My Review of Titanium White

My Review of Titanium White

I mentioned a few posts ago that I’d started experimenting with some of the products by Brush & Pencil. Today, I’d like to offer my review of Titanium White pigment and share one particularly exciting (to me) unexpected benefit.

My Review of Titanium White

Titanium White is pure, white pigment; the same pigment used in making white pencils. The pigment, which comes in powder form, can be applied dry by brush or sponge applicator. You can also mix it with Touch-Up Texture and paint it onto a work-in-progress.

Since there is no filler in the pigment, it goes onto the paper fairly opaque, but you can spread it thin enough to create varying degrees of translucency.

Titanium White pigment and white colored pencils work extremely well together. Use Titanium White pigment for larger areas, and pencils for smaller areas or details. Alyona Nickelsen uses Titanium White and white colored pencils to lighten parts of her under paintings before the color glazing phase.

Because it’s powder with no filler or binder, you must seal it with ACP Textured Fixative before adding more color.

You can remove Titanium White pigment with mounting putty until it’s sealed. Then it becomes permanent.

My experience with this product is still limited to two experiments. One wet, and one dry.

Titanium White mixed with Touch-Up Texture

My first experiment with Titanium White involved a small landscape called Blazing Sunset. When the landscape looked like this, I thought I’d finished it. It looked complete.

Review of Titanium White mixed with Touch-Up Texture

Then I decided to add a bright gleam of sunlight streaming through the clouds.

I tried layering lighter colors over the sky, but in vain. Even sealing the painting with ACP Textured Fixative didn’t help. Those bright values continued to elude me.

As you can see here, it was a pretty good painting. The additional details added to my overall satisfaction, but it still wasn’t quite right.

So I mixed up a small amount of Titanium White with Touch-Up Texture, then painted that over the sun. It went onto the painting very easily and dried quickly.

And it completely covered up everything underneath.

The illustration above shows the patch of sunshine with traditional color layering. The illustration below shows the Titanium White mixture painted over the area. Quite a significant difference!

Once the surface dried, I glazed color over it to get the right colors for that area and I finished the painting with no further setbacks.

The result was very pleasing. The improvement delighted me to no end.

I was even more delighted with what happened on the next experiment.

Using the Pigment Dry

I recently decided that a horse portrait wasn’t working and set it aside for later work. In the back of my mind, I’d already decided the portrait was a failure, but I lacked the courage to say so out loud. So I tucked it away in a closet with the thought that I’d stumble across it sometime in the future and be able to finish it.

Sometime that night, the thought came to mind that I should try Titanium White pigment on it. I knew the pigment was opaque mixed with Touch-Up Texture. Was it opaque enough dry to cover a failed drawing so I could start over? It was worth a try.

The next day, I started spreading Titanium White pigment over the paper. I tapped a little bit out of the container, then used a sponge applicator to spread it around and blend it into the tooth of the paper (Clairefontaine Pastelmat.)

One application covered the paper. The drawing was still visible, but I could draw over it if I wished.

Review of Titanium White used dry.

I put down a second application and the drawing was even less visible. I knew it was still there and could still see it.

Would it show through a new drawing? I didn’t think so.

I could have added a third application, and I did think about it.

Instead, I sealed the surface with three light coats of ACP Textured Fixative, letting each coat dry completely before applying the next. Three applications completely sealed the Titanium White. I could lift no white pigment by drawing my finger across the surface.

I ended up applying another layer of Titanium White. Once it’s sealed again, it will be ready for a new drawing.

That’s My Review of Titanium White Pigment

For now.

Yes. Only one of my experiments involved using Titanium White pigment the way it’s marketed. But you have to admit that the second experiment opens a lot of doors for saving drawings that might otherwise fail.

Do I recommend Titanium White pigment?


For my money, this successful experiment makes Titanium White worth its purchase price. I don’t abandon that many works-in-progress anymore, but if I can blot out an entire drawing with this product, then I can certainly cover a small part of a drawing if it goes wrong.

And that does happen more often than I’d like to admit.

My First Impressions of Lux Archival Paper

Trying new pencils and papers is always fun, even if the projects don’t turn out. I’ve been doing some experimenting this winter, and I’d like to share my first impressions of Lux Archival paper.

I’m especially happy with this report, because all three projects so far have turned out!

My First Impressions of Lux Archival Paper

About Lux Archival

Lux Archival is a non-absorbent, sanded paper created by Alyona Nickelsen of Brush & Pencil. She wanted a toothy paper that was completely archival, front to back. Unable to find one already on the market, she developed her own.

It’s available in packs of 8×10, 11×14, 16×20 and 24×36 or in a 48-inch by 5-yard roll. In the smaller sizes, it’s quite sturdy and didn’t curl or buckle even when I worked on it without taping it to a rigid support.

