Comparing Stonehenge and Sanded Art Papers

Comparing Stonehenge and Sanded Art Papers

I’ve talked a lot in the past about Stonehenge paper. More recently, I’ve talked about sanded art papers. So today, I’m comparing Stonehenge and sanded art papers.

Here’s the reader question to start the discussion.

Can you discuss the differences in using Stonehenge 90 or 120lb vs sanded paper for colored pencil portraits?

Several years ago I completed a colored pencil portrait of my son’s family dog using sanded paper. They have asked me to do portraits of the two dogs they now have and want to group the portraits together.

I loved the velvety look of the finished project on sanded paper. However [I] found the paper difficult to work with. I’ve also evolved in my style and technique. While I want them to be somewhat similar in style I would prefer a different paper. I use a lot of layers and prefer color saturation. These two dogs are very light in color where the previous portrait I did was a very dark color. I usually keep my backgrounds very simple and prefer a monochrome color palette.

Your thoughts?

Thank you, Sharon

Before I go any further, I want to thank Sharon for her question, and especially for the background on the question. It’s always helpful to know where a reader is coming from.

Comparing Stonehenge and Sanded Art Papers

There is a world of difference between sanded art paper and Stonehenge, no matter what the subject.

The most notable difference is the surface texture. Stonehenge is soft and almost velvety in feel, while sanded art paper is gritty.

Consequently, color goes onto each type of paper differently.

In the illustration below, I used a sharp pencil and light pressure to draw each of the lines. The left half is Stonehenge, and the right half is Fisher 400 sanded pastel paper.

The pencil left marks on both papers, but the marks on Stonehenge are much lighter, while the marks on the Fisher 400 are darker, even with light pressure.

The top two lines were drawn with the tip of the pencil. I held the pencil in a more horizontal grip and used the side of the pencil for the bottom two lines.

Comparing Stonehenge and Sanded Art Papers

It’s easy to develop strong color on sanded papers because the grit of the paper almost seems to “grab” the color from the pencil. This is true with all of the sanded papers and pencils I’ve used.

Pencils layer differently, too.

The samples on top in the illustration below show shading on both papers. The color is not smooth on either paper, but it’s smoother on the Stonehenge than on the Fisher 400.

I shaded the bottom areas with the side of the pencil, then used the tip to draw hair-like strokes. The strokes on the Stonehenge (left) look more like hair than the strokes on the Fisher 400. That’s because the Fisher 400 flattened the tip of the pencil with the first few strokes.

it is possible to layer enough color on both papers to get rich, saturated color. But you can add more layers on sanded art paper than on the Stonehenge.

Comparing Stonehenge and Sanded Art Papers

Sturdiness

Sanded art paper is quite solid and gritty. It takes a lot of layers, but it also takes a lot of punishment. You can use any kind of pressure on it without damaging it.

Stonehenge can take a lot of layers, but it’s a soft, velvety paper, so it’s very easy to damage. I’ve often said that looking at it cross-eyed can leave a mark!

Drawing Methods

Many of the same drawing methods can be used on both papers, but their effectiveness varies.

But as you saw above, even light pressure on sanded art papers produces darker color layers than the same amount of pressure on Stonehenge. The first time I used sanded art paper, that seemed like a negative. I have such a naturally light hand and have gotten used to drawing that way that I was put off by the results of the lightest layering on sanded paper.

But I soon learned that I could add so many more layers to the sanded paper that the pressure I used didn’t matter as much.

One thing you can do easily on sanded art papers that you can’t do on Stonehenge is lift color. In some cases, you can also get back to the color of the paper with mounting putty when you draw on sanded art paper.

This piece is an older piece on Fisher 400. One of the first pieces I did on sanded art paper. When I decided to rework it, I needed to lift color. As you can see, repeated use of mounting putty removed a lot of color. The lightest areas in and around the tree are the paper showing through.

I can also lift color on Stonehenge, but I cannot remove color back to the paper. Lighten it, yes. Remove it, not without risk of damaging the paper.

Highlights

You can layer light colors over dark colors on Stonehenge, but all you’ll accomplish is tinting the darker color. It’s next to impossible to create bright highlights over darker colors on Stonehenge or other traditional paper.

But you can add light highlights over darker colors on most sanded art papers. This illustration is on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I drew these ears by alternating strokes of dark and light colors. That’s pretty much the same method I’d use on Stonehenge.

