Colored Pencil Tools and Techniques for the Wax and Oil Based Colored Pencil

Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty CPSA -Biography 2010

Sheri DotySheri Doty received a B F A degree in 1972 from the University of Utah with a painting and drawing emphasis. Having experimented with non-representational styles during her student years, Sheri preferred classic realism as thought by professor Alvin Gittons.  He and the professors, under whom she studied, emphasized strong drawing and painting skills. Sheri is a faculty member of Salt Lake Community College and Peterson’s Art center where she teaches Fine Art and Design.

Sheri’s paintings have  earned her awards in regional, national and international art exhibitions and invitational shows including purchase awards and permanent museum acquisitions.  Sanford Corporation has used her artwork to showcase its PRISMACOLOR colored pencil product line internationally.  Sheri is a charter member and signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America [C.P.S.A.].

Sheri’s artwork has been published in numerous books including The Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques by Quarto Publishing, London England;Most of The Best of Colored Pencil series by Rockport Publishers, Creative Colored Pencil Techniques by Rockport  Publishers, Creative Colored Pencil Portraits byri’s art work is included is  Rockport Publishers and The Best of Portrait Painting by North Light Books, Dear Sisters by Covenant Communications Inc. Sheri’s artwork is published on book covers, in newspapers, periodicals, and exhibit catalogues.

People have been known to say, “She possesses a unique ability to paint the breath of life into her subjects – a gifted talent.” Because Sheri expresses not only the likeness of her clients but also their lifestyle, her portraits are in high demand. Sheri has also has prints and greeting cards on the market.

Sheri Says:

“The art professors under whom I studied had us draw and paint from live models and “open air” studies, not from photographs.  To truly see and paint a subject, I need to see it from all angles.  The human eye sees so much more than what is pictured in a photograph.  I am glad of the rich ridged training I received from my teachers.  I have married the use of photography and live studies to create my paintings.  I take my own photographs as resource material employing a variety of ways to recreate what the human eye sees.  My paintings are not exact reproductions, but an interpretation of life from my view as an artist.

“Thirty years of study and experience in this field has taught me that talent isn’t the reason for success in any endeavor.  The keys to success are desire, perseverance and determination.  But most of all,  I depend on Father in Heaven’s influence.   When I pray about what I paint, I can feel His help and guidance.”


Follow this link to visit Sheri’s website to view more of her work and to learn more about her.

Colored Pencil Tools and Techniques for the Wax and Oil Based Colored Pencil

© 2010 Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty – CPSA on Colored Pencil

Blending with Colored Pencils

Blending Supplies

Overlay Supplies

Colored Pencils (wax or oil based) – Boxed sets of colored pencils are convenient but buying colors individually gives you control of the colors you use. The more colors you have in your palette the more freedom of choice you have in your artwork. Quality colored pencil brands are Prismacolor Colored Pencils, Faber Castell Polychromos Colored pencils is an oil based colored pencil and is workable like wax based colored pencils, & Derwint, etc.
Art Sticks – Prismacolor offers art sticks that are merely colored pencil pigments formed into a stick format rather than being formed to fit in a wooden shaft. These are useful when amassing color for stains and rough overlays without wasting pencils with constant sharpening.
Extend the usefulness of pencils stubs… Pencil Extender – Wrap tape around the end of a pencil stub to secure the pencil stub in the extender.
Super Glue Gel or Crazy glue Gel – Another means to extend the use of your pencil stub is to glue a new unsharpened pencil to the bottom of your pencil stub. Be sure the bond is true or you may lose your stub within your sharpener. If the stub is stuck in the sharpener you will need to break up the stub using an awl or other sharp metal point to break the stuck piece of pencil into small peices within the sharpener. Shake out the broken pieces.


A large soft mop brush. (A large soft mop brush is needed for brushing off erasures and pencil dust) (Hake Brushes or an inexpensive mop brush I suggest a one inch Multi-Stem Hake Brush. You can use a large, clean cosmetic brush. Used for solvent or mixed media applications.