Lux Archival is designed for dry media, but also handles wet media. I have yet to use watercolor pencils or solvent blending, but I understand it stands up under both.

White is the only color available, but you don’t really need any other color, since it’s so easy to shade backgrounds in any color you like.

The surface is gritty but very fine with an even texture that’s very easy to draw on and that takes color easily.

Lux Archival is a bit on the expensive side, but if you’re doing client work or work designed for sale, then it’s well worth the expense. But then I spent years buying canvases for oil paintings. A good sanded paper is still inexpensive by comparison.

My First Impressions of Lux Archival Paper

It wasn’t my intention to try Lux Archival. I really wanted Alyona’s book, Colored Pencil Painting Portraits. My intention was to learn her methods more completely so I could finish a horse portrait I’d taken on and was struggling with.

The book came with several samples, including pencils, small packets of Powder Blender and Titanium White, and a 4-inch by 6-inch sample of Lux Archival.

I’d heard so much about this paper that I was reluctant to try it before finishing the portrait. The portrait was on it’s second incarnation after a switch from Stonehenge to Pastelmat. I like Pastelmat but was having difficulty with this particular piece. So I was afraid that finding I liked Lux Archival better would make me want to start the portrait over again.

So I waited. The wait was worth it!

My First Two Projects

My first projects were two small sketches, one plein air, and one from memory. I used a limited palette for both. I also tried new pencils, Derwent Lightfast pencils, with the first one, shown here.

Derwent Lightfast pencils are quite soft, so they put color on the Lux Archival very well. I loved the way they felt on this paper. It was easy to layer color and build values just by adding layers.

However, the combination of sanded paper and soft pencils made it difficult to get fine marks. I was able to draw some of those small twigs by “striking” the paper with short strokes and light pressure. The “stop-start” nature of those strokes mimicked the affects of fine lines to draw twigs.

Overall, I was quite happy with the results of this plein air piece, even with a very limited palette (only three colors.)

For the second test, I used Faber-Castell Polychromos Crimson. Polychromos pencils are harder pencils, so it was a bit easier to get fine marks. But the paper still “grabbed” color very easily.

I was able to get a good range of values even using only one color because the paper takes so many layers of color.

The harder pencils allowed me to draw finer lines, but getting a good, crisp line with so few layers was a challenge.

Even so, I was very pleased with these two sketches. Each one took 20 minutes or less to finish, and there was still enough tooth left to do much more.

A Full Up Drawing

The third drawing was a full up landscape based on a photograph supplied to me by fellow artist Carol Leather. A stunning sunset seen through a stand of bare trees, this was exactly the type of project I wanted to try on Lux Archival. The colorful sky was the real test.

I also used some of the other Brush & Pencil products such as Powder Blender, ACP Textured Fixative, Touch-Up Texture, and Titanium White. So this was a test of all the products, not just the paper.

My First Impressions of Lux Archival Paper

Lux Archival was sheer joy to work with!

Especially the smooth colors of the sky. I was able to do in less than an hour what it would take hours to do on regular paper. Combining Lux Archival with Powder Blender, ACP Textured Fixative, and ACP Final Fixative further improved the drawing experience.

This small piece was finished in six hours, which included preparing the paper and spray room time applying Textured Fixative or Final Fixative.

A Couple of Warnings

Like any sanded support, Lux Archival produces a lot of pigment dust. It’s easy to blend that dust into the tooth of the paper, however, so it’s not wasted.

But you will need to seal your artwork at some point. I sealed Blazing Sunset with ACP Textured Fixative several times during the drawing process. That keeps the pigment in place, and allowed me to draw over previous layers without disturbing them.

When the piece was finished, I sealed it again, then used ACP Final Fixative on it.

I don’t recommend using only ACP Final Fixative. When I tried that with the first sketch, the wet spray blotched pigment in one place. Not seriously, but noticeably.

Those are my first impressions of Lux Archival Paper.

So do I recommend Lux Archival?

Absolutely and without hesitation!

I look forward to doing larger work on this paper in the near future. I also hope to try it with animal art when time allows.

If you’re doing work for clients, exhibit, or sale, this is a beautiful paper for smooth color and for detail.

Is it worth the price? A pack of ten 8-inch by 10-inch sheets is only $30 or $3 per sheet. For a professional artist—or any artist who wants to be a professional—that is not a bad price.

Customer service is also top notch when you buy directly from Brush & Pencil.

Whether you use it regularly or not, I hope you’ll give Lux Archival a try.

Review of Colors A Workbook

Today, I want to share my review of Colors A Workbook, by Amy Lindenberger.