When I drew the small portion of visible neck, however, I shaded the area with dark colors, then went back and “flicked in” the lighter marks. I was able to do that because there was still plenty of tooth on the paper when I finished shading the base layers.

Layering

Both types of paper take a lot of layers, as already mentioned.

But you can layer with light, medium or heavy pressure throughout the drawing process when you use sanded art papers.

Stonehenge requires light pressure for as long as possible in order to get the maximum number of layers. Of course you can use heavier pressure, but you will fill up the tooth of the paper. You also run the risk of scuffing the paper.

You have no such worries with sanded art papers. I reworked the background on this piece several times. This illustration shows just three phases. I could have worked the background yet again after finishing the horse if I wanted to because there was still plenty of tooth left on this sheet of Pastelmat.

Comparing Stonehenge and Sanded Art Papers: My recommendation for Sharon (and you!)

Sharon is right. Sanded art papers do produce lovely, velvety textures AND they are difficult to work with. I don’t blame her for wanting to try something different.

I encourage Sharon to try Stonehenge, but I also suggest she do something for herself first. Get a feel for it. Push it to its limits and see what kind of results you get.

That’s the best way to try any new paper. If you like what you see and the paper makes your work easier, then by all means use it. If you don’t like it, no harm done. You haven’t ruined a portrait!

I hope that’s helpful. The problem with paper is that no two artists work exactly the same way, and what works for one artist may not work for another.

If it seems like I prefer sanded art papers, it’s because I do. After years of using Stonehenge, I’ve discovered I can produce better work on sanded art papers, no matter what I draw.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the best paper for everyone else.

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.

Sanded Art Paper & Drawing Paper: 5 Differences

Have you tried sanded art paper with colored pencil yet?

If you haven’t, you may be wondering why you should. After all, isn’t it just like drawing on sand paper from the local hardware store? (And who wants to do that?)

That’s the way I thought before my first experiments with sanded art paper. I almost didn’t try it, because I just couldn’t see how it would work.

But I’m glad I took the plunge! There are a lot of differences between sanded art paper and traditional drawing paper. Some pretty big—and surprising—differences.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

Now that I’ve created several pieces on sanded art papers, it’s time to share with you what I’ve learned. Both good and bad.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Drawing Paper

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper. More recently, Clairefontaine Pastelmat has entered the market.

In another post, I described 6 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil. A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sandpaper.

I’ve used only Uart and Fisher 400. Following are five of the biggest differences I discovered.

Paper Strength

This is a good difference.

Sanded papers are much stronger than most traditional papers. The substrate itself is heavier than most drawing paper. Combined with the coating of grit, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally damage the paper, so you can be as aggressive in applying color as you like.

Many sanded art papers are also available mounted to rigid supports for even better durability.

An additional upside to this is that you do not have to frame sanded art paper under glass if you don’t want to. It’s advisable, but not absolutely necessary, as is the case with traditional art papers.

Detailed Line Drawings

Transferring a detailed line drawing is difficult. You can’t use a light box because the paper is so thick. Transfer papers of any type are also unsatisfactory on some of the coarser surfaces.

I’ve found this difference to be less than ideal. I like detailed line drawings when I do portraits. For a while, that made sanded art papers a no-go for me.

But many artists use the grid method or a projector to transfer their drawings. Both are acceptable alternatives to regular transfer papers, and both give great results.

Another alternative is light sketching right on the paper. I usually start landscapes with just a basic sketch, so most of my drawings on sanded art paper have been landscapes.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper
August Morning in Kansas
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

August Morning in Kansas (above) is one of the most recent and it’s the best one so far. I’ve started all of them with simple sketches.

Sharp Pencils

You don’t need sharp pencils to work with sanded paper. In fact, sharp pencils can be a detriment. They break easily on the gritty surface, and even if they don’t, you get two or three strokes before they go blunt.

So forget sharpening. Use your pencils more like pastels. It’ll be a lot less frustrating.

Forget preserving your pencils, too. Sanded art paper quite literally “eats them for lunch!”

But that’s not as bad as it sounds, because most of that color is going onto the paper. Yes, pencils wear down more quickly, but you’re building color more quickly, too. The details in the trees in August Morning in Kansas are lighter colors applied over darker colors.

And just in case you’ve heard the rumors about pigment dust when you draw on sanded papers, it’s true. But you probably haven’t heard that you can use a bristle brush to push that dust into the tooth of the paper so it’s not wasted!