Fabric Dye Brush or Round Scrubber Sold as a craft brush not usually found in art stores – They have very short tough bristles with a rounded top.
Round watercolor brus or white round acrylic watercolor brush


Sheets of Strathmore 500 series, 100% cotton acid free Bristol board, vellum or cold press type surface (vellum has a rough texture as opposed to a smooth or slick surface). Individual sheets come in 2 ply, 3 ply, 4 ply, or 5 ply thicknesses. Check the texture of the board and corner embossment to see if the sheet you are buying meets the specifications mentioned. The 23″x 29” sheets can be cut to fit the size you want your image to be. I DO NOT recommend Bristol board tablets. The Strathmore 500 series is 100% cotton and is takes a lot of abuse from erasing, sanding and scraping for a variety of techniques that require a forgiving surface. The color sits on top of the paper so it can be easily manipulated. Softer papers such as BFK, or watercolor papers are absorbent and soak up color which makes erasing and solvent manipulation difficult for the techniques I use for making colored pencil paintings.

Tracing Paper
I use tracing paper for problem solving and designing and impressed line technique.

Sheets of toned charcoal paper if you wish to use a colored background.
Papers can be cut and put into your personalized sketchbook if you wish.)

Sketch Book Commercial Sketch Pads are not recommended.
If you prefer using a sketch book buy sheets of 2 ply, Strathmore 500 series, 100% cotton acid free, vellum surface paper. Bind your sketchbook using a spiron binding.. Use a heavy board for the front and back cover. Hard Lamination plastic makes a good acid free protective cover in which to laminate your name on the cover page. You can also include sheets of toned 100% cotton charcoal paper and 1 sheet Revies – BFK for experimenting with various papers. Cut cut paper down to the size you want your sketch tablet to be and spiral bind it using 100% cotton matt board as your front and back covers. If you use a cheap chip board for your covers, place a sheet of acetate between your covers and your cotton bristol board to protect your paper from acid migration into your good drawing papers. Commercial copy centers can spiral bind your pre-cut sketchbook pages for you. They will cut one edge to aide in binding.

Blending Techniques


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Applying colored pencil strokes to create a color blend. This process is much the same as mixing colors on a painter’s palette. But colored pencil hues are mixed on the paper. The colored pencil painting is also the palette. Very sharp pencil points create delicate color blends. Dull pencil points produce a color blend that is course in texture.

Dry Brush Scumbling and Blending

The method of mixing color by scrubbing or “scumbling” heavily overlaid colored pencil strokes into the surface texture of the paper using a Round Scrubber or Fabric Dye Brush. Using the stiff short bristles of a fabric dye brush, scrub the overlaid colored pencil strokes into the pitted surface of the paper. This timesaving technique effectively blends the colors without burnishing. Colors can then be overlaid onto or erased from a scumbled surface.

Why do I recommend a vellum surface paper? A plate finish paper has a smooth surface and will become saturated with color quickly. A glasslike slick quality will developed more rapidly on a plate or smooth finished paper. The ability to add more color will become difficult because there will be no more texture on which to catch and hold your colors. If you cannot add color because your surface texture has become saturated with color, you can do a crosshatching effect with your retractable pen knife tip making a texture on which you can continue doing color overlays for a brief time. Test this before you apply it to your colored pencil painting to see the results.

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Burnishing is used to create dense color saturation and avoid the white stippling effect caused by the tooth or texture of the paper. Applying pressure with a drawing tool to compact the surface texture of the paper makes a smooth and shinny surface. Using colored pencils or the “Colorless Blender” pencil as a burnishing tool creates a wax build up, which causes the effect of drawing on a glasslike surface. Other blunt tools like the blending stump can be used to smear a heavy wax overlay into the paper surface. I choose to do some burnishing as a finishing touch to my artwork.

You may choose to do dry brush scumbling to get smooth, rich and intense colors as an alternative to burnishing so you can do frequent color overlays and color blends without saturating the surface of the paper. To clean colored pencil residue out of the Fabric Dye Brush, dip it in denatured alcohol and wipe out residue on an absorbent cloth.

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CW OL DB Burnishing

Hatching and Cross Hatching and Textures

A method of creating light and dark values and color blends using linear pencil or pen strokes. Colored pencil hatching strokes can be a means of mixing two or more hues to create color changes.

