Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time? How to Know and What to Do

Do colored pencils fade over time? The short answer is that yes, some of them do. Some colors are notorious for fading. Pinks and purples, for example. It doesn’t seem to matter the brand or type of pencil, these colors are subject to fading.

Some brands also seem vulnerable to fading, perhaps due to manufacturing procedures or the quality of the raw materials.

In many case, the lower quality pencils can also be subject to fading.

The difficulty is that there is no rule of thumb that’s always true. You simply cannot make a one-size-fits-all statement about fugitive colors (colors that fade).

S0 how do you know the difference between colors (or brands) that fade and those that don’t?

And maybe more importantly, what should you do about it?

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time

Fading and Colored Pencils

Lightfastness is a measurement of a pigment’s ability to resist fading or discoloration under normal circumstances. A lightfast pigment doesn’t fade. A fugitive color does.

The American Standard Test Measure (ASTM) rates pigments from one to five and is generally displayed in Roman Numerals (I, II, et cetera). The lower the number, the more lightfast a color is. Prismacolor uses this method of rating their colors.

Other countries use other rating methods. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Blue Wool Test is used and pigments are rated from 1 to 8, with the higher numbers being the most permanent.

The general rule of thumb is that the higher quality pencil, the more lightfast. That’s not universal, however. You’re likely to have a lower percentage of fugitive colors if you buy a higher quality pencil, but that’s not always a given.

But even the highest quality pencils will have some pencils that may fade under normal circumstances. That’s just the nature of those pigments.

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time Stock Pencils

How Do You Know Which Colors May Fade?

Many manufacturers provide color charts that indicate the lightfastness of each color they produce. Many others provide that information online, though you may have to search long and hard to find it. I was able to locate color charts for Faber-Castell and Prismacolor easily.

Others were more difficult and some were impossible.

If you want a color chart for your favorite brand, check the company’s website or search for the brand name with the words color chart. Faber-Castell color chart, for example.

NOTE: Just because a color is currently a fugitive color doesn’t mean it always will be. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their products and that does include lightfastness.

I have a 1999 color chart from Prismacolor that shows Spanish Orange with a IV rating (poor). The current color chart shows Spanish Orange with a III (good) rating. I won’t be using my old Spanish Orange pencils, but I would buy new Spanish Orange and use them.

A Recent Experience

I’ve been aware of issues of lightfastness and art supplies for quite some time. I’ve also known that some colors of colored pencils have serious problems with fading.

But it wasn’t until recently that I actually compared my stock of pencils with the ratings on the chart with the intent of removing all the fugitive colors. You can imagine my dismay when I discovered that nearly half of all the pencils I owned were fugitive. Some of them favorite colors.

Admittedly, I’ve always used Prismacolor pencils. That’s what I started with and what I’ve stayed with. They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to find in the US. Why change?

But seeing my pencils divided into two nearly equal piles was disheartening. It was clear I’d have start doing a lot more blending or settle for art that was less than permanent.

I wasn’t thrilled with either option.

Do Colored Pencils Fade over Time

What to Do

I am determined to produce the best, most permanent possible colored pencil work, so my choice is easy. I’ll replace fugitive colors with similar colors that have a better rating. For example, no more limepeel (IV). Instead, I’ll use chartreuse (II).

And instead of light cerulean blue (IV), I’ll use true blue (I), non-photo blue (II), or cloud blue (II), depending on what I’m drawing.

So it’s far from a hopeless case.

But you could also switch brands. A lot of artists have stopped using Prismacolor altogether in favor of some other brand. I have a full set of Faber-Castell Polychromos on the way. Not only do they have a luscious collection of earthy colors; most of their colors have good or excellent lightfast ratings.

Before switching, though, it’s worth your time to research lightfast issues. It’s pointless to replace one brand with another that’s more expensive, but rates no better.

You can also buy open stock from a variety of brands, choosing colors that are highly rated for permanence.

Or you can simply continue drawing with your current pencils, but make sure to notify buyers that some colors may fade if not properly framed with UV protective glass.


What you do with this information depends in large part on you. It’s perfectly okay to use fugitive colors in your artwork if you’re not planning on selling it or if you let buyers know. I may keep some of my favorite colors for doodling or other uses.

But I won’t be using them in portraits, gallery work, or anything I intend to sell. Fine art buyers spend a lot of money on art and deserve to know that whatever they buy from me will stand the test of time.

Additional Reading

Not sure whether or not your pencils are lightfast and can’t find a manufacturer’s color chart? Here’s an easy way to test your pencils for lightfastness.

How to Choose the Right Surface for Your Next Drawing

How to Choose the Right Surface Texture - Colored Pencil on Rough Paper

Last week, I shared tips for choosing the right color of paper for your next drawing project. Color is important, but it’s not the only thing you should consider. It’s just as important to know how to choose the right surface.

The paper you draw on should help you achieve your personal goals for the drawing. Choosing a smooth paper when paper with a medium or even rough surface would be better probably won’t ruin the drawing, but it may make it more difficult to finish.

So this week, I want to share some ideas for knowing what surface is best for your next subject—whatever that subject may be.

Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Surface

Papers come not only in different colors, but different surface textures. The surface texture of a drawing paper depends on how it’s made and what it’s made for. The roughness or smoothness of paper is called its “tooth”. The rougher the paper, the more tooth it has.

I wrote about the basics of drawing paper tooth in a previous post, but the illustration below will give you an idea of the three main types of surface texture and how colored pencil responds to each.

Each type of paper—rough, medium, and smooth—is made for a specific medium and sometimes for a specific purpose. Illustration boards are very smooth because they’re designed for illustrating mediums such as markers and inks.

Watercolor papers can be either smooth or rough, but are generally much rougher than drawing papers.

Most drawing papers are somewhere between illustration board and watercolor paper.

You can use any of the papers for any of the mediums, but your choices will affect the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a drawing and the way the finished drawing looks.

How to Choose the Right Surface: When Rough is Better

Rough drawing papers are good for layering. The toothier a paper, the more layers of color it takes without buckling or scuffing. A “toothy” paper is perfect if you like to use solvent blending.

However, it is more difficult to fill in the tooth of a rough paper because the pigment core doesn’t reach down into all the “hills and valleys” of the tooth. Unless you use heavy pressure or solvent blending, you’re more likely to end up with specks of paper color showing through the drawing. These “paper holes” may not bother you. If so, they can lend quite an artsy, painterly look to your colored pencil drawing.

If that’s your goal, a rougher paper is probably the best choice.

This drawing is colored pencil on sanded art paper. Sanded art paper not the same as even rough drawing paper (read about the differences here), but you can see how the colored pencil looked on rough paper. I could have filled all the paper holes, but it would have taken a lot of time and effort.

How to Choose the Right Surface Texture - Colored Pencil on Rough Paper

Use Rough Paper If:

  • You like to use solvent to blend colors
  • Want to do a lot of layering and/or use heavy pressure most of the time
  • Prefer a more painterly look for your drawings

How to Choose the Right Surface: When Smooth is Better

Smooth papers still have tooth, but they have much less tooth than rough papers. The little “hills and valleys” are shallower, and are therefore easier to fill in. That’s good if you don’t like paper holes showing in your finished drawing.

Papers that have less tooth are also ideal for drawing detail.

However, the lack of tooth also makes it more difficult to layer color effectively. You can still layer, but you’ll find it gets difficult to make color “stick” after just a few layers of color.

Solvent blending might help, but the smoother the paper, the more likely you are to damage the drawing if you use too much solvent. If the paper you use also is heavily sized (to keep it from absorbing moisture), the more likely it becomes that you could remove the drawing altogether, even with a solvent as mild as rubbing alcohol.

The drawing below is on Bristol paper with a vellum finish. Bristol vellum is a popular drawing paper because it’s very smooth that’s perfect for drawing detail.

However, it doesn’t take very many layers, and layering is key to my drawing method. I was able to complete the umber under drawing, but have had difficulty glazing color over that. Will the drawing ever be finished? I hope so, but I will have to compensate for the loss of tooth before going any further.

How to Choose the Right Surface Texture - Unfinished Drawing on Smooth Paper

Or I could start over with a toothier paper!

Use Smooth Paper If:

  • You don’t usually use many layers
  • You usually apply color heavily from the start
  • Highly detailed drawings are your goal

How to Choose the Right Surface: When Medium Tooth is Better

If your preferred drawing method falls somewhere between those two extremes, then paper with a medium tooth is probably your best bet.

Medium tooth paper has enough tooth to take a lot of layering (like rough paper), but also allows you to draw a high degree of detail (like smooth paper.) There is more paper tooth to fill in than you’d have with smooth papers, but it doesn’t take as much effort or pressure.

These types of papers can also often stand up to limited use of solvents, and may also be capable of accepting judicious use of water media such as water soluble colored pencils or watercolor.

All of those reasons are why my favorite drawing papers are medium tooth papers. The drawing below is on Strathmore Artagain paper.

How to Choose the Right Surface Texture - Medium Tooth Paper

Use Medium Tooth Paper If:

  • Your usual method involves a lot of layers
  • You draw a lot of detail
  • You begin with very light pressure and increase pressure to heavy pressure at the end of the drawing


Two factors play an important role in knowing how to choose the right surface texture. Your method and your artistic vision.

If your method of drawing involves lots of layers, you may want to avoid smoother papers, even if you enjoy drawing detail. Find a paper with enough tooth to take lots of layers, but still smooth enough to draw detail.

If, on the other hand, you apply color in only a few layers, smooth paper is probably best for you.

And if you really want to lay down lots of color fast, and aren’t concerned about details, give rough paper a try (especially those made for pastels.)

Finally, for those of us who like experimenting, try different kinds of papers with different subjects or for different effects. There is no rule that you have to draw the same way—or on the same paper—all the time!

Additional Reading

Drawing Paper Basics: Surface Texture

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper for Your Next Drawing

One of the first decisions every colored pencil artist has to make when starting a new project is also one of the most basic: What is the right color of paper for my next subject? Do I know how to choose the right color of paper for every subject?