I don’t often review new products. So many new tools and products enter the market every week that it wouldn’t take long for this blog to become a product review blog if I tried to review everything.

Ann Kullberg released a new book May 1 that I wanted the moment I saw it. I bought it the same day.

Colors Workbook Review

Before I begin the review, however, I need to issue a caveat or two.

Caveat #1: Colors – A Workbook is not a casual read. Yes, you can pick up a few things just by reading it, but you will not get full benefit from just reading.

Author Amy Lindenberger has designed several exercises to download and do (that’s why this book is called a workbook.) One of two exercises are fairly easy. The rest are more in-depth.

Caveat #2: This book is designed for artists serious about learning how to choose colors. Every subject. Every brand of pencil. Exercises include a color wheel, blending bars, and drawing projects.

No hand holding involved! The author designed each exercise for a specific purpose. Give them the same attention you give regular drawing projects, and by the time you finish, you won’t have to ask someone else which colors to use.

Now for my review!

Colors Workbook Review

My Review of Colors A Workbook

Long-time artist Amy Lindenberger has several tutorials published by Ann Kullberg, so you may already be familiar with her work. In addition, she also teaches in person, so it’s possible you’ve attended one of her classes or workshops.

Having said that, this book is not a tutorial in the traditional sense. It’s very in-depth. Amy covers many general color-related topics beginning with color perception and the basics of color theory.

She also designed drawing exercises that walk you through basic color mixing. And I do mean color mixing. Students start with three colors—the primaries—and graduate to a total of twelve colors. You complete every exercise in the book except for the first two with twelve colors.

You need only three colors for the first two exercises.

My Experience So Far

I say “so far,” because although I bought the book the day it was released, I ‘m still reading it. Quite frankly, it’s taken nearly two weeks to finish the color wheel.

That in no way reflects on my level of interest in the book or the exercises. It’s just that there’s no way to rush through the material or the exercises and do a good job.

The first exercise is probably the easiest one in the book. Making color isolation cards. Basically, punching two holes in a small piece of medium gray paper (I used Canson Mi-Teintes Steel Grey.) My color isolation card is shown here.

Use a color isolation card to look at a color without also seeing the colors around it.

The next exercise is a color wheel, which you can download and print on Bristol (Amy’s recommendation) or printer paper. I spent at least an hour on my color wheel to reach the point below, just to show you this is no fast exercise.

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos Fuchia, Light Cadmium Yellow, and Medium Phthalo Blue for my color wheel. Amy recommends colors to use in other brands, though she says she gets the best results with Prismacolor pencils.

I finished the color wheel in eight days.

Granted, I try to give at least half an hour a day to drawing, but don’t always succeed. Artists with more time to draw will finish more quickly.

Colors A Workbook includes practical drawing exercises in addition to exercises in which students create their own drawing tools.

These pages show one of these projects, a collection of colored eggs, but students also draw cherries and pears.

Review of Colors A Workbook

The Bottom Line in My Review of Colors A Workbook

Colors – A Workbook is 80 pages in length and stuffed full of encouragement as well as instruction. It’s available in print format or as a PDF download.

The individual exercises are also available for download and I highly recommend them.

In fact, I highly recommend this book. The content and drawing exercises benefit every artist willing to treat them like a course, no matter your level.

After all, if I can learn more about color matching, mixing and selection after over 20 years of using colored pencils, you can too!

Review of Colors A Workbook
This article contains affiliate links.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils Compared to Caran d’ache Luminance Pencils

Let’s see how Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils compared to Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils when used side-by-side. Since both brands are on the expensive side, this is valuable information if you’re considering either one.

Like most artists, I have a long list of items on my To Be Purchased list. Top on that list are colored pencils.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils Compared to Caran d'ache Luminance Pencils

Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils are among my most desired colored pencils. I’ve wanted to try these oil-based colored pencils since first learning of them years ago.

Caran d’ache Luminance pencils are also high on my list and my curiosity was first sparked by this video review.

But neither set is inexpensive, so which to choose first?

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils Compared to Caran d’ache Luminance Pencils

The following review comparing these pencils provides a basis on which to make a decision. The review is provided by Emmy Kalia on YouTube. Emmy’s YouTube channel and her web site feature tutorials in colored pencils and graphite with a special focus on human subjects. Some of her most interesting videos are about drawing hair and skin tones.

Here’s Emmy.

My Thoughts on Emmy’s Comparison

As I mentioned above, this video is very interesting, as well as being informative.

I’m most interested in the ability to draw with an eraser after laying down color with both pencils. I’ve found some ways to lift color with Prismacolor, but it’s nowhere near as easy as Emmy makes it look in this video.