Show me another drawing paper you can do that with!

Use brushes like this to dry blend pigment dust into the surface of sanded art paper.

Thick Color Layers

Thick layers of color work better than thin glazes. Even with the smoothest sanded papers, the tooth is such that getting an even color layer is next to impossible without solvent.

And light pressure? Forget it. Medium to medium-heavy pressure is going to be a lot more productive.

The best part? You can absolutely layer light over dark and it will show up. Try that with any traditional drawing paper.

Is this a good difference or a bad one?

I haven’t made up my mind yet. I have a naturally light hand so working on sanded art papers requires a definite adjustment in working methods.

But as I mentioned above, I can add so many layers even with medium pressure or heavier, that working on sanded paper is getting less and less frustrating.

Excellent Tooth

If you’ve ever had trouble getting colored pencil to stick after a certain number of layers, the tooth of sanded art paper is a good difference.

Granted, it will take a lot more layers to get fine detail if that’s what you’re after and you may find the extra layers not to be worth the trouble.

But if you take the time, the tooth will definitely work for you.

This little drawing (3-1/2 by 2-1/2) is the first drawing I did on sanded art paper. I drew it like I always draw and the tooth didn’t help. See all those dots in the sky? Paper holes. I wasn’t able to fill in the tooth at all, and although the result was very painterly, I didn’t like it.

Spring in CP
Spring in Colored Pencil
Colored Pencil on Sanded Paper

It took a long time before I tried colored pencil on sanded paper again, but the results were much more satisfactory. I was already learning how to use sanded art paper.

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper
East of Camp Creek
Colored Pencil on Sanded Art Paper

Conclusion

If you give sanded art papers a try, be prepared to do some bad drawings for the first few. It’s a great drawing surface, but there is a very definite learning curve!

Even so, I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different.

Interested in reading more? I wrote a good mini clinic for EmptyEasel based on that first, small drawing. I think you’ll find it useful. Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper

This week’s Tuesday Tutorial is the final tutorial in this series. We’ll be finishing a landscape on sanded paper.

The focus for today is drawing the center of interest, but I’ll also touch on the final stages of the drawing.

In case you missed them, links to the previous posts in this series are below.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil (on EmptyEasel).

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper

Now for this week’s tutorial.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper

Drawing the Center of Interest

Step 1: Block in the basic shadows within the tree.

The trees that are the center of interest are closer than any of the other trees, and they’re also more lacy in appearance, so use squiggly or stippling strokes (or a combination) to draw the shadows with Olive Green.

Also “sketch” in the trunks.

Make sure to leave lots of openings in this layer of color. Some of it will be the background showing through the tree when the tree is finished. Other parts will be highlights in the tree.

Work over the background as well as within the tree itself.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 1

Step 2: Darken the shadows within the tree.

Next, dot Marine Green into the shadows of the tree, and also around the edges, overlapping the background on the shadowed side of the tree.

Use medium pressure or slightly heavier, and a blunt pencil held in a more vertical position.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 2

Step 3: Add the middle values.

Add another layer of Olive Green over all of the trees, including the shadows.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 3

Step 4: Add a lighter color in the lighter middle values and highlights.

Layer Jasmine over every part of the trees except the shadows to lighten the green. Use a sharp pencil with medium pressure or lighter, and a squiggly or stippling stroke (or whatever stroke works best for you.)

Don’t layer Jasmine over everything. Leave Olive Green showing through some areas to create more subtle variations in color and value.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 4

Step 5: Darken the shadows.

Add a few darker accents to these trees with a mix of Olive Green, Marine Green, and Indigo Blue.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 5

TIP: If the foreground trees get too dark, lighten them by lifting color or adding more Jasmine (or other lighter color.) You may also darken the background trees.

Step 6: Begin adjusting color and value in the foreground hills.

Layer Sepia very lightly over the shadows in the hill with medium pressure and horizontal oval-shaped strokes.

Follow up with Jade Green, also applied with small, horizontal ovals and medium pressure. Shade all of the shadow and work into the lighted hilltop slightly to soften that edge.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 6

Step 7: Tone down the greens with an earth tone.

Tone the base greens with a layer of Sepia. Use short horizontal strokes in the more distant hills and vertical, grass-like strokes in the foreground.