If you always draw on white paper, the decision is an easy one. Just reach for the next sheet of paper.

But what if you don’t always draw on white or you want to try a different color? The color of paper you choose can either help your drawing or hinder it.

So how do you choose the best color?

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper for Your Next Drawing

Why You Should Consider Drawing on Colored Paper

There are many reasons to choose colored paper; too many to list here. One of the best reasons–at least to my way of thinking–is time. Drawing on colored paper is a great way to reduce drawing time.

Another reason to use colored paper instead of white is that the color of the paper can act as the background for vignette style art or as the foundation color for other types of drawings.

Other drawings might require a color that adds zing to the composition or helps establish a mood. Colored paper is perfect.

If you decide to draw your next subject on something other than white paper, how do you choose the right color of paper?

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper for Colored Pencil

I’ve already mentioned a couple of factors that will help you decide.

  • Providing background color
  • Providing foundation color
  • Adding atmosphere

Lets take a look at each one of these specifically.

Choose the Right Color of Paper for Background or Foundation

The first two are pretty straight forward. You need a background for every drawing and you need to establish a foundation for your drawing. There are only two ways to accomplish those two things: Draw your own or let the paper do it.

Take this drawing of a black Tennessee Walking Horse, for example.

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper Black Tennessee Walking Horse

I choose a light gray Canson Mi Tientes paper first and foremost because the horse was black. The gray paper provided an ideal background for this vignette-style portrait.

But it also provided a foundation for the drawing itself. All I had to draw were the values that were darker than the paper, and those that were lighter. Most of the highlights are bare paper. See the red arrows below.

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper Black Tennessee Walking Horse

The gray paper also provided a foundation color for the horse’s bridle. Again, all I had to do was draw the lights and darks.

Not everything was a shade of gray, though. The blue accent pieces on the bridle and the browns of the eye were made a little bit more lively by the gray paper.

How to Choose the Right Color of Paper Black Tennessee Walking Horse Detail

Could I have drawn the same horse on white paper? Absolutely, but I would have had to shade the background first if I wanted a gray tone or would have had to go with a white background. The resulting drawing would have had a different look, too.

What other colors would have worked for this drawing?

Black comes immediately to mind, and would probably have produced a stunning image, especially with the bright blues and browns already mentioned.

A light or medium shade of blue might also have been a good choice.

In the long run, though, I believe using any color but gray would have increased the time it took to draw the drawing.

TIP: Any time you draw a subject that’s predominantly a single color, look for a color of paper that supports the main colors.

Choose the Right Color of Paper for Atmosphere

Atmosphere is harder to pin down because it’s a more subjective method. It depends largely on two factors: What you as the artist see in your subject and what you want to depict.

Confused yet?

Here’s a photo of an evening sky that I’ve wanted to paint or draw since I first saw the sky in real life. It’s pretty dramatic and begging to be drawn.

How to Choose the Right Color Paper, Sky Scape

When I first took this photo, my gut reaction was to draw the sky on black paper. That seemed like the logical choice for two reasons:

  1. The silhouetted foreground is tailor-made for black paper.
  2. The blues in the sky are dark, almost purple blues, especially in the upper corners. Layering blue colored pencil over black paper is one way to capture this look

The brightness of the sun shining through the clouds could also be emphasized by putting the drawing on black paper.

How does atmosphere fit into those considerations? The day is winding down. The sun has almost set and in a very short time, it will be dark.

I want to depict the brightness of the image, but also suggest the coming darkness. Black paper is a logical choice for enhancing the sense of the darkness of night loitering behind the brightness of the sunset.

Were I to put this drawing on a light, bright yellow, it would look and feel totally different. In fact, I’d guess that it would look more like a sunrise than a sunset.

What other colors might be good choices for drawing this sunset?

I love earth tones, so I’d consider a dark brown paper if one was available. For a softer look, dark blue or a very dark gray would also be possibilities.

Of course, I could also use white paper and perhaps still get the “look” I wanted, but it would take more time and effort because I’d have to draw the darks.


These are only three factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right color of paper for your next drawing. In the end, what will matter most is what you want to do, and how adventurous you might be feeling. After all, who knows what you’d end up with if choose a totally off the wall color?

Want to Read More About Paper?

Check out these articles on paper.

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

Drawing on Colored Papers to Reduce Drawing Time

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My Favorite Drawing Papers

What are your favorite drawing papers?

An excellent question!

I’ve talked a lot about the pencils I use and how I use them, but haven’t spent much time talking about my favorite drawing papers. I’ve been remiss, so thank you for asking!

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My favorite papers are Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper.


With Stonehenge, I usually use white. It does come in light colors (tan, light blue, etc.) and I do sometimes use those for special projects. This portrait was one of the first I drew on Stonehenge paper.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Portrait on White Stonehenge Paper

I’ve also occasionally used black, and although black papers aren’t usually my first choices, there is definitely a place for black Stonehenge.

Fawn is another color that works very well for my favorite subjects (horses and landscapes.) I’ve also used Pearl Gray and Natural.

Stonehenge is a 90lb paper designed for printmaking. It’s soft to the touch, but also tough enough to take multiple layers, and some solvent blending.

