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    Colored Pencils: Differences Between Brands

    Last updated 17 hours ago

    I can’t tell you which is the BEST PENCIL.

    That depends on what types of subject you prefer, what colours you are looking for, what paper you are going to use, and what - at the end of the day, is your own personal preference.  I can pinpoint how they differ, though, and guide you on how to approach the problem.

    If you are a total beginner, I would suggest that you beg, borrow or acquire as many different coloured pencils as you can  from artist friends, and test them out, side by side, on a suitably heavy but smooth cartridge paper.  

    A very smooth paper ( such as Bristol Board ) gives detail, but you will get very little colour to adhere.  

    Too rough a paper ( cold pressed watercolour paper) and you will get plenty of colour down but find it hard to achieve any detail.

    You need a balance - and cartridge paper is an ideal starting surface

    There are three main types of coloured pencil ...............

    Wax type - non soluble pencils, which I will refer to here as ‘Dry Point’.  This is because it would be inaccurate to call all pencils of this type ‘Wax’ pencils. Many brands do not use wax, but use a combination of oils.  I will tell you below which are wax and which are oil based.  Most people will refer to these as ‘wax pencils’ or ‘crayons’ ( the French term)  Wax pencils tend to have a softer feel on the paper than oil based pencils.

    Watercolour Pencils . Otherwise known as Aquarelle Pencils (Their French name). The type that are soluble with water.

    Pastel Pencils.  The chalky type of coloured pencils that can be blended on the surface and are used in a totally different way - we will look at those separately both below and also in a separate section

    I am now going to ask some questions and guide your research.

    These questions will make more sense to someone who is familiar with the use of pencils, but they should give even a total beginner a clue what you should be looking for.  

    Read through the list below, and then take pencils to paper and examine how they behave

    All Coloured Pencils …..  but particularly the wax type which don’t dissolve in water 

    First of all, How easy are they to sharpen? Can you get a good point without the colour core breaking up? Compare the trial pencils side by side on a sheet of cartridge paper, and note the name of the brand against each example.

    Test them for handling - how soft are they? Are they gritty or does the colour go down smoothly? You are looking for a hardness that suits your painting style.  Botanical artists will look for hard cores on the pencils for fine detail. More impressionistic artists will be looking for softer cores to lay down lots of colour

    How fine a line can they achieve and keep?  A softer pencil will make a clearer mark but the point will be lost more quickly as the colour core is used up.

    If you shade a block of colour, does the shading go down evenly? You will be layering colour with Coloured Pencils, so will be looking for laying down thin layers of colour, one on top of another.

    How do they handle when you apply a layer of colour over a layer of another colour? Is it easy to add a further layer of colour ?  Does the second layer adjust the colour of the first one or simply cover it up ? Transparent or Semi Transparent colours allow earlier layers to show through and enable you to build strong accurate colours. Opaque pigments simply cover earlier layers and are not as useful for detailed work.

    Can you see if the pencils are marked with a lightfastness rating?  This could be in the shape of a set of little stars ( 1 star not so good, 3 stars excellent - or if it says LF1 or LF2, this is also very good). Some pigments fade in strong sunlight and you will want your masterpieces to last a long time in their frames.

    And now,  just looking at Watercolour Pencils -

    How easily does the colour dissolve  when you pass a damp brush over a line of colour? You are unlikely to get rid of all the colour from a line, but you should see a good wash of dissolved colour on the paper with the brush. An evenly shaded block of colour will probably dissolve completely from the dry area with a clean brush and should give you excellent  watercolour which will ‘pull out’ with the brush to a very thin wash.

    Does the colour lift off the paper easily with a clean brush and pad of absorbent paper ? This tells you how permanent the colour is ( how firmly it is attached to the paper )


    Pastel Pencils- we will look at in more detail in the Pastel Pencil section

     These pencils handle very differently to the two types above. The colour they lay down is a fragile surface which can be blended on the paper. For this reason a different type of paper is used which has a softer and rougher surface that will hold the pigment (or a gritty paper can also be used - like a sandpaper) . Here you will be looking for a pencil that can be sharpened to a fine point with a craft knife and which has a smooth and finely ground core of pigment and which is strong enough to keep a reliable point.

    To read the rest of this article, please click HERE

    Free Copic Marker Demonstration, Saturday April 19th, 11am

    Last updated 1 day 18 hours ago

    Join Copic Marker artist Mina Sanwald who will be available to answer specific product questions and demonstrate numerous techniques at your request. Anything from how to refill your marker to how to place shadows for an image.