Next, add a layer of Chartreuse, then Olive Green. Layer a little further out of the shadows and into the highlights with each color to create middle values. Don’t put every color in every place so to create variations of color and value.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 8

Step 8: Dry blend with a stiff brush.

Next, dry blend the colors with a stiff bristle brush. Stroke in the same direction as you applied color, over the contours of the hill. You can scrub a little bit if you wish.

The sanded art paper will take heavy pressure and you don’t need to worry about removing color by blending with heavy pressure. If you want very smooth, blended edges, then blend with heavy pressure.

If you want to preserve some of the edges, blend with lighter pressure.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 9

Step 9: Repeat steps 6 – 8 on the rest of the foreground.

Repeat the process for each of the hills. Continue adding color, then dry blending until each part of the foreground looks the way you want it. Work from background forward, from the tree line to the bottom of the drawing.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 10

Step 10: Draw tall grass in the extreme foreground.

Before drawing tall grass all the way across the front hill, add or finish any trees that the taller blades of grass will overlap.

Then use long, directional strokes to draw tall grass, overlapping the hills in the back. Use a variety of greens, dark blues, and dark browns. I used Prismacolor Verithin Olive Green, and Dark Umber for most of the tall grass, and added strokes of Indigo Blue in the darkest shadows on the left.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 11

My favorite way to draw tall grass.

Use different shades of green, dark blue, and dark brown to draw layer after layer of overlapping, directional strokes, as I’ve done on the left of the illustration below.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 12

A faster way to draw tall grass.

Begin by shading a base of green over the paper. Dry blend that color, then apply more color and repeat the blending until the base color is the way you want it.

Then use curving, directional strokes to add enough detail to make the area look like grass.

Both methods work very well.

Step 11: Final review and adjustments.

At this stage in the process, the look of your landscape becomes a matter of personal preference. I like to get as realistic a drawing as possible, but you may want a less detailed landscape. There is no right or wrong way to finish your drawing. Work on each area to your satisfaction.

You will also want to set the drawing aside over night when you think it’s finished. This will allow you to review the drawing with a fresh eye the next day, and you’ll be better able to see what adjustments need to be made.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 13

Is it finished or isn’t it?

After letting the drawing sit a couple of days, I reviewed it again and decided all it needed was the usual final-round touchups.

I emphasized the tall grass in the foreground, then deepened the shadows in the trees, added some low scrub brush on the hills.

Finishing a Landscape on Sanded Paper 14

Conclusion

Those are the steps for finishing a landscape on sanded paper, and that’s the conclusion of this series.

Drawing on sanded art paper is almost like learning a new medium. It’s close enough to using colored pencils on regular drawing paper to provide a relatively easy transition.

But it’s enough different to give you a challenge and make you stretch your skills.

It’s well worth the effort to master though, and I’m looking forward to doing many more landscapes on sanded art paper. Maybe even painting some portraits on it!

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Welcome back to this Tuesday Tutorial on drawing a landscape on sanded art paper. We’re passed the halfway point now. Today, I’ll show you how to draw grassy hills.

Links to the previous posts in this series are below.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil (on EmptyEasel).

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

Now for this week’s tutorial.

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Ordinarily, when I speak of drawing grass, I’m talking about grass that looks tall and is full of detail. Tall grass, waving in the wind.

But for this drawing, the entire composition is far enough removed that there isn’t much detail even in the foreground. You can, of course, add details if you wish, but our focus for this post is on how to draw grassy hills that are not up close. There will be some detail, but perhaps not what you’re used to seeing in my tutorials.

How to Draw Grassy Hills

Step 1: Rough in the darkest shadows.

There are several hills in the middle and foreground of this composition, but the lighting is such that not all of the shapes are very well-defined. Emphasize those shapes in order to break up the foreground, but don’t add a lot of color or get bogged down in detail.

Sharpen your pencil so that there’s a good amount of pigment core showing. Hold your pencil a little further back along the pencil (if the pencil is long enough), and hold it so that it’s nearly level with the paper, as shown below.

Use light pressure and “slide” the pencil across the surface of the paper. Stroke along the contours of each hill. One or two strokes should be sufficient (unless you have an extremely light touch, as I do.) Keep the strokes loose and sketchy. All you need to do right now is establish the shadows and the suggest the shapes of the hills.

How to Draw Grassy Hills - Use the Side of the Pencil

Add shadows throughout the foreground.