One neat thing about Stonehenge: If you get it damp, it will wrinkle or buckle, but if you let it dry lying flat, it dries out and the buckling disappears.

TIP: I’m able to get Stonehenge paper manufactured under the Rising brand from a local store. There is a difference between Rising Stonehenge paper and current Stonehenge paper. I don’t know what it is, but if you can find Rising Stonehenge anywhere, buy it and give it a try.

There is a difference between the surface quality of Stonehenge in the sheets and Stonehenge in the pad. The padded variety feels more like Bristol than a printmaking paper. If you’re new to Stonehenge, get it in the sheet first. That will give you the best sense of what the paper is like.

The pads are also quality paper, but it won’t take as many layers.

See the selection of Stonehenge papers at Dick Blick.

Canson Mi-Teintes

Canson Mi Teintes is a pastel paper, so the front of it is quite rough. It can be used for colored pencil. Matter-of-fact, I accidentally used the front for the tutorial showing how to draw a foggy morning. I almost started over when I discovered my error, then changed my mind. I’m glad I did! The pastel texture was ideal for drawing fog.

But the smoother backside is better for colored pencil overall. The difference is visible, so make sure which side you’re using when you begin drawing.

I tried Canson Mi-Teintes many years ago, but didn’t know about the two sides, and apparently used the pastel side. Result? I didn’t like it. The paper was also a bit flimsy, and didn’t stand up under my method of drawing.

The light-weight version I first tried has been replaced by a 98lb paper that stands up to multiple layers, heavy pressure, burnishing, and solvent blending.

Recently, I saw an excellent demonstration on using turpentine with colored pencil and the artist was using Canson Mi-Teintes. Her work turned out so well, I just had to try it again. So I pulled out a scrap of that old paper and what do you know? I liked it! Here’s the drawing.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Drawing on Gray Canson Mi-Tientes

I’ve since purchased four sheets of heavier weight Mi-Teintes in five colors and a 9×12 inch pad of assorted colors, and have used both.

There’s a wider range of colors with this paper, including quite a few light colors, dark colors, and even some bright colors! You can see Canson Mi Tientes at Dick Blick.

I described my work on the drawing above and you can read all about that here.

Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper

A paper I use on a more limited basis is Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper. The unique thing about this paper is that it’s made from 30% post consumer material. It’s a 60lb paper with visible fibers that make it ideal for vignette style drawings. The surface is quite a bit “harder” than either Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes, so colored pencil behaves a little differently on it. It can handle a lot of layers, but doesn’t stand up to moisture as well.

It’s ideal for quick sketching, though. I used it almost exclusively one year when I was doing and selling on-site quick draws at local horse shows.

Flannel White is the lightest color available. I’ve used it and Beachsand Ivory most often, but have also used Moonstone upon occasion. This drawing is on Beachsand Ivory.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Drawing on Beachsand Ivory Artagain

This paper is available in more colors than Stonehenge. It’s also more widely available than Stonehenge.

See the selection of Strathmore Artagain at Dick Blick.

Papers I Want to Try

Stonehenge Aqua comes in sheets or blocks and is designed specifically for use with watercolors. It comes in three variations: 140lb cold press, 300lb cold press, and 140lb hot press.

I have a sample of each and look forward to giving them a try as soon as other obligations are out of the way. One thing I can tell you without putting pencil to paper is that they’re beautiful papers.

Fisher 400 ArtPaper is another paper on my to-be-tried list. I’ve used UArt Sanded Pastel Paper a couple of times and like that quite a bit, though it can be difficult to render detail on it. While I like UArt, I’ve heard such good things about Fisher 400 that I want to compare the two.


And those are my favorite current papers and possible future favorites. If you’re looking for paper, these are good papers to try.

Several of them are also available as panels, so if you prefer to frame your drawings without glass, you can still use these papers. How neat is that?

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

When students begin a new class or start new lessons, one of the questions they usually ask is about colored pencil papers. Which brands are best? What are the differences? Which papers do I use most often?

Some of those questions have been answered elsewhere on this blog. For example, if you’re interested in knowing a few paper basics, check out Drawing Paper Basics: Surface Texture. I’ll link to other paper articles at the end of this article.

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

The purpose of this post is to answer four questions that are more specific in nature. If you have a question that is unanswered here, I invite you to ask it. Chances are good that you’re not the only one with the same question.

Frequently Asked Questions about Colored Pencil Papers

1. Are there any specific brands of paper that work well with colored pencils?

Papers are even more numerous than pencils!

Look for artist quality, archival papers. These are papers that are manufactured to be as permanent as possible.

Beyond that, there are different types of surfaces from very rough (sanded pastel paper) to very smooth (hot pressed papers and boards).

The smoother the paper, the easier it is to draw a lot of detail. However, you usually can’t put a lot of layers onto the paper.

The rougher the paper, the more layers of color you can add, but it can be very difficult to draw detail.

My preferred papers are Stonehenge, Bristol (vellum surface), Strathmore ArtAgain paper, and archival mat board. I’ve also drawn on sanded pastel paper and wood.