Drawing with a knife—a process known as sgrafitto—is also intriguing. I’ve done a little of this with Prismacolor pencils but have never been very happy with the results. Perhaps I’m just using the wrong pencils!

But what about choosing which pencils to buy first?

My heart was still set on a set of Polychromos after watching this video. I’ve been wanting those for years and finally got a full set in 2017.

But I’m once again drawn by the prospect of being able to draw light over dark and you can’t do that with Polychromos. So Luminace are still on my To Be Purchased list.

If you’ve used either of these pencils, share your thoughts on why you would—or wouldn’t recommend them to another artist.

More Information

Caran d’ache Luminance Pencils web site.

Faber-Castell web site.

Emmy Kalia’s on YouTube Channel

Derwent Watercolor Pencils – My Review

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Derwent watercolor pencils. After using the Derwent watercolor pencils for a few months, it’s time for a review.

Derwent Watercolor Pencils Review

About Derwent Watercolor Pencils

I purchased a set of 12 colors, along with a pad of Canson L’Aquarelle 140 lb hot press watercolor paper at Hobby Lobby. The pencils retailed at $25.99 and the paper at $24.99, but I used a 40% coupon on both items.

TIP: If you shop regularly at Hobby Lobby, go online and print their 40% off coupon. You can use it only once and it applies only to the most expensive item you buy (not the entire purchase,) but it’s a great way to get new supplies and a good deal.

Since I did most of my work on the watercolor paper, I’ll share my thoughts on that, as well.

Derwent Watercolor Pencils - Set of 12

Derwent Watercolor Pencils: My Review

Derwent packages their tins with a shrink wrap cover inside the tin, so you can remove the tin’s lid and see the pencils before you buy them. A very helpful feature if you buy retail from a brick-and-mortar store.

The pencils are stamped in easy-to-read silver, with color names and color numbers clearly visible. They come pre-sharpened, and with the approximate colors on the end of the pencil.

Approximate because they aren’t all 100% accurate. It’s a good idea to make color swatches to see the actual color once you buy the pencils.

Derwent Watercolor Pencils in the Tin

Most of the pencils in my set were in excellent shape and ready to use. Only the Burnt Ochre broke when I sharpened it the first time, but that gave me an opportunity to test Derwent’s customer support process. My understanding before buying these pencils that the Derwent company is very quality conscious and is quick to replace defective stock.

I found that to be true. I emailed the company and told them about the set I’d purchased and the pencil with the broken pigment core.

True to expectation, they emailed me back within a few days and offered to replace the pencil if I wished. I could still use the pencil—yes, even the broken pigment core—so I didn’t ask for a replacement, but it’s good know they were so willing to help me.

Lightfast Ratings

Derwent is a British company, so they use the Blue Wool Scale for lightfast testing.

Two identical dye samples are created. One sample is placed in darkness and one in the equivalent of sunlight for three months. A standard test card is also put in the same lighting conditions and the samples are then compared.

Fading is rated on a scale of 0 to 8, with 0 being the poorest and 8 the highest. A rating of 8 signifies a color that doesn’t fade at all and can be considered permanent.

Of the twelve colors in the 12-pencil set, four have an “8” rating, one is rated “7”, two are rated “6,” and the other five are 5 or below. Most professional artists either don’t use any color rated 5 or less for fine art or they don’t sell the originals. Fading colors can be used to create artwork if all you plan to do is sell reproductions.

However, these ratings are all for dry pigment. They apply only if you don’t use water to activate the color.

Since the purpose of watercolor pencils is to use them wet, I set up my own lightfast test.

My Lightfast Test

I made a swatch of color for each of the pencils. Each swatch is labeled with the color name, the number, and the Blue Wool rating (in parentheses.) At the bottom of the page is information on the pencil, the paper, and the test I started the test.

This swatch shows the dry color.

Derwent Watercolor Pencils - Lightfast Test Dry

Next, I activated half of each swatch with water.

This also gives you a good idea of how will the strokes disappear with a minimum of blending. I have found that strokes disappear entirely with a few more strokes of a wet brush, or if you use more water.

Derwent Watercolor Pencils - Lightfast Test Wet

When the samples were dry, I covered the center portion with a piece of opaque paper and taped it in a south-facing window.

4-Week Results

This is the result after four weeks. Dry pencil on the right, water-activated on the left. The only color that appeared to have faded at all was the Imperial Purple (rated 4,) and the fading wasn’t obvious. The fact of the matter is that the ball point pen I used to label the test faded far worse than the colors.

Derwent Watercolor Pencil Test 4 Weeks

8-Week Results

The 8-week check looked like this. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see much difference. That was encouraging, to say the least.

Back into the window for the test sheet.

Derwent Watercolor Pencil Test 8 Weeks

12-Week Results

I checked them again at the 12-week mark and this is what I found.

