Time for another product review. Today I want to share my experiences using a Slice Tool with colored pencils.
Before I begin, I want to thank Slice Inc. for providing samples of their tools. The tools were sent to me after I contacted the company for more information and product images for the Q&A post, What is a Slice Tool?
I’d never used these tools before, though I’d seen countless videos by artists such as Lisa Ann Watkins and Bonny Snowdon, and have published many tutorials by Peggy Osborne. So I was delighted to get a chance to try them out for myself.
Using a Slice Tool with Colored Pencils
The Slice Tools I’m Using
I received three different Slice tools: The Manual Pen Cutter, the Manual Precision Cutter, and the versatile Slice Craft Knife.
All three are ideal for etching out details such as whiskers, flyaway hairs, and other fine details. Slice tools have quickly become a Must-Have tool for pet portrait artists and wildlife artists, but I wanted to see how well they added highlights to grassy areas in landscape art.
I didn’t have time to make a new piece to try these tools on, so I went back to some older art that I thought could be improved with a little etching. The piece I chose was Spring Storm.
A Landscape on Clairefontaine Pastelmat
Spring Storm was completed in early 2020. It’s on Anthracite (dark gray) Clairefontaine Pastelmat, so scratching out details was more a matter of adding shadows than highlights.
But there is a lot of grass in the foreground that I thought could benefit from a few more details. Here’s what the area looked like before the Slice tool.
I tried all three tools on the drawing. At first, it didn’t look like they were having an affect. But as I continued to scratch out shadows, I began to see the difference.
I used the two larger blades to add shadows to the grass in the foreground and the tall clump on the left.
The smallest blade, the Precision Cutter, was great at adding a few spots of dark foliage around the edges of the trees in the middle ground.
All three knives allowed me to add fine details that would have been next to impossible to recreate with pencils, especially on such a small drawing (about 7 inches by 9 inches.)
Here’s what the same area looked like when I finished. I don’t know if you can really see the differences this way, but in real life, they are quite obvious.
An Interesting Experiment
My next experiment was this little piece.
This is one my Sketch Habit sketches. It’s on white Clairfontaine Pastelmat and I wanted to see if I could make sparkles on water.
I layered three or four colors heavily onto the paper in a pattern that looked like water.
Then I used a couple of the Slice tools to etch X shapes in various spots in the drawing. I’d seen an acrylic painter create sparkles on water by painting white shapes like this, and wondered if it would work with colored pencils.
It does, if you scratch color off the paper.
Keep in mind that I made no plans where the sparkles would appear as I was laying down color. This was just a sketch; a experiment.
If I were to do this with a finished piece, I would be more deliberate in where I put and how I put color down. Using brighter colors in some of the areas where I wanted sparkles would help them show up better.
But overall, I’m thrilled with this little test.
Tips for Using Slice Tools
I also learned a few things about using Slice tools that are worth sharing.
First is to be careful. It’s difficult to cut your fingers with these blades, but it’s easy to cut paper. Use light or medium-light pressure to gently remove color.
Second, it will probably take more than one “layer” of etching to remove enough color to make a difference. Going over an area a couple of times produced good results. That’s why light pressure is so important.
Third, the scratch marks will be either the color of pencil beneath the layers you’re removing, or it will be the color of the paper. For my test with Spring Storm, I was essentially drawing shadows because the paper was so dark.
On the white Pastelmat, I drew highlights.
Fourth, you get the best results if there’s a clear difference in color or value between the color you scratch off with a Slice tool and the color beneath.
Scratching black layers off dark gray layers makes very little difference. Scratching black layers of light gray or white layers makes a big difference.
Do I Recommend the Slice Tools?
If your work is highly detailed and you like precision in your artwork, then consider buying the Slice tools. They’re a great way to get ultra fine details.
You can remove color, add more color, then remove color again to create a depth of detail that is difficult (if not impossible) with just colored pencils.
And you can also bring a little additional life to an older, finished piece, as I’ve shown here.
They’re not for everybody, just as sanded art paper isn’t for everyone.
But if you’re looking for something to add a little spark (or shadow) to your artwork, the Slice tools may be just what you’re looking for.
My thanks again to Slice, Inc. for their generosity in giving me an opportunity to try their tools. I didn’t honestly think I’d have much use for them.
I now know different!
Hi Carrie, I had never thought of using a slice tool to do sparkles on water. That is really striking! I know too that on landscapes it adds nice detail. Love the article.
I hadn’t considered using the Slice tools that way, either, until after I’d looked them over and watched another one of the videos by the acrylic artist.
I am very happy with the results on the water sketch, but if I were to do a finished piece this way, I think I would plan more where the sparkles would be and lay down some white colored pencil first. Clairefontaine Pastelmat white isn’t bright white, and I think that would have made a difference.
Yes, you have a good point about the paper.
Carrie, Thanks for a clear explanation on the “Slice” instruments.
In their demonstrations on line it is not evident (to me) that the tool is making a difference. But as usual, your clear explanation about the use of the tools is beneficial.
Thanks and Cheers,
Thank you, David.
I’ve watched a lot of artists using the Slice tools, and still didn’t understand exactly how they worked until I tried it myself.