Removing Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

Removing Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

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

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.

You can use either transparent tape or masking tape to remove color from a drawing. Whatever type of tape you choose, use it carefully, since tape can damage the paper surface.

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.

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.

Erasers

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.

These are two click erasers I use. One has a slightly harder erasers than the other. Both are good for removing just a little bit of color at any stage in the drawing process.

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.

Electric Erasers

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!

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8 Comments

  1. Pam

    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. Nat Ford

    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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