2. Do You Ever Use Colored or Toned Papers?

Yes, I do, but not as often as I used to.

Drawing on colored papers is a great way to reduce drawing time. It’s especially helpful if you need to finish something quickly.

But drawing on colored paper requires some adjustment in method, especially if you’re drawing on darker papers. Colors tend to “fade” into darker paper and the darker the paper, the more difficult it is to get bright, vibrant color.

However, you can get lovely, subtle values by working on darker paper, as you can see in this drawing.

Drawing on Dark Colored Pencil Papers

3. What Papers Do You Use?

My two favorite papers are Stonehenge and Strathmore Artagain.

With Stonehenge, I usually use white. It does come in light colors (tan, light blue, etc.) and I do sometimes use those for special projects. I’ve also occasionally used black. See it at Dick Blick.

Artagain papers do not come in white, but I still use the lightest colors available. Flannel White (which is the lightest color, but not true white) and Beachsand Ivory. It is available in more colors than Stonehenge, so if I’m looking for something Stonehenge doesn’t offer, my preference is Artagain. It’s also more widely available than Stonehenge. See it at Dick Blick.

On My Wish List

I’m going to be trying Canson Mi Tientes. That’s a paper made for pastel use so the front of it is quite rough, but the back is smooth and is reported to be very good for colored pencil. There’s a wider range of colors with this paper, including quite a few light colors. You can see Canson Mi Tientes at Dick Blick here.

All three types of paper are available in flat sheets and in pads. If you’re thinking about trying any of them (or any other paper, for that matter), I recommend buying drawing pads first. You can usually get pads of assorted colors, so you get a variety of colors at a good value.

4. Do You Ever Draw On Anything Except Colored Pencil Paper?

Some of my favorite drawing surfaces are not paper, strictly speaking. Mat board, for example. I use archival quality mat board frequently, though not as often as I used to.

Sanded pastel papers are also good for colored pencil drawing, though they tend to gobble up pencil.

I’ve even drawn on wood a time or two and found it an excellent support.

If you’re interesting in drawing on something other than paper, give it a try. You just won’t know whether it’s suitable for colored pencil—or your drawing style—until you do. Start small and play with color. See what happens. Let us know how it turns out!

Additional Reading

If you’re interested in reading more about drawing papers, check out these articles.

Drawing Paper Basics: Surface Texture

Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils?

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

How to Fix Damage to a Colored Pencil Drawing

Knowing how to fix damage to a colored pencil drawing at all stages of the drawing process is vital to finishing drawings.

If you don’t know how to repair physical damage to paper, you’ll end up throwing out drawings that could otherwise be salvaged. Believe me! I know from experience; a lot of drawings were trashed  early on that would now be salvageable.

How to Fix Damage to a Colored Pencil Drawing

How to Fix Damage to a Colored Pencil Drawing

Some of the damaged drawings were self-inflicted, while others were the result of manufacturing flaws. So the first thing I’ll encourage you to do is examine every sheet of paper before you use it.

But let’s assume you’ve looked for scuffs, dents, indentations, and marks and you’ve still discover a flaw after you began your drawing. What do you do?

Following are two forms of damage that happen most often to me. I’ve had lots of practice repairing them. Here’s what I do.

Scuffed Paper

Are you of the opinion that once you tear or scuff your paper, it’s over? I used to share that opinion, but no longer do. Not after this drawing.

How to Fix Damage to a Colored Pencil Drawing - Icelandic Prince

I don’t remember what type of paper I used, but I found a serious flaw in it on the right side, where the horse’s rump is. Memory suggests that I scuffed the paper trying to lighten the area with a eraser.

How to Fix Damage - Icelandic Prince Detail

Whatever the cause, it became more noticeable with every layer of color.

I considered cropping the drawing to remove that part of the composition, so put different sizes and shapes of mats over the drawing. None of them worked. I either needed to find a way to work over (and hide) that scuff or start over.

Fixing Scuffs

To cover the flaw and avoid making it larger, I used Verithin pencils with very light pressure and very small, circular strokes to fill in the scuffed area. Then I worked over them with waxier Prismacolor soft core pencils. I used very light pressure to work over the scuff and blend it into the colors on unscuffed paper.

I also kept my pencils very sharp so I didn’t worsen the scuff. Eventually, the flaw disappeared enough to rescue the drawing.

There are two morals to this story.

One. Erase carefully. It’s frightfully easy to scuff drawing paper.

Two. It is possible to cover a scuff if you work carefully and slowly, and don’t make the scuff worse by drawing over the edge of it.


This portrait represents the first time I used Stonehenge paper. I loved the paper from the start, but learned something quickly.

It was extremely easy to impress unwanted lines. Every layer of color seemed to reveal another impression somewhere and before long, I began to wonder if I should restart on another paper.

How to Fix Damage to a Colored Pencil Drawing - Courtster

Then I learned how to fill in those unwanted impressions with a very sharp pencil, and a very light touch. Pencils with harder pigment cores are best, but it can be done with softer pencils.

And it’s easy!

Filling Impressions

Sharpen your pencil as absolutely sharp as you can. Then draw along the length of the impression with light pressure. Turn your pencil in your fingers between strokes to keep the point sharp, and stroke until the impression is filled in.