    Mina Sanwald is a New York illustrator and animator. Mina graduated Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in Animation and Illustration in May 2010 from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. In 2012 she released her first graphic novel, The Big Fat Book of Luscious Chicken. Mina has been credited in two animated shorts from Plymptoons Studios: TMZ and Flying House. Currently she’s an animation producer for the movie Ginger Girls and a Fine Arts instructor for Copic Markers. Mina is best known for her colorful hair and quirky manga-esque drawing style. For more information about Mina check out

    Just in Time for Easter!

    Last updated 2 days 13 hours ago

    Art Easter Baskets!

    Fall in love with one of our pre-made Easter baskets or put together your own! Save 15% on all items included in the baskets! Hop on in for this great price just in time for the holiday!

    Vellum Sketch with Copic Markers

    Last updated 3 days ago

    Coloring on Vellum (with Copic Markers)
    It's been a while since I posted something made on vellum. I had a drawing in my head, and I thought this would be perfect for a vellum sketch. I'm using a deluxe, heavyweight drawing vellum, so it has a slight grayish cast to it, but takes marker ink beautifully.

    1. I started with a pencil sketch and overlaid a piece of vellum. I taped it down with masking tape to keep it in place as I colored. 

    2. Next, I work back to front. I begin by laying down some solid swatches of B45.

    3. With my colorless blender, I went back over all the blue, to soften at the edges. I colored in the same direction as the original streaks. I want some streakiness to remain, just not as harsh on the edges. Then, I use my colorless blender to clear out the inside of the vase. Because marker ink does not soak into vellum, the colorless blender can completely remove ink, if you soak it enough. I was careful to wipe my blender marker tip clean on scratch paper after each stroke over the blue.  

    4. Then I added E33 and E27 to the pitcher. I left the white area clear, and did minimal blending. Blending on vellum can turn streaky quickly.

    5. Next I added the YG17 and G99 right over the top of any other colors. Although the greens are lighter, they will simply push other colors out of the way.

    6. I added R43 as my pale pink. If you notice, all colors appear a little lighter on vellum, so go darker than you regularly would when coloring, or colors won't show up.

    7. I touched up the pinks with RV29, and minimally blended it with the R43.

    8. I finished up by pulling the sketch out from underneath and looking at areas that needed cleaning up. I darkened the brown with E49 and touched up a bit more RV29 and G99 to add details.

    I love how soft and simple the finished image looks. And, it was very quick, as you can't go back and blend without causing streaks. If you don't color on vellum much, I strongly recommend trying it sometime. 

    -Marianne Walker

    Art talk: What's so damn difficult about hands?

    Last updated 4 days ago

    The Philly art scene is certainly no stranger to abstract, conceptual, nontraditional, even bizarre work.

    But for those artists who work in the realm of realist, humanist work — that is, hyper realistic portraits of actual people — one of their great challenges is, arguably, getting it “right”: For realist portrait artists, well, a person’s got to look like a person, with all parts of the body rendered near-perfectly.

    One of the biggest challenges therein, says Port Richmond-based artist Peter Kelsey, is the painting of human hands. Kelsey, an instructor at Studio Incamminati, one of the schools in Philly focusing on realist art, is offering such artists the chance to master hands with a 10-week course at the studio, which runs from April 16 to June 18.

    Why are hands so difficult for artists? For one, they are made up of so many miniature parts, and have such extensive range of motion.

    “Hands are such an expressive part of the body, the second most after the face,” Kelsey said on the phone Monday. “Humans are so attuned to hands, speaking and articulating, that if they’re done wrong in portraiture, it’s really obvious.”

    Kelsey, who paints commissioned portraits — he’s working now on a portrait of former Pennsylvania Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman — has been studying anatomy as it relates to art for 10 years. He said the trick with painting hands is all in the structure.

    “My tip is you have to really understand the basic building blocks of the hand. If you understand the subordinating details, the hand becomes really manageable,” he said.

    In the course, students will hear lectures from Kelsey on the tendons, bones and musculature of the hand, and work with live models to conquer the skill. This week, he’s working on another realist class that has students drawing human figures without skin.

    “In the past 10 years, there’s been a revival and interest in realist art, in traditional art,” Kelsey said. Such a revival is a matter of the “pendulum,” he said, of art interests swinging back and forth — resurgence in realism come and go, just as they do for other art forms.

    It’s clear that for any artist looking to master portraiture of people, getting a handle on the hands is imperative.

    “Hands are so uniquely human,” Kelsey said.

    Learn more here.

    By Mikala Jamison Philadelphia City Paper

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