Derwent Watercolor Pencil Test 12 Weeks

There does appear to be some dulling of the color, but it’s not significant.

However, I need to make two points about my test.

One, it’s in no way scientific or conclusive. We had a lot of gray days this spring, so the exposure of the colors may not have been as strong as it could have been.

Two, I didn’t use very much water to activate the color. The more water you use, the more likely the colors are to become fugitive.

However, given my results, I’d have no difficulties using all of these colors (except maybe the 4-rated and less colors) for fine art if I didn’t plan to sell the original work.

Drawing with Derwent Watercolor Pencils

From the first stroke to the last, these pencils were a delight to use, even on a paper that I was previously unfamiliar with. Color goes on with ease, even with light pressure. They have a soft almost creamy feel when used dry. Not quite as soft as Prismacolor, but much softer than Faber-Castell Polychromos, for example.

They’re also fun to use when you apply color wet. I did a lot of work by wetting a brush, stroking the brush across the sharpened pencil, then brushing the color onto wet or dry paper.

Remember I mentioned that broken pigment core? I wasn’t too upset because pieces of pigment core can be dissolved in warm water to create liquid pigment. It’s a great way to blend colors before putting them on paper.

I’ve drawn several pieces on different types of paper. I’ve also used them wet and dry, and tried several different ways to use them wet. As I prepare this post for publication, I’m working on a sky and cloud study for a tutorial, so you can see how they perform in action.

What Do I Think of the Derwent Watercolor Pencils?

I’m a little disappointed so many of them are fugitive. The pencils are so easy to use dry and wet that it’s a shame five of them are too fugitive for my liking.

But that is the only strike I have against them.

Colors lay-down very smooth, the pencils are highly pigmented. The earth tones, blues, and greens are perfect for landscape and animal art, even in just the 12-pencil set.

Time will tell on the fade rate, but I have no objections to using all the colors for sketching and studies, and will be using the lightfast colors for finished pieces.

So if you want to try watercolor pencils, but don’t have a lot of money to spend, you can hardly go wrong with a small set of these.

And What about the Canson L’Aquarelle Paper?

I didn’t forget!

Most of the work I did with Derwent Watercolour Pencils was on Canson L’Aquarelle Watercolor Paper. I was as pleased with the paper as with the pencils. It’s very much like Stonehenge Aqua in feel, and performs pretty much the same way, too.

I bought 140lb hot press because it’s smoother than cold press watercolor paper, so is more suited to colored pencils. The 9×12 inch pad contains 25 sheets, so it’s about a dollar a sheet. I cut the sheets in half for my small works.

It would also be ideal for ACEO art, since it’s heavy enough to withstand the use of water.

The only thing I haven’t yet tried with it is dry drawing. As soft to the touch and smooth as it is, I have no doubts it will perform well for that application as well.

Printable Monthly Habit Tracker Review

I don’t usually do many product reviews, or do them so close together.  But I’ve been using a printable and colorable tool from Sarah Renae Clark for a month, and it’s time for my Monthly Habit Tracker review.

Printable Monthly Habit Tracker Review 2


The first of the year means setting new goals, and promises for better discipline for many of us. I’m no different.

Probably like many others, I often have difficulty following through on some of those Promises to Self. It’s all too easy to forget new promises in the crush of the daily grind.

So when I came across a way to track performance in late December, I knew I had to give it a try.

Tracking New Habits with a Monthly Habit Tracker

Sarah Renae Clark’s Monthly Habit Tracker

Sarah Renae Clark* is an illustrator, designer, and stay-at-home mom from Melbourne, Australia. She sells adult coloring books and many other coloring and drawing products from her website, including printable items. She also offers a line of free printable items, in case you’re looking for something fun to color, and fun to use.

The item that most caught my eye that first day was her Monthly Habit Tracker*. I was in the middle of planning for 2018 when I found it, and it looked like the perfect way to monitor all the new things I was hoping to accomplish.

The Monthly Habit Tracker is designed to be printed on letter-sized paper and can be printed on regular ink jet paper, or art paper. I printed my first one on card stock because I wanted something more permanent. I printed the sheet for February on Bristol vellum, but also plan to use other art papers as the year progresses.

But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Tracking My Habits Through January

The Monthly Habit Tracker is set up so you can list habits or goals you want to track along the left side. Each line of the list is followed by a row of 31 boxes, one for each day.

I listed the things I wanted to do every day or week, then shaded a box for each accomplished item each day.

As you can see below, I wasn’t quite as disciplined as I’d hoped to be (though I do have at least one legitimate reason for idleness in the middle of the month.) Just look at all those white squares!

