What to do When Your Paper Gets Slick

So what do you do when your paper gets slick?

You’re in the zone, adding layer after layer, blending color, creating contrast and harmony. Then it happens. You pick up another pencil, start layering and…

…your pencil skids across the surface without leaving any color.

That happened to Eloise, who asked the following question:

When you have put so many layers on and you can’t get any more down, what do you do?

What to do When Your Paper Gets Slick

What to do When Your Paper Gets Slick

Prevention is the Best Cure

The best way to deal with slick paper is to avoid it. The best way to avoid slick paper is drawing on sanded art paper.

Sanded art paper takes a lot of layers without the tooth filling up. It doesn’t really matter what type of sanded paper you use. I’ve been experimenting with Lux Archival, Clairefontaine Pastelmat, Fisher 400, and Uart. They each have enough tooth to take a practically endless number of layers, but they each have unique characteristics. They behave differently.

It also makes a difference what type of pencil you use, as I’m learning with this week’s sketching habit. Some pencils work better on sanded papers, than other pencils.

Your style of drawing also makes a difference, so you may have to experiment to find the right combination.

What to do When Your Paper Gets Slick

If you don’t care for sanded art papers, Canson Mi-Teintes is a more traditional paper that falls somewhere between sanded and traditional papers. I can’t recall ever ending up with a slick drawing surface while using Mi-Teintes.

In fairness, however, I must also mention that most of my work on Canson Mi-Teintes has been vignette-style portraits like Portrait of a Black Horse. I usually use colored paper, and chose a color that works for the background and the middle values.

In other words, I didn’t have to apply a lot of color.

Whatever type of paper you use, you can also avoid (or at least delay) the build up of too much color by applying each layer with the lightest pressure possible. You’ll have to increase pressure slightly during the drawing process, but don’t use heavy pressure until the end.

Also don’t burnish until after the drawing is nearly finished.

Cures for Slick Paper

Most of the time, paper gets slick when you reach the maximum amount of color the paper will grab onto and hold.

What to Do When Your Paper Gets Slick

Sometimes, workable fixative made for dry media helps restore a bit of surface texture. A couple of light coats may restore enough tooth for you to finish the piece.

But that’s not guaranteed. I’ve had mixed results with workable fixative.

A light blend with rubbing alcohol could also help. Rubbing alcohol cuts the wax binder in colored pencils a little bit, and that may be enough to allow you to finish a drawing.

It’s also possible to lift enough color with mounting putty to allow you to add more color, but unless you need to change a color or value, lifting color is really a step backward.

If you get the idea that there isn’t much you can do once your paper gets slick, you’re getting the right idea.

That’s why I spent so much time talking about ways to avoid slick paper. In this case, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

I recently wrote on this same topic for the store blog. You can read When Your Paper Gets Slick here for more information on this topic.

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