Techniques and Tips

How to Use Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

How to Use Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

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Water-soluble colored pencils are a wonderful tool for easy and colorful backgrounds. Kutch shows us how to combine colored pencil techniques with an old tooth brush and masking film to create rich, simple backgrounds for our flower subjects.

How to Draw a Lily with Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

This demonstration has been adapted from Colored Pencil Explorations: How to Mix Media for Creative Results by North Light author Janie Gildow. Re-released in paperback format, Gildow and 13 expert colored pencil artists introduce a variety of mediums to pair with versatile colored pencils. Learn how to use acrylic, watercolor, pastel, airbrushing, ink, solvents and much more in 24 exciting step-by-steps!

Tools and Materials needed:

Surface:115-lb. (240gsm) hot-pressed watercolor paper

Polychromos Colored Pencils: Apple Green, Canary Yellow, Chrome Yellow Light, Cream, Golden Ochre, Grey Green, Lilac

Prismacolor Colored Pencils: Black Grape, Limepeel, Tuscan Red

Prismacolor Verithin Colored Pencils: Gold Ochre, Lavender, Tuscan Red, Vermilion

Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Water-Soluble Colored Pencils: Canary Yellow, Mauve, Wine Red

Other tools: 9H graphite pencil, Colorless Blender marker, Colorless Blender pencil, HB graphite pencil, heavy tracing vellum, masking film, old toothbrush, Sanford Sharpie Ultra Fine Point permanent marker, scissors, tissues, ultraviolet light resistant spray

Line Drawing:
Click to enlarge, print and trace.

STEP 1: Begin the Values
Lightly sketch the lily with the HB pencil. Apply Cream to the lightest parts of the petals, leaves and buds. The Cream serves as a unifying foundation for the succeeding layers of color. Begin to develop the darker areas by first layering Golden Ochre and then Violet Light on the darkest parts of the petals, along the creases and down into the throat of the flower. To blend and soften the color on the petals, apply Canary Yellow over the layered Golden Ochre and Violet Light, continuing it out into the Cream. Use the same colors to suggest the darker values on the buds, leaves and stems then add Apple Green and over it apply Grey Green to further darken those values.

STEP 2: Impress the Vein Lines and Build Color
Impress the lines with a 9H pencil to indicate the veins in the leaves, stems and buds. Use a blunt point to color across the impressed lines. Deepen the color on the leaves, stems and buds first with a layer of Apple Green and then with a layer of Tuscan Red thick lead pencil. Apply another layer of Golden Ochre to the darker areas in the petals, followed by Chrome Yellow Light to enrich and deepen the yellow.

STEP 3: Punch Up Color
Using medium pressure layer Canary Yellow followed by Limepeel on the leaves, stems and buds. Burnish with the Colorless Blender pencil and then repeat with layers of Canary Yellow and Limepeel. Burnish the flower with Cream. This smoothes the paper tooth and gives a shimmery effect to the entire lily. Reapply Golden Ochre and Chrome Yellow Light, and add a touch of Canary Yellow for warmth. Use Black Grape to softly define the hollows on the edges of the petals where they curve upward and where the stamens cast their shadows. Add Black Grape and the thick lead Tuscan Red to the stems, leaves, and to the creases in the buds to continue to darken values and augment local color.

STEP 4: Sharpen and Refine the Image
With a very sharp Verithin Tuscan Red and Vermilion, edge and define the stamens and pistil in the center of the flower. Keep the defining edge clean and thin. Using circular strokes, texturize the tips of the stamens with Verithin Tuscan Red and Golden Brown, followed by Black Grape. Apply the fine tip of the Colorless Blender marker to the stalks and tips just enough to liquefy and blend the color. Add Verithin Vermilion to the top of the pistil and blend in the same manner with the fine tip of the Colorless Blender marker. Use the thick lead Tuscan Red with heavy pressure to indicate the irregular speckles on the petals, then apply the fine tip of the Colorless Blender marker to them, going outside of each speckle just a little to lightly smear the color and avoid a uniform polka dot effect.

STEP 5: Prepare the Masking Film
Place a piece of masking film, shiny side up and paper side down, over the lily. With the permanent marker, trace the outline of the lily, the buds, stems and leaves. It’s important that you use a permanent marker in this step (rather than one that is water-based) so that the ink dries quickly and doesn’t smudge.

STEP 6: Spatter the Background
Cut out the entire lily, and the two small negative areas inside it, from the masking film.
Peel away the paper backing from the masking film cutout and lightly press the protective pattern in place over the lily and leaves, matching lines and edges. Load the toothbrush with Albrecht Dürer Canary Yellow by wetting the toothbrush with water and running the water-soluble pencil back and forth across the damp toothbrush. Blot it lightly on a tissue. Placing your thumb along the edge of the bristles and using the lily as the epicenter, flick the yellow pigment across the white background, radiating around and out from the picture. Redampen the toothbrush, reload with pigment, reblot and continue to spatter until the entire background is covered evenly with yellow. If any droplets are too large, don’t blot them. Instead, touch a corner of the tissue to the oversized droplet and wick away the excess moisture. Complete the background with a layer of Wine Red and last a layer of Mauve. Allow each layer to dry at least ten minutes before spattering on a new color.

STEP 7: Peel Back the Film and Retouch
Allow the background to dry completely. Gently pull back an edge of the masking film and peel it away. You can save it on a piece of foil, in case it becomes necessary to reposition and reuse it. Retouch any spots where the film may have lifted the colored pencil. In any areas where the pattern extended beyond the lily and left white spaces, randomly dot in the background colors with a dry, and very sharp, water-soluble pencil, matching the spatters. Define and sharpen edges with Verithin Lavender or Tuscan Red. Mist with several light coats of ultraviolet light resistant spray in a well-ventilated area.

Kristy A. Kutch, CPSA
8″ x 9″ (20cm x 23cm)
Colored pencil and water-soluble colored pencil on 115-lb. (240gsm) watercolor paper
Collection of the artist

About the Artist | KRISTY A. KUTCH, CPSA

Kristy A. Kutch, CPSA, is a graduate of Purdue University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education, as well as a license in teaching. She has taught colored pencil/water-soluble pencil workshops nationwide. Kristy’s work has appeared in many books and publications including North Light Books’ Creating Radiant Flowers in Colored Pencil and Exploring Color; Rockport Books’ Best of Colored Pencil 1, 3 and 5, and Creative Colored Pencil; and International Artist magazine. Visit Kristy’s website for contact info and to view more of her work.

About the Author | JANIE GILDOW, CPSA

Janie Gildow has been a full-time professional artist since 1991. She is an award-winning colored pencil artist and holds the Martha Holden Jennings award for excellence in teaching. She is co-author (with Barbara Benedetti Newton) of North Light Books’ The Colored Pencil Solution Book and Colored Pencil Explorations, and her award-winning work has been published in Magazine, American Artist, International Artist and in many books and publications including The Best of Colored Pencil 2, 3, 4 and 5 (Rockport Books). She teaches workshops and judges workshops throughout the US, and is a Signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America. Gildow lives and teaches in sunny Arizona. Visit her website or email for more information.

Janie Gildow, CPSA
10″ x 14″ (25cm x 36cm)
Colored pencil on 140-lb. (300gsm) hot-pressed watercolor paper and black LetraMax board
Collection of the artist

Janie Gildow, CPSA
11″ x 10″ (28cm x 25cm)
Colored pencil and acrylic on Canson Mi-Teintes no. 431 Steel Gray paper
Collection of the artist


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