Monthly Habit Tracker Review January

But you can also see the things I did faithfully, as well as where I need to be more disciplined. So the habit tracker for each completed month provides not only a record of where you’ve been, but can be used for guidance in the next month.

Tips For Making the Most of the Monthly Habit Tracker

Make sure to record the month in the top box on the left side. I didn’t even notice that until I started setting up February’s sheet. If you plan to keep your finished habit tracker as I do, it’s vital to know which month the habit tracker is for! It might also be a good idea to note the year.

In January, I listed goals and habits in colored pencil. That worked all right, but was hard to read, even in real life. So if you use colored pencils, make sure to use medium pressure or heavier so the list is legible! I used a Sharper Ultra-Fine point pen to make February’s list and it’s much easier to read.

Monthly Habit Tracker Review Goals

Keep the habit tracker at or near your work desk or in an area where you’re likely to see it every day. There were a couple of times in January when I totally forgot to track my habits, so I changed where I keep my habit tracker for this month.

Look for a nice notebook or binder with page protectors to keep your habit tracker. That’s the next thing on my list and something I plan to do as soon as possible.

Start with light colors when coloring the background. Otherwise, you will get darker colors mixed in with those lovely light colors. This applies to fine art and other colored pencil work, too. It’s nearly impossible to remove dark marks embedded into a layer of light color.

What Do I Think of the Monthly Habit Tracker?

In short, I love it!

No, I didn’t keep up my habits as much as I would have liked. Monthly habit tracker or no, it still takes discipline to see things through.

But I can see at a glance how well I did (or didn’t do.)

And it was fun and pretty (and we all know how important that is, right?)

Will I be doing it again in February? I already have my page printed and set up. I’ve even started coloring!

Monthly Habit Tracker Review February

Want your own Monthly Habit Tracker? Click here to see it on Sarah’s website*.

*Affiliate Link.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol – My Review

I’ve heard a lot about blending colored pencil with Gamsol over the last several months, but only recently purchased my first bottle. Today, I want to share my thoughts on the product and how it performed for my first piece.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - My Review


What is Gamsol?

Gamsol is a solvent developed by Gamblin Colors for use with their oil paints. It’s a little more expensive than industrial solvents, but it is tested for use in art applications, and is therefore safe for use with colored pencils. It blends and spreads pigment without interfering with longevity.

In other words, you can blend colored pencils with Gamsol, and trust your work to last for years.

It has been extensively tested by Gamblin for odor and toxicity, and is reported to be the least toxic solvent currently on the market.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol – My Review

My project was a quick landscape study on Uart Premium Sanded Pastel Paper, 800 grit. The study is 6 x 8 inches and drawn from imagination and memory. Not a finished piece, but the ideal piece on which to try a new solvent.

The First Layers of Color

One thing to remember when using any type of solvent to blend colored pencils is that you need a good amount of pigment on the paper. Solvents break down the binder in the pencil so the pigments can “flow together.” If there’s not enough pigment to blend, the solvent will just not work.

For this study, I roughed in each area with a light value and a dark value, mixing the two values to draw middle values. Since I wanted to blend, I didn’t fuss with details.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - First Color Layers

First Gamsol Blend

I used a 1/2 inch Golden Taklon Wash, and a #6 Sable Round brush for blending.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - Brushes

The small brush was used for the sky and the smaller areas. I used the wash brush primarily for the trees, since the splayed hairs are ideal for that purpose. (It is the same brush I used to paint the grass when using watercolor pencils.)

I blended each area separately with a stippling stroke. Stippling strokes work best on sanded art papers because they push the solvent and pigment deeper into the tooth of the paper, and don’t move the pigment from place to place on the paper like a more traditional stroke might.

I also worked from light values to dark, which is the accepted practice. If you need to work on a light area after blending a dark area, clean your brush first or you may add dark color to the light area.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - First Blend

At this point, I was disappointed in the results. The greens looked great, especially in the trees, but the sky was blotchy. There was also still a lot of paper tooth showing through.

But this method involves several rounds of layering and blending. So I layered more color over all parts of the drawing.

The Second Layers of Color

After the paper was thoroughly dry (10 to 20 minutes,) I added more layers of the sames into the sky. I used blunt pencils with medium pressure, and alternated the colors through a couple of layers (I did three layers of each color.)

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - Second Color Layers

Blending the Sky

Beginning at the horizon, I used a wet #6 Sable round brush to stipple Gamsol onto the paper, then used short, vertical strokes to blend the color.

Then I stroked Gamsol onto the paper from side to side in one long stroke, before pulling Gamsol into the dry color above and below that long stroke.

Finally, I blended with side-to-side stroke, overlapping the strokes slightly, just to see how that worked.

