How to Remove Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing

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 in 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 in a Colored Pencil Drawing

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.

Repeat.

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 - First step in removing colored 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 color with a click eraser.

Next, I used a click eraser and worked 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 it.

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

Remove Color - Third step in removing colored 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. Rather than lift color, I want to add color.

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.

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

Next was 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. I also worked into most of the left part of the highlight.

Remove Color - 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 black surrounding the middle values.

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

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.

Conclusion

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. Give it a try and let me know how that works.

4 Replies to “How to Remove Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing”

  1. I’m an novice artist with a disability with degenerative disability, resulting in paralysis, double vision, poor hand-eye coordination, seizures, creating chronic pain, loss of speech and hearing difficulties. Art therapy allows me to speak with color, regain movement and independence. Although I’m taking multiple art classes online and working with a local instructor, the syllabi have only covered erasers and solvents. Will you please provide links to the products discussed in your post so I research them?

    I’m also interested in your courses. Are you willing to work with students disabilities? Thank you for your time and attention!

    1. Pam,

      Thank you for your comment and your work with colored pencil. I’m glad doing art has been helpful for you. Art therapy has been beneficial to a good many people over the years.

      Scotch Tape—Other names for this are magic tape or transparent tape. “Scotch” is actually the brand name and other brands are available. You can buy it at any grocery store, office supply store, or art store, as well as discount stores and many other locations. It’s so widely available that I was quite surprised to find it at Dick Blick (here’s the link). It’s not actually made for lifting colored pencil from a drawing, but it works very well.

      Click Erasers—Also known as retractable erasers. They are made by many different manufacturers of writing tools, but are also good for art uses. You can buy them almost anywhere writing tools are sold. Here’s a link to the Pentel eraser at Dick Blick, but Dick Blick also carries several other brands.

      I welcome you to sign up for an art course. If you don’t find a course that suits your needs, contact me directly and we’ll work out private lessons. Just use the “Send Me An Email” box at the bottom of this page and I’ll get back to you.

      Thank you so much for reading this post and for your comment. Best wishes to you.

      Carrie

  2. I use BluTac or mouldable/putty eraser because they can be mounded into a point or used to lift colour in layers like you use scotch tape and an electric eraser if I need a hard eraser but will bear this in mind for the future!

    1. Nat,

      I have Handi-Tak and use that too. It works just like BluTac.

      I’ve also heard that ink erasers work quite well on colored pencil. That’s a type of eraser that’s similar to the old pencil-shaped erasers that were used with typewriters (if you happen to be old enough to remember what they are.) I intend to get one when I can and give it a try.

      Carrie

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