When you add another layer, make sure to add that color to the impression, too. Eventually, the impression will disappear.

NOTE: This drawing was done back in the day when Rising made Stonehenge. The formulation or sizing has since changed, so the Stonehenge you buy today is no longer so soft. You can still accidentally impress lines into it, but not so easily.

A Last Resort Solution

If all else fails, and if the damage is on the edge of the drawing, you can crop the drawing. That removes the problem physically.

Even if the damage isn’t around the edges, you may be able to crop one or two miniature “detail” images from the larger drawing. The first time I did these years ago, I ended up with an eye study and a bit study from a larger race horse portrait. Both of them sold quickly.

Quickly enough to prompt me to make more drawings of the same size and type.

Now You Know How to Fix Damage to Paper

At least for two common types of damage.

These methods work on most papers, though you may have to adjust the method for whatever type of paper you’re using.

Sometimes you can’t fix damage once it happens. In such cases, starting over is probably the best answer.

But if you don’t panic and if you proceed carefully and thoughtfully, you can rescue more damaged drawings than you might think.

Give this tips a try. What do you have to lose?

An Easy Way to Test Colored Pencil Lightfastness

If you’re a fine artist—if you’re producing artwork for sale—the longevity of your art is very important. You want the artwork your collectors and clients purchase to last a long time. Nothing is more abhorrent to you than the thought that your work will fade in a few short years.

One way to make sure your artwork has a long life and looks good for years is to use the best materials available. Paper that’s proven to hold up under use and time.

Colored pencils that are high quality and lightfast.

Yes, archival papers and high quality pencils are going to cost you more, but they will be worth it in the long run—especially when compared against the possibility of having to refund a buyer for faded artwork or having to do a work over.

I’ve already written briefly about choosing paper for colored pencil work and plan to write more fully on that topic in the near future. So our topic for today is colored pencils.

Namely, about lightfastness and a simple test you can do to find out how lightfast your pencils are.


What is Lightfastness?

Lightfastness is a measurement of a pigment’s ability to resist fading or discoloration under normal circumstances. A pigment that is lightfast doesn’t fade.

The American Standard Test Measure (ASTM) rates pigments from one to five and is generally displayed in Roman Numerals (I, II, et cetera). The lower the number, the more lightfast a color is.

Oil paints display a lightfast rating on the tube. Most colored pencils do not show a lightfast rating on the pencils or even on the containers because each color has a different rating.

Other countries use other rating methods. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Blue Wool Test is used and pigments are rated from 1 to 8, with the higher numbers being the most permanent.

Lightfastness and Colored Pencils

The general rule of thumb is that the higher quality pencil, the more lightfast. That’s not universal, however. Some colors manufactured to the highest artistic standards are not very lightfast. Pinks and purples are notorious for fading fairly quickly no matter what brand of pencil you use.

Many manufacturers provide color charts that indicate the lightfastness of each color they produce. Many others provide that information online, though you may have to search long and hard to find it.

Conducting Your Own Lightfastness Test

So does that mean you’re at the mercy of the manufacturer?

No. There is a way to test lightfastness on your own. Here’s how I do it.

Step 1

Make a color chart for each of the colors you want to test. It doesn’t need to be neat or tidy (though it may be). Nor does it need to be complex, though you can make it as complex as you wish.

I layer color quickly and with medium or heavier pressure. As you can see from the sample shown here, my strokes are long and scribbled. My interest is in getting patches of uniform color, so I don’t worry about neatness, value, or anything else.

Color Chart for Koh-I-Nor Progresso Pencils

Label each color.

I also label the top of the sheet with the brand of pencil, the type (in this case Koh-I-Nor Progresso woodless), and the date I made the sheet.

Step 2

I covered the center part of the sheet with another sheet of paper. I’m going to put this sheet in a sunny place for a while and I want to hide part of each color swatch from the sun.

But you can also cut the sheet so that each color is cut in half, giving you two complete sets. One set is exposed to the sun, the other set is kept in a drawer or some other place where light cannot reach it.

Step 3


At least four weeks.

Some of the colors may start to fade more quickly than that, but to get a good idea of how long-term exposure to light affects all the colors, I leave test sheets in sunny windows for at least four weeks.

I don’t play nice, either. I put test sheets like this in south facing windows where they get direct sun most of the time. It’s a good way to see how well colors perform under terrible conditions.

Step 4

After four weeks, compare the colors exposed to direct light to those not exposed to direct light. Those colors that show no change are lightfast and unlikely to fade.

For those colors that did fade—and some of them will—note how much they faded. If they faded just a little bit, you may decide to continue to use them. If so, keep that chart handy so you can refer to it while you draw and so you’ll know when and how you may need to compensate for those colors.

If a color faded a lot, it’s probably wise to stop using it.

Here’s my test sheet after 30 days.


Light Blue and Paris blue showed clear signs of fading. Much to my surprise, the pinks and purples showed little or no signs of fading after 30 days.

Ten Months Later

August 18, 2017

I took the test sheet out of the window, removed the protective cover,  and here’s what I saw.

