Monday, August 6, 2012

Working with Colored Pencils

Today we're going to look at colored pencils and using them to color our doll.   This lesson will focus on a comparison of the materials.  The actual step-by-step coloring of the doll will be next week. First, I want to talk about materials and then we'll look at some examples of how materials matter in the final product. 

Materials Overview

Materials matter! The type of pencils or the texture of the paper will be a deciding factor in what your final product looks like.  For each paper type, I have placed several samples: straight unblended color from a Prismacolor (soft) pencil and a Verithin (hard) pencil as well as unblended color, color blended with a colorless blending marker, color blended with a colorless blending pencil, and color blended with a tortillon (or stump).  Prismacolor pencils are professional grade colored pencils and terrific to work with.  I'm used other pencils and prefer the Prismacolor.  Paper is also key. When choosing paper, also make sure it suits your transfer method.  I like to use a lightbox, so my paper needs to be thin enough for the light to pass through. 

Sketchbook Paper

I use Strathmore 60lb sketching paper.  The weight listed on the paper is the paper density (  The Wikipedia article covers the details, but for our purposes all you need to know is lighter paper is thinner and more flimsy than heavier paper.  The sketching paper is very lightweight with a subtle texture (often called the "tooth" of the paper).

The sketchbook paper is too flimsy in my opinion.  The pencils also don't look their best on it: I don't like the texture or the blending.  I would keep sketchbook paper for sketching.

Canson Watercolor Paper
I'm new to Canson's 140lb watercolor paper.  I typically use Arches cold press watercolor paper for my watercolor paintings, but the texture was a little more rough than I wanted for pencils.  And what does cold pressed mean?  It refers to how the paper is manufactured.  Cold press paper is a little rough in texture, and hot press is very smooth.  I couldn't get my hands on hot press this time, so we'll just look at the cold press.

The Canson watercolor paper is better than the sketchbook paper.  The texture & blending are both better.  The paper would be great for a mixed media doll or watercolor colored pencils.

Smooth paper and Lightly textured paper
Unlike the other papers, I don't know much about these two types (aside from the fact that they are both 100lb papers) because I came across them randomly…. A few years ago, I was looking for flat files to store my art.  They are very big & very expensive, so I looked at an office furniture warehouse.  (W.B. Mason in Southie, for anyone in the Boston area.  Totally worth the trip!)  When I got them home, I discovered a treasure trove of publisher's paper from the previous owners! The smooth and textured paper I'm using are from this batch.  Both of them are similar in texture to scrapbooking paper available at most craft stores so don't feel like these are unavailable.

This paper, like the watercolor paper, has a nice texture & blending.  The texture is more pronounced than the watercolor paper and is thinner.

I was really surprised at how much I loved this paper.  I feel like I hardly touched the paper with the pencil before beautiful, bright color showed up on the paper.  The pencil blended so smoothly that the samples look like watercolor is some ways. 

If you plan on using wet media along with the colored pencils -- whether it's watercolors or watercolor pencils -- I would recommend watercolor paper.  For my experiment, I plan on using the smooth paper. After that, I'll try out the watercolor paper with colored pencil.  Next lesson will be a step-by-step of coloring in the doll with colored pencils.

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