How to Use Colored Pencils for Details in an Acrylic Painting

Colored pencils can be used with acrylics.
Colored pencils can be used with acrylics. (Image: color pencils image by dinostock from

The use of colored pencils can add a new dimension to an acrylic painting, making it a mixed media work. The pencils can provide detail in a much more controlled way than a brush can. Bill Creevy, a well-known New York artist, has a suggestion for starting a painting on canvas using water-soluble colored pencils. As he says, "This medium allows the painter to simultaneously draw in line and paint in washes." Although he wrote this in his book on oil painting, the technique works just as well for acrylics.

Things You'll Need

  • Colored pencils or water-soluble colored pencils
  • Canvas
  • Acrylic paints
  • Brushes
  • Palette (or waxed paper)
  • Watercolors
  • Watercolor paper
  • Water
  • Water jar

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On Canvas

Create a sketch on canvas using water-soluble colored pencils. The canvas should be the standard acrylic canvas available in all art supply stores. This type of canvas is somewhat absorbent, which is what you want.

Moisten a brush lightly with water and go over the lines. You can leave open spaces for whites. It will look like a watercolor.

Let dry. Creevy says it is not necessary to use fixative.

Complete the painting, using acrylic paints as thickly as you want.

Decide whether or not you want the entire canvas covered. Detailed areas that you have penciled in do not necessarily have to be painted over.

On Watercolor Paper or Watercolor Board

Dilute the paint to the consistency of watercolor. Acrylics are versatile in that they may be thinned like watercolor or used thickly like oil paints. Block in a few areas of local color, such as brown for earth, pale blue for water and even paler blue for sky, in the case of a landscape.

Let dry completely.

Add details either with colored pencil or watercolor pencil.

Frame under glass, but not too soon. Ordinary colored pencils can develop "wax bloom," a silvery cast caused by the wax in the pencils. There are ways to combat it, as described in the Fantasy Art Resource Project. It is good to know that watercolor pencils do not get wax bloom.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are new acrylics that have a very long "open time," meaning that you have much more time for blending. The complaint about acrylics up to now has been that they dry too fast. The new paints give you the same advantages that oil paints have without having to use harmful solvents.


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