Hatching: Parallel pencil strokes spaced close or widely apart.
Cross Hatching: Sets of lines are hatched over the other pencil strokes in different directions.
Textures: Mix colors using varied marks such as dots, ticks or circular strokes creating a visual texture.

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hatch cross-hatch textureCR

Overlay Blending and Burnishing Example “Small Things”

By Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

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Small Things

Blending Colored Pencils with Solvents

Solvents Supplies

3 Clear blending markers: Three clear blending markers are needed for blending light, medium and dark colors

Liquid solvents

Clear Turpenoid: Turpenoid is advertized as an odorless mineral spirit (Avoid Turpentine – it is toxic and contains lignin. Lignin can cause paper to deteriorate over time.) Used for blending, staining and smearing

Odorless Mineral Spirits (Gamsol) – If you are allergic to Turpenoid this acts like Turpenoid but is considered to be less toxic because it does not evaporate into the atmosphere as fasDenatured Alcohol Hospital Strength 90+% Used for blending colors, cleaning fabric dye brushes, and refilling clear blending markers (Purchase at a hardware stores at 90 proof), or buy Hospital Strength Denatured Alcohol purchased directly from your pharmacy. Check the percentage of alcohol content before you purchase denatured alcohol. Anything lower than 90% is too weak.

Old Terry Cloth Rag – Used to blot solvent from brushes, and for solvent staining techniques

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Blending with solvents

Blending with solvents is a means to get color saturation without burnishing. It is a timesaving method for spreading color in a painterly fashion. Solvents dissolve or chemically change wax colored pencils – effectively softening them for easy blending. When liquefied, colored pencil overlays fill the valleys of the paper texture effectively eliminating the white stippling effect. This literally makes a toned paper underpainting eliminating the white texture.

Papers of all types are affected differently by colored pencil and solvent applications. On papers with a non-porous surface, like Strathmore’s 500 series, 100% cotton vellum Bristol board, colored pencils blended with solvents can be erased, scraped off and restated again as needed offering color blending flexibility. Soft absorbent papers such as Revies BFK and watercolor papers absorb the solvent blended colors permanently into the paper. I suggest you experiment with different papers to see the affects you get from solvents and colored pencil overlays so you will be informed of the results before investing in a time intensive colored pencil painting.

Note: Solvents can alter colored pencil hues.
Remember to keep a lid on all solvents except when in use. Solvents are toxic; always use caution when using solvents. Work in a well ventilated room and wash your hands after contact with solvents.

Liquid Solvent Blending Staining

Staining Staining is a method of creating a solid color background or a multicolored under painting using a solvent. After applying thick strokes of colored pencil or art sticks to the paper, saturate a watercolor brush with solvent and spread the loaded brush over the colored pencil overlay. Using a little pressure, rub a terrycloth rag into the softened colored pencil overlay in circular motions to create a stain of color on the surface of the paper. Another method is to dip the cloth into the solvent and rub directly onto the color overlay. The stained paper can be used as a background or as an under painting. Draw over the stained paper or erase as needed. (Turpenoid is my preferred solvent for staining because it liquefies colored pencil strokes quickly.)

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Staining Example“At the Ball Park”Family Portrait

Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

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Cannon Family
Wet Brush Blending – For a loose painterly effect, apply solvent with a round acrylic or watercolor brush. Work over colored pencil strokes spreading and dissolving the wax colors on the paper.
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damp blending scumbling
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clear markers
Damp Brush Blending – For a more controlled solvent application, use a Filbert brush. Dip a Filbert brush into the solvent and blot the brush onto an absorbent rag to soak up the excess solvent. Blend colors with dampened bristles over colored pencil strokes. The Filbert brush can be used in place of a clear blending marker.
Damp Brush Scumbling – Dip a Fabric Dye Brush in solvent and blot on an absorbent cloth to soak up excess solvent. Scumble or scrub into the colored pencil overlay with more control of solvent effects. Damp brush scumbling can be used in place of a clear blending marker.Note: To preserve the life of your brushes, they must be washed with soap and water often after using solvents
Clear Blending Markers: Used for blending, smearing and creating textures. Clear blending markers provide a controlled means of dissolving colored pencils. As you rub overlaid colors with the marker, the pencil strokes break down into a blurring effect. The colors seem to smudge and blend in the area of the clear blending marker application. To replenish dry markers, fill pen reservoir with hospital strength denatured alcohol. Pull pen tip out and pour solvent in through a small funnel applicator. Colored pencils leave a residue on the marker tip that can stain other areas of the artwork. To prevent artwork from accidental blemishing, I use a new marker or have 3 markers – one each for light, medium and dark colors.
Damp Brush Example
“Amanda and Her Children”Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty
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Amanda and HerChildren
Clear Blending Markers Example


Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

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Erasing and Subtractive Drawing With Colored Pencils

Erasing and Subtractive Drawing Supplies

Retractable Penknife: Use the flat edge of the retractable pen knife to scrape off the overlaid or burnished wax colored pencil from the paper surface. Use caution on the angle of your knife because the knife tip or point can leave scratches or dents in the paper.
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Pink Pearl Eraser: After scraping unwanted colored pencil marks off the paper, use the pink pearl eraser to scrub off the remaining color. Erasing overlaid colors or burnished colored pencil marks can smear or stain the paper. To prevent unwanted blemishes, use a clean eraser. A residue of color may remain depending on how heavily the colors were applied. To whisk away erasures and pencil dust use a soft mop brush.
Electric Eraser: The electric eraser can lift off color “almost” completely down to the surface of the paper.
Mounting Putty: Use a wad of tacky putty to lift or lighten colored pencil overlays. Mounting putty does not erase colored pencil as much a lighten colors and values without smearing your work. Blot or rub the colored pencil overlay to lighten the colors without erasing or scraping the drawing.

Erasing and Subtractive Drawing Supplies

Subtractive Drawing

Sgraffito: Using a retractable pen knife, scratch into a thick layer of color, to reveal the underlying surface. Lay down a solid block of color by shading with the pencil or staining the paper by rubbing a solvent soaked pencil overlay with a terrycloth. Then solidly apply a second layer of a different color over the top. Scrap away the top layer using the flat edge of a penknife for a broad line, or the point tip for a fine line. In effect, this is “subtractive” drawing – removing color, rather than applying it. Pencil can also be applied over colored papers or other backgrounds and then you can scratch out the desired shape or design. Sgraffito technique is wonderful for adding finishing touches to hair and fur. When the sunlight catches a glisten tendril of hair or a highlight on a leaf or a blade of grass, a mere whisk of the tip of the knife lifts off a fine line of tone or makes a thin line mirroring a fine pencil stroke. By using the broad shape of the small knife blade and tapering to a fine line you can make the shape of a leaf or any other tapered contour. A slight stroke of the broad end of the blade allows you to lift layers of pencil strokes in the same way you applied them. Your blade becomes almost as flexible a drawing tool as your pencil. This techniques works best if there is a thick layer of colors overlaid onto your paper.

The best results for sgraffito techniques are based on the paper you use. The paper should allow your colors to sit on top of the paper – not absorb the colors into the paper. Your paper should be sturdy and not easily damaged from scraping or scratching. This technique is not successful on soft, thin or wood pulp papers. I recommend the 500 series, 100% cotton acid free bristol board, vellum or cold press type surface made by Strathmore.

Standard craft knives do not have the delicate blade that retractable pen knives have. Using a standard craft knife for delicate sgrafitto techniques is comparable to drawing with a used crayon instead of a very sharp colored pencil.

Sgraffito Technique adds final touches on hair and scrapes branches out from the background.

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Sgraffito Example

“Desert Flower”

Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

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Desert Flower
Clear Blending Markers Example

“Abby and Louie”

Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

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Abby and Louie-Campbell
Electric Eraser
The electric eraser can be used as a subtractive drawing tool making lines and dots, and lightening shaded areas. I use it to render sunlight showing through leaves in the trees and make textures in fabric as well as show highlights.In this example, an Electric Eraser lifts off stained colors and overlays showing the sun shining behind the trees.
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Electric eraser
Electric Eraser Example

“Because of Thy Faith”

Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

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Because of Thy Faith

Impressed Line

Impressed Line Supplies

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impressed line
Embossing tool or ball stylus
Except for the largest ball tip, all sizes of hand embossing tools are effective for varied impressed line techniques. There are different brands of embossing tools on the market. An etching tool for zink & copper plate or an awl for quilt tying is good for very fine impressed lines. The awl and etching tools are also good for cleaning clogged pencil sharpeners. The etching tool or an awl’s tip needs to be sanded to a dull point before using as an impressing tool or it merely scratches the paper without making a big enough dent to see an impressed line.
Impressed Line
An impressing tool makes a mark that indents or makes a grove well below the surface of the paper. With gentle shading, glide pencil strokes across the impressed marks so that the impressed line remains visible. This works well for lace, leaf veins, and background textures, etc. This technique requires a sturdy paper or Bristol board. Place cardboard under the paper to make a soft buffer between the paper and the hard table to make impressed lines marks indent more deeply in the paper. Prevent underlying papers in your sketchbook from becoming dented by using a cardboard between the pages of your sketchbook and the artwork requiring impressed line techniques. If you need to control the exact drawing lines of your impression, draw your image onto tracing paper. Then place the tracing paper over the area you want to indent. Impress your lines through the tracing paper. This will leave a pure impressed line without marring your line with tones you do not want.

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Impressed Line Demo

Impressed Line Example
“In the Sixth Square “Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

Wiskers of the cat and the words
on the book are impressed line

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Through the Looking Glass
Impressed Line Example

“Four Brothers “

Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty

The fishing poll wire is impressed line

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Smith Family Portrait (children only)

Under Painting of Varied Mediums

Water color, colored art markers, colored chalk and oil paint can be rubbed into a paper’s surface with a brush, soft cloth or cotton ball. Various mediums can be stained into the drawing paper creating interesting backgrounds and effects over which the translucent colored pencil can be applied. The process of rendering colored pencil over other mediums can speed the artwork along. It also is a means of staining selected portions of the white paper with color rather than using an overall colored paper. (Colored markers fade, but when used by an illustrator where speed is more important than longevity and publishing is the goal, they have their advantages.)
I do not us mixed media so I have no examples to show.

Colored and Toned Papers, Paper Varieties and Boards

When needing a solid background for your artwork, using a colored paper has a distinct advantage. The colored paper acts as a medium shade, and unifies elements of the composition. Because colored pencils are translucent, the paper color modifies pencil colors (especially lighter tints). Test your colors on the paper before beginning your drawing.

Papers of varied textures and absorbencies offer a variety of effects to a colored pencil under painting. Experiment with a variety of papers such as a non-absorbent bristol board verses an absorbent paper such as Reeve’s BFK or watercolor papers to assess the varied affects.

Color or tone your own paper for longevity and archival preservation:
Colored papers may not be archival or as durable as Strathmore 500 series bristol board. Suggestion: Use a large soft mop brush, sloppy with water, to wet down the bristle board. Then stain the bristol board with a wash of acrylic paint in whatever color or tone you wish. Make sure the acrylic paint is completely dissolved into the wash before applying it to the board. Before applying water to your paper, tape all edges of your paper down securely onto a board. Allow the paper to dry completely before drawing on your paper. Because acrylic paint is a permanent pigment, test the wash color on a piece of scrap before applying it to your board.

The following two examples are drawn by my students Nan Gray and Marilyn Neerings. I have not used colored papers, but they have gained mastery using them. I have been given permission to show their work in my colored pencil techniques lesson.

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Summer Spray
by Nan Gray
summer spray nan gray
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A Line in the Sand
by Marilyn Neerings
Toned Paper finger-sand

Finishing with a Fixative

A fixative is used as a finishing spray to “fix” a completed artwork. The solvent spray that holds or fixes pencil marks on the paper prevents or corrects a wax bloom on highly blended and burnished surfaces. “Wax bloom” is a chalklike residue that can appear a few hours or a few days after a rigorous color overlay or burnished surface is applied. Because a fixative is a solvent, it can change or alter some colored pencil hues. If a fixative is used heavily, it creates a glasslike surface over which it is hard to apply color. It is better to under use fixative rather than over use a fixative. If second coat of fixative can be applied if required. I also use a light spray of fixative over my preliminary light graphite drawing before colored pencil application to prevent rubbing my drawing of the paper as I work. If your graphite lines are too dark, use mounting putty to blot up dark lines, leaving a very light drawing. Then spray fixative onto your drawing. Once “fixed” the drawing is very difficult to erase.

