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Coloured Pencil and ......

 A sub section giving more details of some techniques involving

different Media with Coloured Pencils

with some examples of work  with 1/ Graphite  and   2/ Acrylic


It was suggested on a previous page that Graphite used with CP should be of the harder variety - HB or harder - as a soft graphite will be more likely to smear.  Graphite tends to ‘shine’ through the transparency of wax coloured pencil and will usually still be visible even after several layers of colour on the top. This is why it is usually avoided when working with Coloured Pencils.

We need to think why we might wish to combine the two pencil media.

Graphite gives us the ability to use different grades of black from the different grades of pencil and there are notable attractions in working in monochrome. There is some beautiful work about which is entirely graphite.  However a modest use of colour can be very beneficial to highlight a picture.

Let us look at some examples.

In August 2012 we ran a feature on this topic on the Help and advice line page, and this has been taken from there.

Initially I had input from two artists, Gayle Mason and Linda Weil

Both these artists are working in animal studies, and you may like to get an idea of the ‘nearly monochrome’ style that I was looking for, below.

                   From Gayle Mason                                                                                   



                                                                                            Gayle tells me that the image of a Jack Russell (left) is                                                                                                    mainly a mix of graphite and French Grey CP

                                                                                            plus CP for the eyes                                                  


Gayle also sent me an image of the German Shepherd

 portrait (right) which she felt was not quite so successful.

 Gayle said : ‘The German Shepherd wasn't as successful

in my opinion  because  I didn't get the balance of graphite

to colour right, the colour looks heavy handed’


  Then I had some images from Linda Weil in Australia

Two Koala pictures by Linda.

On the left below is titled

‘Does my bum look big in this’ uses Derwent soluble graphite and Graphitint  

and  on the right  ‘Just hanging in there’ (left)  uses a single colour with four different grades of graphite.

For more of Linda and Gayle’s work see the links to their web sites        


Australian artist  Linda Weil


You can see from the examples above how a modest use of colour can make a radical difference to the impact of a picture.

Using graphite encourages us to keep the colour limited where using Coloured Pencil might encourage a greater input of colour.

Very fine dark lines are also possible using harder graphite and the medium also enables a great variety of tones in the one colour.

 Below  is shown an example from Pauline Longley who worked this picture called ‘The Rat Catcher’ in Graphite on a plastic surface called Mellotex with a 2B pencil .  Pauline’s Bog has a stage example of the work half way through:

http://art-pal.blogspot.com/      Check out the Blog entries for late August 2011  

After working the picture in Graphite alone ( First image below ), Pauline considered whether to add colour and decided to put in a modest amount - though is still unsure whether it has worked.    I think it did, but then we will all probably have a different view !        

I think the small amount of colour has linked the dog and the rat very nicely without spoiling the monochrome effect.

As you can see, balancing the colour, to enhance and show the best of the subject, can be an interesting challenge


On the previous page I listed some points to watch out for if you were to use CP with Acrylic paint. These mainly centred on the particular habits of Acrylic in drying quickly to a hard impermeable surface making it essential to keep brushes moist and the tops of paint tubes clean.  Assuming that you have some knowledge of Acrylics, I will not go into the techniques for using that medium in any depth .. This is, after all, a site specialising in Coloured Pencil techniques.

I have not tried using CP with a wide range of acrylic paint. I have restricted my testing to those paints that produce a matte surface - which can be assumed to provide a tooth for pencil use.  Most glossy acrylics will have too polished a surface for pencils to get a grip and leave a satisfactory mark.

There are brands of acrylic, though, that are described as ‘Acrylic Gouache’ or which are specifically made to have a matte finish.  If you wish to use one of the more commonly available brands which have a normal gloss finish, then explore the use of an acrylic matte medium which, when added to the normal paint, will produce a matte surface when dry.

I have most recently used a brand marketed in the UK as ‘PROCOLOUR’.  This was originally made in Canada by the Canadian Chromacolour International Limited in Calgary, and was sold in the UK and Europe through Linda Wain.

In 2013, Linda purchased the production rights to the product which I believe is now manufactured in the UK  and sold through her website and through shows etc.  Do not be tempted by a product still sold in the UK by a British based company called Chromacolor International. This is not the same product.

Less gossip and more about the actual acrylic paint

The Procolour acrylic paint is in semi liquid form and is sold in re-sealable bottles which have tops that keep clean. The acrylic paint itself can be thinned down substantially to lay down very thin washes, very similar to watercolour but I find it absolutely permanent when dry. It ‘takes’ over virtually any non absorbent hard surface ( including glass and most plastics ).    The colours are lightfast.

Procolour works beautifully on paper, canvas and all other normal artists surfaces.

No I don’t get commission !

I use Procolour over paper, primed board, primed canvas and have tested it with success on a number of other surfaces.

To show the effect of Coloured Pencil over this medium I  carried out a small test using the remnants of colour left on the acrylic palette at the end of a painting session.

The surface chosen to work on is a plastic material made for artwork , manufactured at the Lana Mill in France and sold as Lana Vanguard. It has a polished , very smooth surface and would not normally take coloured pencil.

The first image shows the base painting in acrylic.

It is a close up sketch of a riverside with grasses and reflections

The first couple of images were taken with room light so the colours are not ‘true’

The second image shows the polished surface of the Lana Vanguard. It also shows up the matte surface of the painted image

The third image shows the effect of adding detail with Coloured pencil. Note how the white has taken and shows up the effect of ripples.

Light pencil has been applied into the waterline and both lights and darks have been set into the grassed area.

The semi opaque white also allows some of the underlaid colour to show through in the water area.

The pencil would not have produced an acceptable mark if applied direct the the plain vanguard surface.


There may be few occasions when you will want to apply CP over glass or hard plastic, but with a matte surfaced acrylic underpainting, the option becomes possible.  There may also be times when you have an acrylic that requires delicate line additions and CP may assist.

Last update  January 2014


I have also tested Tube based acrylic gouache paint sold under the ‘Jo Sonja’ brand, which may be more familiar to readers in the USA and Australia. This also works well as a base for CP.

Jo Sonja acrylic is manufactured in the USA and Australia by Chroma, and sold worldwide.

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