Color Chart for Koh-I-Nor Progresso Pencils 4

Carmine and Light Blue faded badly. I will not be using them for future drawings.

Pink and Scarlet Lake faded, but not very much.

The other colors show no sign of fading.

The take away is that although these pencils come in only 24 colors, most of them are very lightfast. At least the sixteen colors I tested are reliable.

A Test For All Pencils

This test works with all brands and grades of pencils. You can even do side-by-side comparisons of similar colors from different brands. If you use more than one brand of pencil, knowing how the colors perform relative to one another is valuable information.

Especially if the manufacturers use different methods of testing or reporting lightfastness.

For my money, even if manufacturers thoroughly test their products and report the results, doing my own, real-life tests is worth the time and effort.

You may find it’s worth your time and effort, too.

What to Wear for Drawing Outside

Just in case you haven’t heard, we’re doing a plein air drawing challenge. The challenge begins tomorrow, September 1, and runs through the month. My personal goal is to get outside at least once a week and draw something with colored pencils, but I’m really hoping to draw outside more often than that.

I’m planning to post my drawings on a special group board on Pinterest. You’re welcome to join that board and post your drawings too. All you have to do is request an invitation to join the board. You will need a Pinterest account, but they’re free and easy to set up.

This post is the last in a series of daily posts covering various topics related to drawing outside. So far, we’ve talked about my favorite equipment for drawing outside, putting together a field kit, finding something to draw, and tips for using a view finder.

With the challenge now upon us, it seems reasonable to talk about what to wear for drawing outside.

What to Wear for Drawing Outside

The good news is that you don’t need a lot of specialized clothing to draw outside unless you’re going somewhere truly unique—like Antarctica or Mount Everest. Most of us already have everything we need in our closets.

A good rule of thumb when dressing for field drawing is to dress in layers. If it gets too warm, you can remove garments. If it gets cooler, you can add them. I like to think of dressing for drawing outdoors the same way I’d dress if I were going for a hike in the woods or for a long walk.

Keys to consider are comfort and protection from the elements. Know the conditions where you plan to draw and dress accordingly.

Beyond that, what you wear really depends on where you’re going. Are you going to be close to home or will you be traveling? It does make a difference.

If You’re Working Close to Home

I’m going to be doing most of my drawing close to home. On the front porch. From the back porch, in the backyard, et cetera.

If that’s your plan, clothing isn’t as important because you can always run inside and make changes. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind.

At the very least, you should consider using sun screen. It’s better to keep the sun off of you as much as possible. For that, I recommend a wide-brimmed hat of some kind, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. They will keep your exposure to the sun to a minimum.

If it’s very hot, wear light-weight clothing (cotton if possible), but long sleeves are still better than short. The natural cooling capacities of the human body are improved by the evaporation from your clothing. Take advantage of it.

Keeping arms and legs covered will also help reduce the irritation of insects. The less exposed skin, the better for you.

Sensible shoes are also a good idea. I have worked outside barefoot, but don’t recommend that. Nothing hampers creativity more than stepping on something sharp! Trust me!

Sunglasses are a good idea, and if you’re going to be working in a sunny place where there is no natural shade, an umbrella or similar canopy is a good idea. You will probably want to stick with a white or neutral color because the color of the umbrella or canopy will change the way colors look on paper.

If You’re Working Away from Home

If you’re going to be traveling—even if it’s just across town—you will need to give a little more thought to what you wear and what other garments you might need to take along.

Everything I listed above applies here, too. Dress in layers and in a manner that offers protection from the sun, wear sturdy shoes, dress for comfort, and so on.

But also consider taking along an extra shirt and/or a coat or jacket in case the temperature drops. Rain gear of some kind is advisable if you happen to live in a temperate climate where the weather can change on a dime or if it’s a changeable time of year.

If you hike a lot, dress for drawing as you would dress for hiking.

The same applies if you like to garden or bike or go on picnics. You already know what types of garments work well for outdoor activities. Plein air drawing isn’t that much different as far as what you wear is concerned, so go with what you know.

So Many Options

There are so many options in this department that it’s impossible to give a comprehensive list. Every artist who works out-of-doors has a personal preference for what they wear. I’ve tried to list the most basic things so you can dress with confidence if you’ve never drawn outside before.

But I know many of you who have worked en plein air have favorite garments or other items that I haven’t included, so please add them in the comments below. We want all of the Challenge participants to have fun, be comfortable, and be safe.

Tomorrow is the first day of the challenge. Are you planning to go outside?

How to Use a View Finder

In the previous post, I listed a few of the basic items necessary for a good plein air drawing field kit. If you missed it or would like a review, you can read the post here.

One of the items I mentioned was something called a view finder. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit more about that and share some tips for using one.

How to Use a View Finder

Why You Need a View Finder

Quite simply, you need a view finder of some kind to focus your eye and attention. When you’re working outside, the whole world is at your feet. Everywhere you look, there’s something to draw or paint. The possibilities can be overwhelming!

Here’s one of my favorite views of the Flint Hills of Kansas. The first time I ever saw this country, it was a bitter cold day in December. A skiff of snow on brown hills, yet it called to me as no other landscape ever had.

