacturers list technical information for their products somewhere on their website. That information often includes the pigments used for each color.

Some also print that information right on their product. M. Graham Oils, for example, lists not only the lightfastness and transparency of the color, but the pigments used to create the color.

Best Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art - Oil Paint Labels

Don’t you wish colored pencil manufacturers did that?

Of course, pencils are much too small to have all this information printed on each one. For those of you who are more technically minded, you can get the same information by contacting the manufacturer of your favorite pencils.

The rest of us must rely on manufacturer lightfast testing and labeling!

In general, avoid pinks, purples, and most bright reds.

In other words, as Joan put it, most bright colors fade.

Does that mean there’s no hope? Not at all!

The Best Brands for Artists Who Want to Sell Their Work

The cost of pigment is among the biggest factors in the cost of a colored pencil, no matter what the color. The less expensive the original pigment, the less expensive the finished pencil.

More expensive pencils are made with better pigments. Pigments that are more lightfast to begin with. That’s part of the reason they’re more expensive.

The best option for the artist who wants to create artwork to sell is to start with a set of favorite pencils, then buy open stock, and choose the most permanent colors from each brand.

However, some companies take such care in selecting pigments and making their colors, that buying full sets is a safe investment.

(Yes, there are only three brands of pencils on this list. There are a lot of very good colored pencils on the market, but since the purpose of this post is lightfast bright colors, I’m only including those I could find that have more permanent bright colors.)

Faber-Castell Polychromos

I have a full set of Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils and most of them are rated very good or excellent for lightfastness. In fact, of the 120 colors, I wouldn’t use only two.

Polychromos have a beautiful range of pinks, purples, reds, and oranges and they are available open stock, so if you only need lightfast bright colors, you can probably find them on-line.

Caran D’Ache Luminance

Caran d’Ache Luminance colored pencils are also very lightfast. A full set consists of 76 pencils, including some nice yellows and oranges, and a few pinks and purple. Every color is rated 1 or 2.

They are expensive, but they are also a very good investment.

Derwent Lightfast

Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils are a new addition to Derwent’s already excellent line of colored pencil products.

As I write this post, there are only 36 colors available, but every one of them has the highest possible lightfast ratings. The original set is mostly earth tones. Creams. Browns. Earthy greens and blues. They’re perfect for landscape and animal artists.

However, Derwent Lightfast also includes a couple of shades of purples that are very lightfast.

An additional 36 colors are rumored to be released laster this year.

So What are the Best Colored Pencil Colors and Brands for Selling Original Art?

There is no easy answer.

Finding the best colors that are bright AND lightfast is an ongoing challenge for most colored pencil artists. Manufacturers find new ways to create lightfast bright colors on a regular basis.

Every artist will find different companies and colors to suit their work best, so the bottom line is to do your own research, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

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