Don’t forget the shadow under the small group of trees in front.

TIP: It’s not necessary to get the hills exact. You want the shapes to break up the foreground and provide a visual path that leads to the small group of trees at the center of interest. Feel free to change the shapes or positions of the hills to suit your own vision for the drawing.

How to Draw Grassy Hills with the shadows shaded.

Step 2: Glaze the hills with base color.

I chose Yellow Ochre for the first color on the foreground because I didn’t have a Prismacolor color that was close to the colors in the reference photograph. So I compared each of my greens. Chartreuse was the closest green, but it was way too bright.

So I looked through the earth tones, and realized Yellow Ochre was a good companion color for Chartreuse.

Since green is the dominant color, I layered Yellow Ochre first.

If you have a green that’s a better match than either of these two colors, use it. If you want to try different colors than I’ve suggested, that’s acceptable, too.

Layer color lightly over each hill. Draw the hills individually, and stroke along the contours of the hills. Use light pressure and it’s okay to use a blunted pencil.

A Word about Pencil Strokes

You have two options for strokes.

The first option is to hold the pencil in normal writing position and apply short, directional strokes along the curve of each hill, as shown here.

East of Camp Creek 49

You can also use the side of the pencil (as shown in the previous step.) You’ll still stroke along the contours of the hills, but will cover more of the paper with each stroke, and will also get smoother coverage, as shown below.

East of Camp Creek 50

The first stroke gives you more control and is best for working around the small group of trees in front. It also lays down color a little more heavily.

But the second stroke is faster and produces more even color. The paper shows through it more. If you’re using a single color (instead of mixing colors as I am,) you may benefit by having paper show through. It will add visual interest and help tone down whatever green you use.

It’s also acceptable to combine the strokes, or to use any other stroke that helps you produce the look you want.

Next, smooth out the color by dry blending with a stiff, bristle brush. Use medium pressure and stroke along the curves of the hills. Use short strokes and overlap strokes to smooth out the color.

Step 3: Dry blend pigment dust into the color layer.

Drawing on sanded paper produces pigment dust. You can either brush it off the drawing with a drafting brush or other soft brush, or you can work it into the paper and use the pigment.

East of Camp Creek 51

And this is the foreground with the first color applied and dry blended.

East of Camp Creek 52

If we were drawing a fall scene, all we’d need to do is deepen shadows, add details, and maybe a few highlights. That’s one reason I prefer dry blending to solvent blending for drawings like this. It gives the landscape a more natural feel, especially when working on sanded paper.

Step 4: Layer green over the base color.

Layer Chartreuse over the foreground using light-medium to medium pressure. Keep your strokes close together and short in the background. As you work toward the bottom of the drawing, use longer, more open strokes if you wish, or continue to use small, less open strokes.

In the front (at the bottom,) I switched to directional strokes that mimic the look of grass, but that’s a personal preference. If you don’t want to use this type of stroke, continue with the even layering.

If you do use “grass-like” strokes, keep your pencil sharp. Leave lots of open space (with paper and the previous colors showing through.)

How to Draw Grassy Hills - Layer green over the base color.

Next, darken the shadow on the hill immediately in front of the trees with Olive Green. Use a blunt pencil and short, horizontal strokes.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Darken the shadows8

You can blend this layer if you wish. That was my intention when I drew it, but I liked the way it looked unblended, so I left it alone.

There are plenty of details on the side of this hill in the reference photo. Stones and rocks. Clumps of grass and other things. Leave those details for later. For now, it’s easier to lay down all the color, and concentrate on values. The details can be added later.

Step 5: Continue darkening shadows and developing color.

Work through the rest of the drawing with Olive Green, darkening shadows and reshaping them as necessary. Again, don’t fuss over details. Work toward getting the color and value the way you want it first.

Feel free to try different types of strokes. I tried drawing directional, grass-like strokes with Olive Green in the lower right corner. While that’s a favorite stroke, it didn’t accomplish very much.

So I used the side of the pencil to lay down more even color along the contours of the foreground slope.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Continue darkening shadows.

Step 6: Add a warm, neutral color to keep the greens from getting too bright.

Next, use Cream to lighten and warm the green in the hill immediately in front of the trees. You can use either a sharp or blunt pencil. Use medium pressure or slightly heavier, and careful stroking to create even color. Don’t burnish just yet.

