Have you ever found yourself wishing that removing color from a colored pencil drawing was easy? 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.
Let’s take a look at a few ways to lift color.
2 Ways of Removing 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.
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.
A low-tack tape is best, but if you don’t have that, or can’t get it, you can use any type of tape. If a tape is too sticky, press it lightly on a piece of non-lint cloth like denim. That removes enough of the stickiness to make the tape useful without dirtying the tape.
Or removing all of the stickiness.
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.
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.
Most erasers don’t work well with colored pencils. The types of erasers you generally use with graphite often just smear colored pencil. That’s because the binding agents in colored pencils resist being removed.
But there are erasers that do remove color—or at least lighten it—if used carefully. I’ve had the best success with what I call click erasers, shown below. Click erasers are a refillable tool. You can get the eraser refills in different hardiness ratings.
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.
For artists with a little more skill (or courage,) an electric eraser can be effective on colored pencil drawings. I confess, that I lack the courage to use an electric eraser, but my husband (who is an engineer and very precise) has removed color almost down to the paper for me.
That happened with a drawing on Stonehenge paper. Stonehenge is very soft, so there was a bit of scuffing, but I was able to successfully draw over the scuff area. It was not visible on the finished drawing.
That’s How I Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing
These aren’t the only ways to remove or lighten color, but they work for me and will work for you, too. The key is to work slowly and carefully.
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!