The type of stroke didn’t seem to make much difference this time, but I discovered that it helps to let the Gamsol sit on the paper for a few seconds before blending. The reason may have been that the solvent had more time to soften or “melt” the wax binder, so the color spread more evenly.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - Second Blend

The sky looked way too dark after this blend. So dark, I thought I’d have to lighten it with a lighter blue later on, but the color lightened somewhat as the paper dried.

More Color, More Blending

Next, I added more color to the trees and grass, then blended those areas for the second time.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - Second Blend Greens

After that blend, I worked through the study again, adding more color and blending.

I had hoped to finish this study, but at this point, I decided to call it good and move on to another piece. Had I been working from a reference photo, I would have pushed it a little further, if only to see if I could get better results with more color and more blending.

As it was, time seemed better used on something other than a study.

Blending Colored Pencil with Gamsol - Final Image

So What Did I Think of Gamsol?

The short answer is that I wasn’t all that impressed.

Yes, it’s ideal for working inside. There is no odor at all, and it dries very quickly.

But it didn’t blend nearly as well as regular turpentine, which is what I’ve been using.

In all fairness, however, I have to say that starting out with sanded art paper may not have been the wisest choice. Sanded art paper is very blendable, but you can get almost as good a blend just by pushing pigment around with a dry bristle brush as with a solvent of any kind. The fact of the matter is that I  use solvents on sanded paper only as a last resort.

Why did I choose sanded paper for this product test? It was handy, I suppose. And all of my recent pieces have been on sanded art papers, so comparing Gamsol to turpentine was easy.

Will I try it again?

Yes, and the next time I’ll use a regular drawing paper like Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Tientes. Even a watercolor paper would probably be a better support for a second trial.

Does that mean Gamsol doesn’t work?

No. It just means it didn’t work with my methods on this paper for this particular study.

One thing I can tell you without hesitation: If you haven’t tried it yet but want to, buy the smallest bottle you can. I got a 4.2 fluid ounce bottle at Hobby Lobby for $8. That amount will last a long time.

Oh, and if you do buy at Hobby Lobby, make sure to print their 40% coupon before going to the store and get 40% off the most expensive item you buy.

Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper Review

Artist’s love new things. New pencils. New equipment. Yes, even new paper. Maybe especially new paper. The latest paper on my list is a watercolor paper from Legion. This is my Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper review.

Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper Review

Legion offers trial samples of all their papers, so if you’re thinking about trying something, this is a great opportunity.  I got free samples of Stonehenge Aqua a few weeks ago.  They’re now 99 cents, but that’s still a great price.

I received three 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper: one each of 140lb hot press, 140lb cold press, and 300lb cold press. They were packaged in a clear, resealable envelope from Clear Bags, a company I’ve used for packaging artwork. The packaging is ideal for storage, too, so the paper I haven’t yet used will stay crisp and clean.

The samples arrived in a large, cardboard envelope sent by regular mail, so they arrived undamaged. Crisp and clean and unbent.

Stonehenge Aqua 140 Hot Press Paper Review

General Impressions

If drawing paper can be beautiful, this is. The texture is wonderful. The 140lb hot press looks and feels almost identical to traditional Stonehenge. Since I wasn’t sure what to expect, this was a delightful discovery. (The other two sheets were also lovely. I plan to try one with water soluble media and one with solvent blending.)

The hot press also performs much like traditional Stonehenge for dry mediums. I used colored pencils on it without the use of solvents and had good results. I also tried water soluble colored pencils, with equally good results.

The jury is still out on using solvent blending (I haven’t yet put it to the test,) but I believe Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press paper would also perform with solvent blending.

Read How to Draw Complex Flowers Part 1.

What I Like about Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper

Looks and feels like traditional Stonehenge 90lb paper

In fact, I placed a sheet of Stonehenge paper and Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press paper side by side. Other than the thickness of the Aqua, it was very difficult to tell them apart just by looking at them.

Pencils behave much the same on each, so if you like the way your pencils feel when you draw on regular Stonehenge, chances are you’ll like the way they feel when you draw on Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press.

Works very well with dry media

As already mentioned, drawing on this paper was a delight. Both wax-based and oil-based pencils colored well, with even color down and excellent blending.

My test with wax-based pencils produced solid color faster, but that’s not unexpected. Wax-based pencils are usually softer than oil-based pencils, so they lay down color more easily on almost any kind of paper.

But the oil-based pencils also layered well.

In the following illustration, the large flower was drawn with a combination of Faber-Castell Polychromos (oil-based) and Prismacolor Premier (wax-based.)

Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper - Dry Media

The smaller flower was drawn only with Prismacolor.

The large flower is finished; the small one is not.

Those two dark shapes are areas where I layered and burnished. Color saturation is so rich and deep, you’d have to use a magnifying glass to find places where the paper shows through after burnishing.