If the edge of the shadow is too abrupt, blend the edge slightly, but don’t work too much into the shadow with Cream, or the shadow will become too light.

I used a long stroke to draw along the slope of the hill that faced the light source (the sun) most directly. Beginning with medium pressure at the right edge of the paper, I drew along the hill to the crest, and decreased pressure while stroking so that I was using very light pressure at the end of the stroke (the crest of the hill.) Although the hill is not very tall and doesn’t have much of a peak, there is still a point where it starts curving away from the sun. I wanted the color to “fade away” in this area.

Finish all the slopes that face the sun this way, but make sure to keep the emphasis around the center of interest. Keep the brightest brights around the trees in the center, and fade them gradually as they move toward the edges of the drawing.

How to Draw Grassy Hills 11

Step 7: To dry blend or not to dry blend.

The next step depends on whether or not you want to dry blend the hills. If you don’t skip this step.

If you do, use a stiff bristle brush to blend the colors together. Use horizontal strokes that follow the slopes of the hills to smooth out the color. Start with the lightest areas and blend them first, then move to the next darkest areas. Finish with the darkest areas.

This is important! If you work from dark to light, you will add unwanted dark colors to the highlights. While that’s not a disaster if it happens, it is an unnecessary irritation.

How to Draw Grassy Hills Dry blending

Conclusion

The end is drawing near on this tutorial. All that remains is drawing the center of interest (those unfinished trees,) and finishing the drawing.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

This week’s Tuesday Tutorial is the fourth tutorial in this series. Our topic today? Fixing a colored pencil mistake on sanded paper.

If you missed the first three parts of this tutorial, you can read them at the following links.

Draw a Gray Sky with Colored Pencils

Finish a Sky in Colored Pencil

Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper

EmptyEasel also published part of this tutorial. You can read How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil here.

Now for this week’s tutorial.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper

It happens all the time. Your piece is progressing nicely, then all of a sudden, you discover a mistake. It could be the wrong color, a value that got too dark, or a drawing error.

Whatever the mistake, your latest masterpiece suddenly looks like a disaster in the making.

That happened to me with this project. I thought I was within days of completing it when I realized I needed to undo something.

What was the problem?

I didn’t like the color of the hills behind the trees. Even after I finished the sky, they just didn’t look right. I knew which colors were working best for the greener hills, but none of them provided a realistic transition between the dark gray and green hills.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - The Mistake

This was what I’d consider a fatal error. That is, if I didn’t fix it, the landscape was certain to fail.

The question was, what was the best way to fix the problem?

Step 1: Remove as much color as possible.

The obvious first step is to remove as much color as possible. Ordinarily, this is the most difficult part of the process. Once you’ve put colored pencil on paper, removing it can be a serious challenge.

But I was working on sanded art paper, and one of the best things about sanded art paper is that it’s usually pretty easy to remove color. If you haven’t blended with solvent or put a fixative over color, it can be removed almost entirely.

Even if you burnished it. And the best part is that all you need is sticky stuff.

“Sticky stuff” is a generic term for a reusable adhesive substance often used to hang posters. It’s inexpensive, reusable, and self-cleaning. Popular names are Handi-Tak and Poster Tack. It’s also known as mounting putty.

For larger areas, roll a section of sticky stuff into a ball, and use it like a stamp. Turn it a little between each “press” so you put clean sticky stuff on the paper.

To remove color from a small area, shape the sticky stuff into the shape you need. It can be shaped into a wedge or a pencil-like point.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Lift Color

I shaped sticky stuff into an elongated cylinder, which I then pressed against the paper, turning it after each stroke.

TIP: When the sticky stuff is full of color, knead it enough to absorb the color, then repeat the process until you remove as much color as necessary.

As you can see, I was able to remove almost all of the color in the dark gray and green hills. The areas blended with solvent did not lift as well as dry color, but it was lightened enough to allow me to layer fresh color over it.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Lifted Color

Step 2: Restore outlines.

When you remove color this way, you will remove outlines too, and possibly the original line drawing.

So the next step is outlining the shapes again.

I made no attempt to reproduce the original outlines, but instead drew them while referring to my reference photograph. I didn’t outline the hills again, but if you need to restore interior shapes, this is a good time to do it.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Outlining Trees

Step 3: Layer new color over the hills.

Now continue with the drawing. You needn’t prepare the paper surface for new color. Sanded art paper is very durable and removing color will prepare the surface to accept new color.