Source Material:. I consider my own 30 years experience and experimentation with wax colored pencils as a reliable source for this list of techniques as well as dialoging with other colored pencil artists. Most importantly, my students are also my teachers. Several techniques listed here grew from student explorations. For some vocabulary clarification I referred to The Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques by Judy Martin, Quarto Publishing; The Colored Pencil , publisher – Watson – Guptill, and Basic Colored Pencil Techniques , publisher – North Light Books both authored by Bet Borgeson


  1. Sarah Cary says

    The Colored pencil information was one of the best and most informative I have read. It answers a lot of questions and helps solve many problems encountered in colored pancil renderings. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Peter says

    Thank you so much for an excellent article. I can’t wait to try out some of your ideas. Your work is beautiful! In some ways it’s hard to believe they are not oil paintings.

  3. Rose says

    Thank you for this great informative tutorial. I would add one additional techniques for using Wax and Oil Based Colored Pencil is “patient”. The more you practice the better result you will get. When I first started colored pencils some years ago, I didn’t like them that much mostly because of its striated. But with this great tutorial from Sheri would help your wax and oil based colored pencil work more enjoyable.

  4. cheryl says

    Sheri Thankyou so much for taking the time to create this amazing tutorial. I am just beginning my journey in coloured pencil, and your fantastic artworks are so inspiring.

  5. SHEILA GREEN says


  6. xandra says

    This is awsome and so informative – thank you so much for inspiring us especially with your words The keys to success are desire, perseverance and determination. But most of all, I depend on the Father in Heaven’s influence.

  7. Eddina Symns says

    Sheri Lynn Boyer Doti: I’ve never cared much for colored pencil work, until I saw the things you’ve done.
    Absolutely wonderful.

  8. Evelyn Simmons says

    That was so encouraging ! I was feeling so confused, and still am about somethings. But thank you for all the effort you put into helping people you don’t even know. Lord bless you. Evelyn

  9. says

    I am so impressed…you have really laid out and organized the steps necessary to create a variety of diverse and interesting artworks using colored pencils. Thanks so much for sharing and continue to showcase your exceptional talent in this versatile medium! Well Done,
    Shelley Minnis
    Prismacolor Specialist

  10. Elma Delagrange says

    I am so excited! I have just started with colored pencil. I worked in acrylics and some oil paintings over the past ten years. This tutorial has been extremely helpful in knowing what supplies to purchase and what thechniques work best. Keep up the good work in helping us beginners and advancing the experienced. Elma

  11. suresh says

    sir I was inspired from your work and it was totally awesome,thanks for giving a superb idea.

  12. Diana Clarke says

    Thank you so much!! You have answered so many questions I have had about getting started. Your beautiful work shows how well you have learned over the years to use the media. I really can’t wait to get started now that I know what I need.

  13. Barry Heller says

    Great, full of useful info. I work almost exclusively with oil based pencils (Pablos and Polychromos). I would be very interested in info such as this article but pointed toward oil based pencils. Also, using fixative on oil based pencils (is it needed?)

  14. Dorrie says

    I was an artist using watercolour and oils.Recently I had a major stroke,fully parilizing my right side.A serious state for my art. I have been learning to do things left handed, and though I am teaching myself to paint and draw again with my left hand,I find the coloured pencil better for me.I realise I have much to learn about the media,I realise your site will be inspirational to me.Thanks for being there.

  15. Eunice says

    Thank you so very much for writing and putting this on the net. I would never say I’m an artist even though I’ve dabbled and played with almost every medium I could get my hands on for years. I recently purchased Prismacolor Pencils, which I feel have both positive and negative attributes. Im self taught and learn best by doing and have fumbled through learning to use the Prisma’s. However, I still had a couple things going on I wasnt sure how to correct or prevent from happening. Thankfully, I found the information I needed in your article. I also found it easy to understand, follow clearly, and very informative. You’ve rejuvenated the creative spark in me and jolted my eagerness to try new techniques as a means of fixing my “mistakes”. I’ll whisper a gratitude of thanks as I explore the new knowledge I learned from your years of experience.
    Forever thankful,

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