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White Paint Under Colored Pencils

White Paint Under Colored Pencils

Colored pencil artists are always looking for ways to improve their work by looking at how other artists work. In today’s question, Donna asked what white paint can be used under colored pencils after she saw a coloring book artist painting out black lines. Here’s her question.

Hi Carrie,
I saw a completed coloring book picture where the colorist used a white paint to cover the lines in order to create a different outcome. It was brilliant! What kind of white paint will cover lines (or my mistakes) that I can use colored pencils on top of? Thank you

Before I answer Donna’s question, I need to say that the only paint I’ve ever tried under colored pencils is oil paints and watercolor paints. The oil paints didn’t work at all. They were just too slick for colored pencil to stick to.

Watercolor works great, but it’s transparent, so it doesn’t cover anything. Even if it did, I have only a few colors and none of them are white.

So the answer that follows is based on observation of other artists, and accumulated knowledge of the characterisitics of the mediums.

Having said that much, lets discuss a few possibilities.

What White Paint Can be Used Under Colored Pencils?

The only white paint I know of that I think would work under colored pencil is gouache.

Gouache is essentially opaque watercolor. Use it the same way you use watercolor, but when it dries, it’s opaque. It would probably cover the lines in a coloring book.

Since it’s a form of watercolor and since you can layer colored pencil over watercolor quite easily, you should be able to layer colored pencil over gouache with much the same results.

Remember, I’ve never used gouache before, so I have no personal experience to back up my suggestions. But if I were to try it under colored pencil, I’d use it as thin as possible. If that didn’t cover the area, I’d let it dry and add another layer. My experience with other forms of wet media has been that thin layers work better than one thick layer. Especially if you need the surface to be smooth enough to accept colored pencil once it’s dry.

Two Other Options

Brush & Pencil Products

One other option would be Brush & Pencil’s Titanium White and Touch-Up Texture.

Touch-Up Texture is a liquid and Titanium White is straight pigment. The same kind of pigment used in white colored pencils. When you mix the two together, you end up with a fluid white you can brush onto a drawing like paint.

The best part is that these products are made for colored pencils so colored pencils stick to them very easily. You can even layer these products and colored pencils more than once if necessary.

When it dries, it accepts colored pencil quite easily.

I’ve used it a couple of times, most notably on the Blazing Sunset piece, which is the basis for the Blazing Sunset Tutorial.

White India Ink

India Ink is another possibility. I’ve used brown India ink as an under painting medium and it works quite well. All the colors but two are transparent, however. Which two are opaque? Black and white.

So you might be able to do some “cover up” work with white India ink before you start drawing. I used Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink and have been quite happy with it.

The only downside to this is that I don’t believe it can be used over colored pencils.

But then you probably won’t be able to use gouache over colored pencils either.

2 Things Not to Try

I wouldn’t use acrylic paint or oil paint. Both dry with tough film surfaces that colored pencil will not stick to. Oil paint is also likely to stain your paper with an oil stain.

A Final Caution when using White Paint Under Colored Pencils

Whatever paint or other media Donna tries, I suggest she practice first on scrap paper. Nothing is more irritating than trying a new technique on an important piece of art and ruining the art. Don’t do it!

It’s far better (and far less frustrating) to practice first, and then try any new tool, method, or technique on important artwork.

Do you have a question about colored pencils? Ask Carrie!

6 thoughts on “White Paint Under Colored Pencils

  1. What is the best paper or illustration board to use when applying wet media such as watercolor or rubbing alcohol to colored pencil drawings?

    1. Michael,

      Thank you for your question.

      If you’re planning on using a lot of wet media, such as doing a full under painting with watercolor or watercolor pencils, then watercolor paper is a must. It will stand up under repeated washes as you paint the under painting.

      But use hot press. Hot press watercolor paper has a very nice surface for colored pencil, too.

      I’ve used small amounts of rubbing alcohol on Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and Bristol, but they’re not really made for that sort of work. Tape the paper down securely before you start drawing, use only a little bit of rubbing alcohol, and don’t scrub, and you should be all right.

      Illustration board doesn’t handle any form of moisture at all well. I wouldn’t recommend it for any of these techniques.

      Thank you again for your question.

  2. While it doesn’t seem particularly “sticky,” i’ve felt cp over acrylic will stick well enough. i’ve added shading to 1980s acrylic on wood projects, and Mark Menendez uses acrylic paints as a time-saving technique with some projects, such as his Frosty Friends.

    1. Valerie,

      Thanks for that information. It’s always helpful to get information from artists who have actually used those methods.

      As I mentioned, I’ve not tried colored pencils over acrylics, but thought based on past experiences with acrylics (admittedly very few and long ago) that acrylics wouldn’t be suitable. It sounds like they may be suitable in some applications.

      Thanks again!

  3. Just yesterday I briefly explored using white gel pen on black paper with a colored pencil glaze. Seems to be quite satisfactory and I’m planning my next drawing using this method. Sakura Gelly Roll opaque white. I tried the Souffle with unsatisfactory results.

    1. Christi,

      Thank you for reading and for your comment.

      White gel pens do cover well. The reason I didn’t mention them is that they are not archival. Since I make art for the purpose of exhibits and/or sale, I use only archival materials. So every answer I give comes from that point of view.

      Give your first drawing a bit of time before you more artwork using gel pens. Make sure the ink doesn’t dry and crack or flake off the paper, since that is the primary problem with gel pens. The difficulty is that I don’t know for sure how long it will take for problems to develop.

      Thank you again for your comment!

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