Layer Warm Grey 20% into the hills immediately in front of the most distant hills. Use light-medium pressure (slightly less than normal handwriting pressure) to draw a smooth color layer.

Next, layer Warm Grey 10% over all the area where color was removed. Use medium pressure and directional strokes following the slopes of the hills. Follow up with a layer of the same color, but with cross hatching strokes. Draw as smooth a layer of color as possible.

Follow that up with Jade Green layered over all of the hills immediately behind the outlined trees.

Add Chartreuse and Cream to make the closer hills warmer and greener. If they get too warm, glaze them with Warm Grey 10%.

Step 4: Add small accents to help accurately judge color and value.

If it helps define the different hills in this area, add a few trees as I did. Use Marine Green, light pressure, and squiggly strokes to shade a few trees in the distance. These shapes should be flat in appearance, with very little variation in value, because they’re so far away they show very little detail or value.

I also added the shadows in the row of trees so I’d have a point of comparison for the background.

Fixing a Colored Pencil Mistake on Sanded Paper - Adding Trees

Conclusion

And that’s it! As you can see, it’s difficult to tell there was a problem with the background hills. Fixing mistakes on sanded art paper is remarkably easy even with colored pencils.

The next step in the process was drawing the trees. You can read How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil on EmptyEasel.

In the next post, we’ll tackle the foreground.

Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

When you think of drawing papers, you probably usually think “smooth,” don’t you? As in, the smoother the better. Have you ever considered using colored pencil on sandpaper?

No, not the sandpaper you buy at a hardware store (though you can draw on that if you really want to.) I’m talking about sanded papers made for artists.

Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

The kinds of surfaces suitable for colored pencil are nearly endless. If a surface will accept dry media of any kind, it will work for colored pencil, often with a minimum of preparation.

In the past, I’ve described 3 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil.

A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sanded pastel paper.

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper.

Most of these papers were created for pastels, which require a lot of tooth. Some oil painters have started using sanded surfaces on a rigid support with beautiful results.

But colored pencil?

On sanded pastel paper?

What is Sanded Pastel Paper?

In short, sanded pastel paper is drawing paper that’s been coated with a gritty surface that looks and feels a lot like ordinary, hardware store sandpaper. The surface texture is measured by something called “grit.” The higher the number, the finer the grit.

800 grit sanded paper has a very fine texture. It’s still a lot coarser than a regular paper, but it’s the best suited for drawing detail.

240 grit paper is very coarse.

TIP: If you’ve never tried sanded pastel papers before, get small sheets or check with the manufacturer. If they offer samples, that’s the best way to try papers.

Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

Great For Layering, Not so Great for Details

Since even the finest grits are still like drawing on sand, they’ll take a lot of layers.

What you won’t be able to do without the use of solvents is draw a high degree of detail. The smaller your drawing, the more difficult it will be to draw detail.

Excellent for Solvent Blending

Because the surface of sanded pastel papers are generally non-absorbent, you can use solvents without worrying about damaging the paper. Rigid supports are best for this, of course, but you can use solvents even on the papers.

Just make sure you use a brush—a stiff bristle is better than a soft brush. The paper will pull cotton balls or cotton swabs to bits.

Try “Painterly”

If you usually draw a lot of detail, try a more painterly approach with sanded pastel papers.

Go Frame-less

The real reason colored pencil drawings are usually framed under glass is to protect the paper from staining, tearing, or punctures.

You don’t have those worries as much with sanded pastel papers. Use a rigid sanded panel and you have no need to frame under glass at all!

Want to Finish Fast?

Then you’ll want to at least give sanded pastel papers a try. You can lay down a lot of color in a hurry, especially if you’re using woodless pencils.

The downside is that the paper may eat your pencils for lunch.

Light over Dark

It is possible to layer light colors over dark and have them show up. The reason is the amount of tooth on even the finest grit sanded art papers. Unless you use solvent (see above), it’s next to impossible to fill the tooth of the paper so much that you can’t add more color.

That means you can add some light highlights at the end of the drawing and they will still show up!

Conclusion

I’ve done only one small drawing on sanded pastel paper so far. I described the drawing process in an article written for EmptyEasel.  Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

But I have three sheets from my original sample still available, and have ordered more. I’m looking forward to working a few landscapes as larger format drawings (the original one was an ACEO).

I encourage you to give it a try, too. It may be exactly the surface you’ve been looking for.