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from non soluble OIL or WAX  based pencils

Because a pencil naturally produces a line, over the years CP artists have tried many different ways to get round the problem of producing a smooth even ‘wash’ of colour from coloured pencils.  Skies often give problems because of the need to produce a light even coating of colour on the paper.  In the past, the usual solutions have been to either use delicate shading, to transfer colour from a  block of dense pigment made up as a palette and transferred with a piece of felt, or to use an underpainting from pastel or watercolour.

Obviously there is  sometimes a need to  comply with entry conditions for exhibitions which insist on only Coloured Pencil Pigment being used in a picture

A newer approach is to use powdered pigment and apply it with either a brush or a piece of soft material.

The powder can be produced by scraping the pigment off a long pointed pencil with a knife and collecting the powder on the paper surface after which it can be pressed into the surface with the appropriate ‘tool’.

- See image below left  -   Alternatively, to grind up or otherwise prepare powdered pigment from pencils or pencil stubs and save the powder for future use in pots or jars.

There are some examples of working the surface

with powdered pigment in the ‘Backgrounds’ section.


Taking Pigment from the Pencil point enables us to bring some other techniques into use.

We can either use dry powder and rub or brush it into the surface,

we can add water to water soluble pencil pigment and make a liquid we can brush or spray

Or we can use solvent with an oil or wax based pencil pigment.

You might ask why we would want to do such a thing !   The reasons are simple.

The colour from the managed pigment is identical to the dry pigment at the pencil point and therefore there is no variation in colour when we later use the pencil.  ALSO  where artists are entering competitive exhibitions as mounted by the UKCPS and CPSA, all pigment must have come from a pencil source.


     HOWEVER,  Pencil Society Rules regarding the acceptability of dissolved pigment are changing, so if you are intending to ‘manage’ the pigment from a coloured pencil, check the most recent rules from the Society whose exhibition you are intending to enter.  Whilst many societies are widening the acceptability of media, the Pencil Societies seem to be getting more restrictive.

There are a number of advantages in these methods.   

A fine controlled layer of colour can be applied to the

 surface and pigment erased back to a clear edge.  Frisket film can be used to protect an edge or a prepared shape ( see the Goat example in Backgrounds ).  Stocks of stub pencils that might otherwise rot in a drawer unused can be converted into usable material and the powder stored.  I suggest small sealable pots like the old 35mm film containers.

A number of suggestions have been offered for generating the powder.  I prefer the scraped knife method, but people have suggested grinding the pencil using a small wire tea strainer or

( If you are in the USA ) using the sheets of Scotch Brand drywall lining sander ( below right ) which are inexpensive and come in different grades (120 grit is suggested if you want to try this ).  This material has an open grid mesh appearance.  I  have looked for it in B & Q in the UK but they claim not to know what I am asking for !

( Thanks to Virginia Carroll for the  Drywall sander suggestion )

ADDING WATER to Water Soluble Pencils

This technique is covered quite thoroughly in the section on Aquarelles ( Watercolour Pencils )

Using a brush

Using a spray gun

ADDING SOLVENT to OIL or WAX based pencils

See previous page on SOLVENTS

Zest-It  Citrus based Solvent used on Polychromos oil based pencil


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