How to Use a View Finder - Full View of Landscape
Here’s a reference photo taken with my digital camera at a normal setting. Viewing a 360-degree landscape through the lens of a camera is a great way to find a good composition.

This particular photo was taken in October and everything about it calls to be drawn. It captures a small portion of that panoramic landscape. A very small portion.

And yet there’s a lot of information here. Enough to overwhelm a beginning plein air artist like me.

Here’s a detail shot of the same image. Maybe not the most interesting possible composition, but you can see how much less overwhelming it is. With a digital camera or even a phone, you can snap the wide view—as shown above—then take as many close up views as you like until you find the composition you like best.

How to Use a View Finder - Zoomed in "View Finder" View of Landscape

How to Use a View Finder

If your view finder is a phone or camera, you probably already know how to use it.

But there are other types of view finders. I carry a small pre-cut mat with a dark side and a light side. I have several empty mats I use in the drawing process: small, medium, and large. For the sake of this post, I’m using a 5×7 mat. It’s easy to carry and use and is also a standard size that easily translates into larger sized drawings with the same proportions.

Here’s how I use it to find good compositions in a world of possibilities.

This is the Warkentine House. A local historical location and a museum. There’s a lot to like about this house. A lot to draw.

How to Use a View Finder - Street Scene

Because this is a shady scene full of shadow and middle values, I used the white side of my view finder. I held it at arm’s length and viewed different parts of the scene by panning to the right, then the left. Here’s one possible vertical composition.

How to Use a View Finder - Street Scene through View Finder Vertical

I repeated the process with the view finder held horizontally.

How to Use a View Finder - Street Scene through View Finder Horizontal

Even though I was using a small view finder (5×7), it was a bit too large to really isolate a single subject at such a close distance. This view finder works better in the wide open spaces.

If you’re thinking about drawing something close, consider using a smaller view finder. 4×6 or even 3×5 would be good sizes for isolating single subjects in a scene that’s this close.

You can also isolate smaller subjects by framing them with your hands or by using mat corners or simply using two pencils to create a “corner”. I like a pre-cut mat because it’s a single tool that’s light-weight and very easy to use and carry.

About the Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge

The Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge is a motivational tool designed to get us outside and drawing with colored pencil each September.

I’m going to draw outside at least one day a week. If you have more time, you can do more drawings.You can do fewer. The point is to get outside and draw, and however often you can, I hope you’ll join me.

I’ll post my drawings on a special group board on Pinterest. If you’d like to post your drawings, all you have to do is request an invitation to join the board. You will need a Pinterest account, but they’re free and easy to set up.

How to Find Something to Draw

So far in this series on plein air drawing with colored pencil, we’ve talked about the upcoming Autumn Drawing Challenge, the equipment I use instead of a standard easel, and putting together a field kit.

It’s now time to take a look at what some might call the most important aspect of plein air drawing.

Finding something to draw.

How to Find Something to Draw

Finding Something to Draw

No matter what type of subject, art, or style you like, you should be able to find something to draw outside your front (or back) door. I live in town near the downtown area, so you might think someone who prefers landscapes would have difficulty finding subjects.

Not so!

This detail drawing (drawn outside a few years ago) shows an oddity that appears at the foot of a tree that’s scarcely four feet from our back steps.

These clouds are further away, but I sat in a lawn chair just a few feet from the above mentioned tree while I drew the clouds. Such scenes are available from anywhere around the house, around town, or in the countryside. All you have to do is look!

How to Find Something to Draw - Cloud Sketch

Tips for Finding Plein Air Subjects

When looking for plein air subjects, keep an eye on the big picture, but also be aware that your subject will most likely be a very small part of the big picture.

Like the interesting detail at the foot of a towering elm.

If you’re not a fan of landscapes, that’s okay. There are still plenty of interesting things all around. Step outside and take a look at the things on or around your front porch.  Here are a few of the things I found just outside my front door.

How to Find Something to Draw - Peeling Paint
When looking for something to draw, don’t rule anything out at first glance. Not even a section of peeling paint or an empty pot.

We also have cats in the community, so there are opportunities to draw them if I happen to find them napping.

The point is that there are always things to draw close at hand.

When searching for something to draw, I’ve identified two keys to keep in mind.

  • Don’t rule anything out at a glance
  • Look for the thing that attracts your glance repeatedly

What makes a subject interesting as a drawing or sketch has as much to do with how you see it and choose to draw it as with its innate qualities.

So step out your front door (or back door) and see what’s available.

Then take a little time to sketch it. You might be surprised at the results!

About the Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge

The Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge begins September 1 and concludes October 31. It’s designed to be fun and informative. There are only two rules:

  • Go outside to draw something outside
  • Use colored pencil in some form

I’m going to draw outside at least one day a week. If you have more time, you can do more drawings. If time is a concern for you, you can do fewer. The point is to get outside and draw.

I’ll post my drawings on a special group board on Pinterest. If you’d like to post your drawings, all you have to do is request an invitation to join the board. You will need a Pinterest account, but they’re free and easy to set up.