How to Use Polychromos Pencils

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Polychromos pencils are unsurpassed when it comes to colored pencil quality. Made from California cedar wood, these color-matching system pencils produce luxuriant and vivid color. Oil-based rather than wax, these pencils provide a permanent rich color. You can purchase them individually or in a tin set. There are 120 colors to choose from which include alizarin crimson, burnt umber and cadmium yellow, to name a few.

120 polychromos pencils
(Petr Kratochvil, Dawn R. Levesque)

Things You'll Need

  • Faber-Castell polychromos colored pencils according to project needs
  • Drawing surface: paper, vellum, cardboard, wood, stone, leather or metal
  • X-acto knife
Step 1

Apply the side of the pencil lead to the intended surface for broad shading. Move the nib side-to-side in a continuous gesture. Brush the lead lightly across the area to be shaded. Build up color by layering it. Achieve uniformed color with very little pressure. The texture of the surface will still show through. For intense color, press more firmly. The shadowed area will be deeper and richer. The surface texture will appear smooth.

Broad shading
Step 2

Make use of the polychromos for cross-hatching. Using the pencil tip, apply short, strokes in an angular succession. Make lines uniform and evenly spaced. Follow up with cross-diagonal strokes. Use layering to build up the color. Use complementary colors to achieve a textured result. For a denser look, put in more lines at different angles.

Cross-hatching
Step 3

Generate texture with rapid, vertical strokes called hatching. Create the lightest pigment for graduated shading with a light stroke of the wrist. Draw the lines closer together in order to make the shading appear darker. Alternate the stroke by drawing fine and coarse lines. Vary the length of the lines to create a transition or to highlight.

Hatching
Step 4

Soften the look by making scribbled, overlapping circles, or figure eights. This technique called, "scumbling" or "brillo-pad" builds up a single color. Alternately, add different colors to produce more texture. For spiky texture, make random concave shapes in the same manner as above. Repeat this process until you attain the result that you are seeking.

Scumbling
Step 5

Keep in mind that Polychromos are break-resistant so it is possible to deposit color by applying strong pressure with the nib of the pencil to create a metal or shiny look. Called, burnishing, this technique completely saturates the intended area creating a smooth somewhat shiny surface.

Burnishing
Step 6

Dip a bristle brush gingerly in Johnson's baby oil, brush over the surface color to give the appearance of a painting. Soluble in oil, work with these pencils to sketch out a painting. Once the actual paint is applied, the pencil color will dissolve.

Brush with oil

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Tips & Warnings

  • Apply to colored paper for attractive effects.
  • Overlap layers of different colors to produce a more lively effect.
  • Do not use artist fixative spray on drawings. It causes the lower layers of color to bleed through.
  • Polychromos pencils adhere well to surfaces and change little with exposure to air and light making a fixative unnecessary.
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