Works very well with wet media

Since Stonehenge Aqua is a watercolor paper, I had to try it with water soluble colored pencils. I used Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle pencils. Not the best water soluble colored pencils available, but useful.

But as you can see here, the results are still good. I applied color dry, then activated it with a damp brush and finished it with dry color. Would the results have been better with an artist grade water soluble pencil? Probably, but I was still quite pleased.

Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper - Wet Media
This is just a couple of layers of color drawn on dry, then activated with water. I drew one layer on the inner portion of the bottom petals, then pulled wet color into the outer portions.

The shadow represents two or three layers of color activated with water, then drawn over again with dry pencils.

Both sides of this paper are excellent for drawing. It’s also heavy enough that if you mess up one side of the paper, you should be able to start over on the back.

At least for dry drawing. You can use water to activate water soluble colored pencil when you draw on the back, but if you do more than one stroke with a wet brush, you will lift color. That can make for some interesting results, but it also makes for a good deal of frustration! Stay tuned for a tutorial on that drawing.

What I Don’t Like About Stonehenge Aqua 140lb Hot Press Paper

At present, I have nothing negative to say about the paper. I wasn’t happy my first drawing, but that had more to do with color choices and my first time drawing a flower, as I mentioned at the end of the tutorial on drawing complex flowers.

The paper performed to expectation.

I did prefer working on it dry, but that reflects more experience with dry media than with wet. I’m currently working on a small landscape using water soluble colored pencils, and it’s coming along quite well.

The only other thing I have to complain about is that I used up most of the sheet for my experiments!

My Recommendation

Should you try Stonehenge Aqua 140lb hot press paper? Yes. It’s almost always worth your time to try new papers.

It’s my opinion that if you like regular Stonehenge, you’ll like this paper. Not only will it be able to do everything regular Stonehenge can do; it will allow you to do much more.

If all you do is buy the sample set, it will be well worth your time and money.

Review of Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils

When I came across this video review of Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils, I knew I wanted to share it with you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for new ideas. New tools, tips and techniques. New colors.

And yes, new pencils.

So whenever someone reviews a product I don’t yet have, I want to watch it.

Review of Caran d'Ache Luminance Pencils

I’ve heard a lot about the Caran d’Ache Luminous pencils since their introduction a few years ago, but I’ve have yet to give them a try.

What I learned in this video makes me more interested in trying Luminance pencils than ever.

Review of Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils

The review is provided by ColoringKaria on YouTube. Karia does reviews of adult coloring books and supplies, but this review will be of interest to fine artists, too.

Here’s Karia.

Caran d’Ache is a Swiss company.  According the Caran d’Ache web page for Luminance 6901 pencils, these wax-based pencils are “designed for works intended for exhibition, collection and museum purposes.”

In other words, high quality.

And fairly expensive. At the time of this writing, open stock Luminance pencils are $4.62 each at Dick Blick.

As Karia mentioned, that’s on the pricey side for adult coloring book artists.

Even so, I am curious enough to consider a few open stock pencils, even if it’s only a handful of their luscious looking earth tones. I’ll let you know!


Since I first wrote this post, I purchased a Caran d’Ache Luminance White (along with a Derwent Drawing Chinese White.) They’re reportedly among the most opaque colored pencils available, and they work fairly well over darker colors.

Both pencils are more opaque than my other pencils (Prismacolor and Polychromos,) but they don’t cover color completely. As least not as completely as I hoped. But you have to remember that I’m a former oil painter and when I hear one color covers another, I expect it to perform like oil paints! No colored pencil is capable of that.

But the Luminance pencil is more like Prismacolor when it goes onto paper. Limited use still makes me want to buy a few more colors in open stock and try them on a landscape drawing.

More from the Caran d’Ache Luminance Web Page

Highly sought after by drawing masters from every creative sector, the subtle velvety effect of the new permanent pencil stems from two years of technical research conducted in complete secrecy at the heart of the Maison’s workshops. Its delicate texture, along with the vibrancy of the many recently developed shades, open up exciting new vistas in the realms of overlaying, mixed techniques and gradation.

Its extreme lightfastness is confirmed by the most rigorous tests, earning Luminance 6901 top results and international ASTM D-6901 certification.

With Luminance 6901, Caran d’Ache has achieved the feat of creating quite simply the most lightfast colour pencil ever designed.

The line is created according to the criteria laid down by the Swiss Made label and eco-friendly standards, thereby providing an additional demonstration of the Maison’s steadfast ethical commitment.

More Information

Caran d’ache Luminance Pencils web site.

Luminance Colored Pencils Open Stock at Dick Blick

Have you used Caran d’ache Luminance pencils? What did you think?